Technology in the Classroom
Early Adopters: There are usually one or two at every school and they are sometimes referred to as ‘power users’ – but they are more than that, EdSurge reports. Early adopters seek out new tools and don’t mind that often these tools are in beta, pilot, or testing phases. Despite the rough edges, early adopters are excited to try something new. They know that eventually they’ll find that diamond in the rough; and when they do they will get an even bigger kick out of sharing it with their friends and helping their colleagues. So early adopters get the opportunity to shape new products but there is a risk involved – new tools can sometimes be buggy, and teachers have to be careful not to waste valuable class time on edtech teething issues. Lets face it, no matter how good the PD was or how cute the little explainer video on the website is, you don’t truly know how a new tool will fit until it’s in the hands of your students…
Gates, Zuckerburg give $9 million to nonprofit working to improve school broadband connectivity
The effort to get broadband access in every school is getting a boost from the philanthropy of two technology gurus: Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Zuckerberg’s Startup: Education and Gates’ foundation have contributed a combined $9 million to the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway. The San Francisco-based organization is working to improve connectivity in schools.
“When schools and teachers have access to reliable internet connections, students can discover new skills and ideas beyond the classroom,” said Zuckerberg in a statement. “The future of our economy and society depend largely on the next generation using and building new online tools and services, and I’m glad to support EducationSuperHighway’s work.”
Nearly every school has internet access, but for many that doesn’t include classrooms or the connections are super slow. That makes it difficult to video conference scientists with students or to have digital learning programs on tablets such as iPads.
President Barack Obama’s goal is to have 99 percent of students connected to superfast internet within five years. The Federal Communications Commission is weighing changes to the eRate program to increase broadband connectivity in schools.
(Next page: How the donations will support broadband in schools)
Increased access to devices and digital tools makes it easier for social studies teachers to integrate technology into their teaching
OER in the classroom
Shannon Blake, an eighth grade social studies teacher at the Charleston Catholic School in Charleston, S.C., uses Net Texts, a free open educational resources (OER) content management and delivery platform, to access and create information, organize it by chapter or subject, and make it available to her students.
Teachers can select existing courses or combine items from the OER library with their own resources to create new courses.
Students access courses via an iPad, Android device, or web app. Courses include videos, eBooks, audio books, and more. Once they are accessed, resources download to student devices so students can access them even without an internet connection. Students also can suggest new resources or materials, and Blake said that a few of her former students sent her relevant course materials over the summer for inclusion in future classes.
“Having resources on a tablet, as opposed to in a book, is great,” Blake said. “If something changes …, I can update our resources and information.”
Net Texts lets students choose from among five different activities, each tailored to different learning preferences but all covering the same concept, which Blake said has helped her differentiate instruction in her classes.
QR codes boost engagement
QR codes are finding their way into social studies classrooms as a means of engaging students. QR codes are square black-and-white images that—when scanned with a smart phone, tablet, or other web-enabled device—direct users to a specified website.
Amanda Fox, a sixth grade social studies teacher at STEM Academy @Bartlett in Georgia, uses visual QR codes from Visualead to engage her students and make learning more interactive. Visualead lets users combine QR codes with pictures or images.
“Students who attend STEM schools have a keen understanding of technology, and I’m always looking for new, innovative ways to keep learning exciting and cutting-edge for them,” Fox said.
“I’ve had great success using Visual QR codes in the classroom, and next I plan to create a portfolio wall turning images of my students into Visual QR Codes that link to a portfolio of their school work,” she said.
In her class, Fox breaks up a unit of study into separate chunks, so that students work in different groups. Fox’s students create QR-coded videos to tell stories and teach other students about their assigned unit. Students travel around the room to different “stations” and scan the QR codes to watch presentations created by their peers.
Fox’s sixth grade students use iPads as part of the school’s one-to-one program, and grades seven and eight follow a “bring your own device” model.
“There’s more of a discovery element to lessons, and students wonder where a specific QR code will lead them,” Fox said. She also uses the QR codes to flip her classroom. Students receive a QR code for every lecture, learning and reviewing at their own pace—and Fox receives feedback via formative assessments.
