Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The 'Concerning Tech' Contest: What's Your Ed Tech Dream?

Asking the readers for advice.

We are several years into our 1:1 TabletPC program at school and are now reviewing things in an attempt to keep just a nose-hair's length ahead of the curve.

Now, if we agree that the network and mobile access are the touchstones of the new paradigm, how would you advise an administration on what kinds of hardware and what sorts of systems best complement a school's role in the technological gestalt?

We're looking at Open Source and Cloud Computing vs. the traditional software driven means. We're weighing the pros and cons of laptops versus netbooks. We're trying our best to position the school's tech resources and capabilities (and our own thinking about it all) in such a way that we meet the future pro-actively.

So the question for you all...

Say you had a blank slate and a bottomless bank account and were in control of your school's tech decisions. What would your tech offering, system, and computing culture look like next year? I'm talking machines; I'm talking operating systems; I'm talking ways of thinking about the networked and mobile environments.

You need hardware? You got it. You need training and mentoring? Got you covered.

And nobody will complain. (Yes, you are dreaming).

So, beings that you've entered the dream-state, come on and tell us what your dream school looks like (tech wise)!

To add to the fun, we'll cast the ideas to a vote and see what the TeachPaperless readership-at-large thinks.

In fact, we'll make this into a little contest. We'll call it: the 'Concerning Tech' contest.

I say top honors should earn a special prize.

Hmm. Money? (Right...).

Hmm. Trophies? (Nah...).

How about: Guest Blogging for a day on TeachPaperless? (Thrilling, indeed).

Entries (in the form of comments to this post) will be culled for voting this Friday, Nov 13th. Voting will then take place through Tuesday and the glorious winning proposal will be announced on Weds.

So, let's go; pony up some ideas! Think big! (And offer us all some good arguments why you're favoring one thing over another). Thanks in advance.


  1. Wow, to sleep, perchance to dream...

    Every teacher and student would get a tablet PC. I would want note taking software in it that records your handwriting, making taking notes in math and science much easier.

    Every classroom would have WiFi, wireless printers (for the occasional printout), and an interactive flat screen monitor (very large) up front.

    No rows of desks, pods of tables.

    Monitors around the school would show information, announcements, and more. No paper posters anymore.

    Every student and teacher would also have some kind of mobile device (smart phone, etc) so that learning can go on anywhere and everywhere.

    As a physics teacher, I would want lots of interactive systems, like Vernier, for the students to use in their labs and projects. Lectures are gone. The students work on team projects and to complete each project they will have to gain the content knowledge that the curriculum calls for.

    Each classroom would also have an area for video conferencing so students could work with groups from other schools, or have guests join the class virtually.

    As far as operating systems, I use Windows, but am interested to see how Chrome OS pans out, as well as to see if Palm ports their WebOS to a netbook type device. Since most of what we would be using would be web based (Google Apps, Evernote, etc.) operating systems are not as much of an issue for compatibility.

    Paper would be a thing of the past. Student work would be created and submitted electronically. Paper textbooks would be replaced with digital versions or web based resources.

    A visitor to the classroom would not recognize it as a classroom, but rather would think it was the engineering or science lab at a corporation, seeing students engaged in real-world projects, using the latest technologies.

    Tablet PCs and smart phones for everyone, interactive large screen monitors, digital data collection devices, no paper, engaged students, critical thinking and projects...utopia!

  2. Oh, I forgot something...no more useless meetings.

    Information goes out by email or school blog. The faculty blog, with separate ones for different groups (house, subject area, etc.) can be used for discussions and physical meetings can be held only when absolutely necessary.

    (and, no one prints out emails!)

  3. For my dream scenario, I choose to focus on the underlying data infrastructure. Not that gadgets aren't really neat but it seems that the current data foundations on which these gadgets sit may be the real limitation to the data becoming usable information.

    I would choose a data infrastructure which had a great deal of transparency so that teachers, administrators and researchers could, within compliance, access the data of the students to more easily do their jobs and improve the education process in a formative way.

    This dream infrastructure would support any device, be it tablet, cell phone, smart phone, etc. or a regular low end PC or Mac (imagine that).

    It would be created on top of the most evolved cloud platform in existence, perhaps a platform on which corporations were already having success for at least 10 years. One that had been through the hard knocks, performance and security-wise, that so few newfound ASP-now-SaaS-now-Cloud education software companies understand.

