In the last few years, smartphones have moved quickly from banned to embraced in K12 schools as educators have realized that mobile learning devices engage students, enhance the teaching of 21st-century skills, and instantly check for understanding with student response applications. Districts have started upgrading their wireless networks to accommodate one-to-one technology initiatives, while others follow a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy.
Since the U.S. Green Building Council launched LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Schools certification in 2007, building sustainable, eco-friendly facilities has become the norm for new construction and is statewide policy in 13 states. However, there is still much to be done with the approximately 99,000 existing public schools across the United States. According to “A National Action Plan for Greening America’s Schools” (Sundance, 2011), on average, green schools save $100,000 per year on operating costs. Over 10 years, America’s schools could save $20 billion.
While today's K12 classrooms use more multimedia than ever before, typically it is the visual technologies—such as projectors, interactive whiteboards and television displays—that receive most of the attention in the marketplace. The audio component is just as important, however, and can often be overlooked. That is rapidly changing, and a number of companies are beginning to design classroom audio systems to meet a growing demand for better sound.
While tablet computers like the iPad get more attention, eBook readers—comparatively simpler devices designed specifically for reading electronic versions of books, magazines and newspapers—are currently selling in greater numbers and at a faster rate than tablets. E-book readers also hold much appeal for education, and for the same reasons they are increasing in popularity with consumers: ever-improving features and growing capabilities for displaying a variety of content, for a fraction of the price of most full-featured tablet PCs.
Netbooks were the subject of a lot of attention in education about two years ago; many saw these inexpensive, compact versions of laptops as the devices that would finally enable one-to-one computing to become commonplace in K12. Today, even though new devices have appeared—namely, tablets like the iPad—and taken much of the spotlight in the discussion, netbooks remain a viable and inexpensive option for creating a one-to-one program.
While most schools are under increasing pressure to improve the STEM education of their students, finding more effective—and cost-effective—ways to teach science concepts can be a challenging task. But as with many dilemmas in education, the right technology, when properly implemented, can be a big part of a successful strategy.
The processing speed, memory size and overall computing power of PC s have advanced at an exponential rate over the years, and the pace shows no signs of slowing. The result for many users—those in K12 schools in particular—is that the power of new computers is far greater than most require for the majority of applications. As a result, a number of desktop virtualization products have appeared in the last several years, which divide a single PC into multiple workstations.
Just like Web sites for businesses and organizations, school Web sites have gone from being a daring novelty to an absolute necessity. But the challenging task of designing, updating and maintaining a school Web site has also changed over the years. At one time, developing a site involved many hours of work by school or district IT staff , or it meant hiring a design company to custom-build a solution, but today, there are a large number of Web site developers catering specifically to the needs of K12.
Student response systems, which use wireless remotes and sophisticated software to enable teachers to poll their students, are growing in popularity. Several new manufacturers have entered the market just this year, and a number of companies that make interactive whiteboards, slates, audio systems, document cameras and other technologies are also increasingly making response systems, designing all these devices to work together in the classroom.