Deeper interaction with content
Dennis Mehall, a seventh grade teacher at Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, N.C., uses Discovery Education’s Techbook, which features videos, assessments, and other interactive elements, regularly in his social studies instruction.
“The teachers love it,” he said. “It goes right along with our curriculum, and the first thing we do when we meet to talk about our next instructional unit is look to the Techbook for guidance.”
The Techbook’s customization options let teachers cater to students’ individual needs. For instance, teachers can alter the difficulty of the text or can tailor information delivery to different learning styles.
“We have visual learners, audio learners, and the Techbook gives us more opportunities to help those students absorb information,” Mehall said.
Because students can work individually, they can spend time analyzing learning materials to gain a deeper understanding of the social studies content they’re studying. Mehall’s social studies department teams up with its language arts department for active reading, in which students analyze paragraphs to gain deeper understanding.
The Techbook enables students to add sticky notes, highlight portions, and even ask the text questions, so they can engage with the content to go past “just reading,” Mehall said.
“It’s definitely an asset to have,” he concluded.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is backing a new cross-curricular course, ‘Big History Project,’ that uses video to survey history
The Microsoft co-founder is the leading backer of a course called the Big History Project that is being developed by education experts, including a professor from the University of Michigan. The course is being tested in a growing number of school districts across the nation, including in 14 Michigan schools.
The course is breaking ground by wrapping a number of academic subjects—especially science—around a history class that intends to survey the entirety of history, all while using technology to keep the course free.
At first glance, the class meeting in a Northville High School classroom doesn’t seem much different from any of the dozens of classrooms in the building. History teacher Joseph Cislo has his ninth-grade students read a handout, underlining the key points in it. He then walks them through the handout.
(Next page: How does the history class work?)
A month before last Christmas, a church pastor in Louisiana found the gift his wife wanted: a Hewlett-Packard Elitebook laptop computer, selling on eBay for $500, reports the Denver Post. The Rev. Elijah Teh-Teh bought it, hid it and when the holidays came, he wrapped the box and put it under the tree. But his wife’s elation was short-lived. After a few sputtering starts, the computer stopped working. An internal security program had been activated and an ominous message flashed on the screen. The laptop was stolen. “She was disappointed,” Teh-Teh said. “My wife is an educator, and she desperately wanted a laptop.” Lawanda Teh-Teh’s gift from her husband had been taken in a burglary of a D.C. high school on Nov. 16, 2012, just 10 days before the pastor bought it from the popular internet shopping site. How this computer sped from Room 220 of Luke C. Moore Academy in Northeast Washington to the pastor’s bungalow-style house near Shreveport’s airport is a testament to the speed and efficiency of the underground pipeline that drives crime, including the District’s stubbornly high number of robberies…
Education technology is constantly changing, which means so is the role of a school technology leader.
Schools have come a long way from installing desktop computers and marveling at something called The Cloud. What are some of the major challenges school technology leaders face today? What are the big concerns? What should they focus on? Find out in our infographic developed specifically for the 2013-14 school year.
View the infographic below to learn more about how the role of school technology leader has grown and adapted over the last few years–we’re fascinated by the results!
(The infographic is best viewed in either Chrome or Firefox. Want a larger view? Go to the link: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/923917-tech_jobs)
This year’s challenges include ‘fractured leadership’ and ‘perceived value’
It’s not always about funding, though that’s still a major challenge for the modern school technology leader. A recent forum held for chief technology officers (CTOs) covered a wide range of 21st-century challenges, including one few saw coming: If the technology works “too” well, are tech leaders still valued?
During the forum held by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), CoSN brought together district-level technology directors to talk about “building a ‘Tech Department Dream Team,’ through a combination of panel presentation and table discussions.” Attendees explored the evolving roles and the expanded skill set of today’s CTO.
In the context of what skills are needed and how roles change, many CTOs began by listing the now-common challenges faced in schools and districts across the country.
(Challenges faced by today’s technology leader)