    The infrastructure would support an educational framework that was open so that anyone could plug in an application now or in the future. I, my students, researchers or volunteers could build any application on top of it within a 30 day timeframe. There would be a nationwide training program to educate those on the platform within 2-5 day courses.

    The infrastructure would support open standards making the above paragraph possible.

    The framework would already have SIS capabilities built in making what seems like torture to admins and front office personnel a joy. It would have curriculum management components that would allow teachers to teach again while handling standards compliance both federal and state behind the scenes. It would let them know what areas they taught need to be retaught based upon performance. It would support an online learning environment without the teacher having to become a webmaster. It would provide leadership applications that could make a difference, giving valuable feedback to teachers; and all of this capability on this one system.

    The infrastructure and framework would be leveraged and endorsed by numerous non-profits and education reform groups.

    I would give it away to the poorest, smallest districts and schools, as it would scale down as easily as it would scale up; and it would require no additional servers to implement, and in fact consume silo applications minimizing the hardware heating up the server room and the planet.

    It would stay out of the teachers way as the core applications that the teacher would touch would be so labored over as to bring them to tears with its simplicity and ability to produce meaningful information out of a horizon of data.

    For larger schools and districts, it would be half the price of current offerings.

    Lucky me, I was approached a little over a year ago with this exact challenge/opportunity by a group of educators with $1+ million dedicated to inventing the next technology platform for education. The only requirement is that we started with a clean slate. It has been an interesting ride that is for sure.

  4. Interested in speaking with you about participating in a panel discussion on the topic of online books to a population of independent school heads in the mid-Atlantic region. Please contact me: stephaniecitron@verizon.net

  5. I've been a nerd for a long time, so it's hard for me to recognize that the days of my "dream tech lists" are drawing to a close.

    I like Macs, but I'm happy running many flavors of Ubuntu. I like 13" laptops, but can see why a school would opt for netbooks, or handhelds, or even make a case for a dedicated lab (but it'd have to be a very good pitch).

    Soon enough, the basics will be in place - ubiquitous access across campus on a student-owned (but school supported) device. A consistent blog/publication/discussion system in place so that students have easy access to teachers, materials and most importantly, each other, in a designated online "place" from anywhere they have network access. I'm less and less excited about the flavor of those components.

    My budget fantasy is this - one extra prep period a week for every teacher. Staff up a bit more, spread out some classes and duties. Established a 45 minute block that's set aside for reading, commenting and participating in discussions with students across the school's online space. Not grading your kids' writing, not counting participation on your wiki. Reaching out to a 4th grade class because they're reading the Eager books you love so much, or commenting on crazy pictures posted to the physics blog. One period a week where every teacher participates as the audience for all the learning happening outside their classroom.

    My dream is that we'd take the big step as an institution to say these interactions are important. We want you to participate here, across curricular and division lines. Let's show that we're serious when we call ourselves a community of learners.

  6. My Ed Tech Dream

    (This is my second take, I aimed too big on the first attempt)

    Here's my dream classroom:

    On the walls:

    1. Front wall - Promethean Board with short-throw projector. On each side, the rest of the wall is floor to ceiling whiteboards.

    2. Back Wall - Floor to ceiling whiteboards with two flat screen monitors showing student work (current or saved) on a regular basis.

    3. Side Wall #1 - Windows that open. 'Nuff said

    4. Side Wall #2 - Cabinets and storage. And a monitor for live Google searches and Twittering.

    Tools & Gadgets

    1. Teacher has a MacBook Pro connected to the Promethean board and a wireless wacom tablet to wander around the room.

    2. Students have netbooks running a super stable Ubuntu.

    3. An audio enhancement system that ties into a teach mic, student mics, a computer, and my Blackberry to use Pandora for streaming music.

    What we do:

    Every student is using Gmail, Wave and Voice. Also, Twitter and numerous other online apps including Blogger and eFoliomn for e-portfolios.

    Students don't take tests, they create projects using web 2.0 tools and tech gadgets.

    Of course, all of this is predicted on a wireless network that covers my classroom and the areas surrounding it.

    While I'm at it: my classroom would have tables and chairs, all on wheels. I'd have it be like a staff development session in a swanky hotel more than a classroom.

    Lastly, I'd opt for a set of iPod Touchs. This would allow my students to do some research while on field trips.

    That's my classroom. Take that!

  7. Money no object? Thinking big?

    Ok...since I'm not so much into gadgets, how about this...

    1. Lets upgrade the homes. Help everyone of my students have a working computer with some sort of office sorftware loaded on it and internet access at home..both homes if needed. Then have some sort of system in place to teach the parents who to use and monitor effectively the internet to both help their child succeed in and out of school.

