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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Readers' Survey 2007: Best Tech Tool

Edutopia readers weigh in on their favorites.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team

The Computer

We were not really surprised that the winner by a wide margin is the computer. Way back in the 1980s, Time magazine named the computer Man of the Year, so by now it's not news that computers are as basic in schools as whiteboards and PB&J sandwiches. The wrinkle this year is that most of the readers who extolled the computer specified laptops, as portable as textbooks but far more abundant in content.

Other reader choices show that when computers are a given, more novel tech becomes standard: interactive whiteboards, digital cameras, iPods, and word processing (which won't by itself make kids better writers but can make them more willing ones). It's heartwarming to note that more than a few respondents still made the case for the pencil, with an eraser -- a classic blessing at both ends. Not one educator, by the way, nominated the cell phone.

Our Take

Upward Mobility

Computers are so embedded in business and private life that we hardly notice how much we depend on them. Let's put them on the essential commodity shelf, then, along with the refrigerator and the radio. The new sine qua non of modern life -- and modern learning -- is the Internet. Well, not new, because the smart young brainiacs at Netscape gave us regular folks the chance to trade Pez dispensers (hello, eBay!) or tell the world about our favorite color (MySpace is your space) years ago. But let a third grader "fly" to his or her home address on the magic carpet of Google Earth, and you may pique an interest in geography in a way no textbook map can.

NEXT PAGE OF READERS' SURVEY: Hottest topic in the teachers' lounge

2007 Readers' Survey Index

Comments (13)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Maureen Heston's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with you about the value of smart boards in the classroom. Our school has not been able to generate the funds to have them in our elementary classes although we do have them in our special ed and middle school. How did your school raise the funds to purchase them?

Mary Kurvers's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have been truly amazed at how my students have responded to the SMARTboard I have in my classroom. They have a renewed interest in the same type of material they have been studying. I find more students on task, waiting for their turn and learning from each other as the interact with the lessons. It is an invaluable teaching tool.

Neal Schopick's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have had a plasma screen in my classroom to project things for several years. This year our school system began a three year plan to outfit all of our classrooms with SmartBoards and I got one this year. I was at first a doubter, not really understanding how this would benefit me in a high school social studies classroom. After a month of school I am a believer. I can't believe all the cool things you can do with these boards. From simple things like saving notes so that you can print them for absent students or LD students to more interactive lesson plans.

We have also started to use a portal to put all of our homework onto. I am still mixed on this. Part of me really thinks that high school students should be able to write down homework without it being posted. On the other hand, this might make it easier for a parent to stay on top of their child.

Caitlin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The school district that I work in has a SmartBoard and 5 computers in every single classroom for all ages of students. I teach second grade and my students love using the SmartBoard. As a teacher, I love the SmartBoard as well. There are so many more things that you can do in your classroom using a SmartBoard and computers rather than a white board and an overhead projector. I believe allowing the students to use all of these technical appliances will help them be more technology savvy in the future.

Erin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We just recently got smartboards in our classrooms and I love them. My students are engaged and interested in the things that I am doing. The love being able to vote and get instant feedback on what we are working on. I love being able to do everything on the board from using it as a white board to video streaming magic school bus on a "big Screen". They are great!

Karen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We have one SMARTboard in our school, which is used periodically. How did you know how to use it? Did your school provide training? It sound as if the children really enjoy using it as a learning tool.

Deborah H's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love the Smart Board. I teach first grade and my students manipulate the board like they have been doing this all their life. I have been teaching for 30 years and even though at first it was hard to make the change, I am glad I did. I do everything from days of the week, even/odd numbers, concentration using Spelling words to math facts. I could go on and on. If you have any great ideas or slides that you would like to share with my first graders I would be very interested. My morning opening is approx. 45 slides. If any of you are interested in anything that I might do with my 1st graders let me know and I can send them to you.

Lisa Jacquemin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think technology is a great tool and resource. I recently watched a You Tube video clip that really made me think. It mentioned how important technology is for students of today. Their lives are surrounded by technology, such as computers, cell phones, blogs, laptops, and webcasts. I am only 25, so computers were used a lot in my college education. Anyway, the clip basically tried to convince teachers how important it is that we use more technology when teaching and less pencil paper. I am a younger teacher so I have used a lot of computers, laptops, projectors and a Mimio to teach lessons. A Mimio is basically a smart board, but smaller and it makes any whiteboard an interactive board. It has really helped with classroom management and student attention. Students just love when you can relate to their learing styles. My district has also purchased laptops carts that can be checked out daily. It was part of a grant, but was a great idea. The students have used them so much that sometimes I feel like they have learned more than I have.

Lisa Jacquemin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My particular district found some extra money and purchased just one "Smart Board" and allowed one teacher to pilot it. From there the teacher saved and documented everything. That teacher presented her finding and information on the effectiveness of the technology tool. From there the board realized it made much more sense to put forth the money toward such a useful educational tool. It only made sense that you had to invest the money upfront in order to see the results at the end. From there more teachers were trained and now as the district sees more and more teachers using them, they purchase more of them.

Mary Dorrian-Mitchell's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My school district is in the process of purchasing Mimeo Boards and from what I hear they are pretty terrific. Evidenty they are a lot like the Smart Board they just happen to be manufactured by a new company. I am looking forward to using this new technology in my classroom, but I am a little apprehensive. I agree that technology absolutely has an important place in the classroom, but I already have a pod of five computers in my room and there are times when they cause lots of problems. For one thing they are always on the fritz and they always seem to freeze right when one of my students is trying to print their work. This drives me nuts. It usually takes about two weeks for our part-time tech guy to come and fix them and normally a few days later the problem occurs all over again. The other problem I have with technology is the fact that my students never think about using my classroom encyclopedias or any of the terrific books that I place around the room when they are doing any sort of project. I remind them that there are many other places they can get their information from, but they all want to use the computer. I often toy with the idea of banning the computer pod for one of my projects, but I never want to limit them or make them think that technology is a bad thing. I personally appreciate technology and my Master's program would be much more difficult if I could not complete it online, but every once in a while I wish I could be computer free for a week.
As I said I can not wait for my Mimeo and I am sure that my class and I will have a blast learning how to use this new technology. I do not know what I would do without my laptop, but sometimes I just want my students to enjoy reading a great novel or book the way I do. I want them to improve their writing abilities by handwriting the end essay or the key points. There is a definite connection between writing the words and creativity and I want my students to experience it all, which happens to include technology.

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