    2. Give student access to a computer in everyclassroom...laptop or handheld, doesn't matter as long as there are enough for everyone to use one and THEY ALL WORK ALL OF THE TIME! No signing them out as a class, either. Everyone has one in every class.

    3. Teach teachers to use what we have effectively and get rid of all but the most basic filtering software. Make sure that teachers know what they're doing and let them monitor them.

    4. Lot of talk about creating multi-media stuff...we got no cameras. So cameras, video and still, and other recording tools (hardware and software (that students are actually allowed to touch. Maybe more than once.

    5. The presentation stuff: doc cam, projector, etc. without cables strewn across the floor like booby traps. A screen in a usuful place and not stuck in a corner, prefearbly without curse words penned on it by a student eight years ago.

    6. I-pods and a big account where we could buy books on mp3. Not enough to give me the I-pod if I can't afford the book!

    7. Something to replace the bulliten boards in the hall, sort of a minuature digital billboard where student presentations could run instead of posterboards hung up.

    8. And access to Facebook so I can manage my farm on Farmville. Ok, maybe that might detract from education, but my berries need harvesting soon.

  8. - ubiquitous wireless with a robust infrastructure.
    - Adequate and reliable pipe to the Internet
    - 1:1 Windows/Linux devices either laptops or netbooks depending upon the student age and studies
    - mounted projector and IWB in each room. Big, tall white boards on at least two walls. Digital cameras, document cameras and flips in each room, also good mics and headsets.
    - tables and comfortable chairs instead of desks. Lots of electric outlets in each room.
    - Digital "billboards" in the halls.
    - Training for teachers. good training. not just an hour here and there, but real time to learn, experiment, collaborate, integrate.
    - Enough tech staff. Not the 1:750+ that we see now, but something closer to what private industry provides. Training for them, too, so they can be ahead of the curve and see the possibilities that technology can bring to students and staff.
    - Bandwidth to the homes so the learning can continue outside the school.
    - District and building administrators that "get it".

  9. I think the changes will need to be not in what we now think of as 'tech' stuff. The changes will be in how we organize the 'schools.' I think kids will not be going to a building for the same reasons that they go their today. A student might go to a different building on one or more days during the week - for art, for music, for sports and then go to a neighborhood learning center for a few hours a day. The movement of students from one place to another will vary depending on age.

    Now, we're really providing child care with varying levels of added learning features. Since we can no longer justify collecting children in one building in order to get access to information, we will need to create different reasons for how we group children. Families will have more control and kids won't be labeled by grades. Figuring out how to keep track of learning outcomes will be 'interesting,'as we say here in Minnesota.

  10. When students come into our school, we spend a lot of time up front getting to know them as individuals.

    Their advisor (who will be their advisor for the duration of their time in our community) has had tons of training in everything from active listening to learning-style assessment, and together the student, parents, and advisor start pulling together an (online) student profile and identifying which parts of it will be accessible to who.

    Reasearch, sharing, collaborating, and reflecting are understood to be fundamental to learning, and teachers are expected to have personal learning networks that are in a constant state of development and growth.

    Teachers also learn transparently, and students are encouraged from their earliest days in the community to start thinking about designing individual or group projects with individual or multiple teacher-sponsors.

    The content in the advisor-seeded portfolios becomes more and more student-generated as they learn and have more of their own content to include. As they approach the point of thinking about their NEXT learning community, they select a few additional advisors to help them decide how best to communicate their interests, passions, and talents.

    Wireless connectivity is like oxygen. Bandwidth is like bathroom pipes. Nothing is blocked. Nobody ever has to think about any of that stuff.

    Students all have an annual personal computing allowance that they can use on whatever device(s) they feel will give them the best leverage.

    In addition to awesome official tech support, there's the fabulous Ubergeek Squad, which is made up of students and adults who informally work together to help everyone else stay out on the leading edge.

    (So far, I think I might like @tieandjeans' best.)

  11. I'd want every kid at my school to have a computer... preferably a Mac, since that's what the tech department advocates for, but I'd accept netbooks or tablet PCs or anything at all.

    A digital whiteboard and a projector in every classroom. And a sister classroom in another state, and another country, for each classroom.

  12. what a cool contest. i'd be happy with a computer for each kid in my class and a projector in each classroom.

  13. This is a such a good way to learn about what teachers really need for their classrooms.

  14. I really enjoyed reading the wish lists posted here. Great post!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.