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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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The Tools of Tomorrow: New Technologies in the Classroom

Mark Nichol

Editor / Writer

I'm not old, but I feel like a fossil when I remember taking a continuing-education course for teachers about computers nearly twenty years ago. Each of us was given one large, thin floppy disk after another, onto which, with guidance from our instructor, we took turns copying various low tech simulations and activities from the classroom's lone personal computer, a primitive and boxy IBM clone.

I was in the midst of an eighteen-month stint as a substitute teacher at the time and then had my own classroom for a few years after that, and during that period, I never saw a computer in a classroom, much less used one. My students never benefited from that stack of floppies, which I eventually threw away unused. (In my first job after I left teaching, I used a toaster-size but much friendlier Apple IIe, and I also learned an amazing new function called email.)

The most sophisticated technological application I used during my teaching career was the videocassette recorder. Imagine -- recording a televised science program or Reading Rainbow episode broadcast at an inconvenient time onto videotape and playing it for the class later! What will they think of next?

Those memories amuse me now, especially whenever I read accounts in our articles of students conducting online research, creating Web sites, maintaining blogs, assembling multimedia presentations, producing videos, engaging in instant feedback with classroom response systems, using global-positioning-system devices to acquire scientific data, and otherwise manipulating various technological equipment to acquire and record knowledge and understanding.

Every generation gets a turn at staring, goggle eyed, as younger people use remarkable tech tools as blithely as Captain Kirk flipped open his communicator (hello, cell phone!) and ordered Scotty to beam him up, and I smile when I think about what today's students will shake their heads at when they see their own children handling -- or perhaps remotely guiding -- gadgets and contraptions whose functions and abilities seem indistinguishable from magic.

Prognostication is perilous. Virtual reality so far has not fulfilled its early promise, and other technologies introduced in fact and fiction may not be ready for the marketplace for years to come, or ever. But it is exhilarating for me, even though I'm not a tech geek and I no longer teach, to ponder how the gap between technology available in the classroom and commercial products ubiquitous in the home and the office will narrow in the coming decades.

What gizmos have you heard about, or do you imagine, will be commonplace in the classroom of tomorrow? How will the paradigms of education be altered as technology enables students to be more self-directed and mobile in their learning? How easily will educators be able to adapt to an educational process predicated by ever-evolving tech tools? Please share your thoughts.

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Heather's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Jeana,
I teach kindergarten. I have lots of technology in my classroom. The Promethean board (smartboard) is the newest addition. The kids love it. Sometimes I wonder about my students. I have some who are struggling, but all I hear about are their video games. It seems that video games have become like a babysitter for some children. It is very hard for teachers to compete with these games. We have to make learning exiting to get their attention, but how far can we go???
Heather

Heather's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Melissa,
I also teach kindergarten. I am a new teacher and I am still learning to use the smart board and discover new websites to incorporate into my instruction. I would be interested in visiting some of the websites that you use. One of the websites that I use most frequently is www.starfall.com. My students love that website and I can allow them to do different activities based on their academic needs.
Heather

Kelly M.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Seeing as I just graduated from college a year ago, technology was a big part of our leaning experience. It was intergrated into just about everything from projects, to reports, to papers. When I was in school (k-12) there were at least 2 computers in every classroom, so those I am very comfortable with. However, when it came to newer technology such as Smartboards, I had to take the class like everyone else, but it was something I more or less picked up by playing around with it in my spare time on campus. I think that's where the big split comes into play. There are those of us who have to be taught and drilled over and over, and then there are those who can sit with the new technology for an hour or so and be able to navigate it without a problem. Technology is not going away, and it will be interesting to see how savvy the next generation becomes.

Kaz's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Paul. As a grad student with Walden University, I find that learning with technology is wonderful but sadly the accessibility is not spread evenly across the nation. What I am finding is that while school districts that may have the equipment, schools may not have enough people who are tech savvy to implement technology or technology based projects in the classroom. Lack of professional development in this area is a serious problem. I do have a Masters in Curriculum and Technology thru Univ. of Phoenix and even with that background, I am finding myself limited to what I can do in my school because of lack of time, equipment or minimal ccess to the equipment. NCLB has put the demands on teachers in ways that we have not been accountable before. Wouldn't varying the way in which we reach all learners be of help rather than a hinderance? I would think that using technology should be a big help.

Stephanie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there!
I have been teaching for 4 years now and the technology is continuing to grow each passing year. First, I think it is a huge injustice that some schools are able to have all the techology they want at the touch of a finger. I do not think it is fair to the rest students who are going into the same work field and starting off with a disadvantage. My school is currently moving to a more technology friendly school. Some rooms have TVs for their computers to use power points, some have LCD projectors and we currently have 1 smartboard. The problem with this, not every student in our building is able to use all of these items at any given time. I think we are in the world of technology and as teachers we are trying to keep up with the stimulation of video games and so forth. So, having more technology will keep the students interested. I love the idea of smartdesks. That would be great! :)

Natalie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I want to know where you teach and how can I sign up for this Teach 21. Who sponsors the program? Is it available to teachers nationwide? I teach in Georgia, and 3 years ago moved from a pretty affluent system, to one not so fortunate. At my previous school, I had a laptop, LCD projector, digital camera, and access to laptops for the classroom. Now I have 3 desktops and I bought my own projector and laptop. I would be extremely interested in Teach 21. Hope to hear back....

Natalie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What website would I go to in order to get the software? I would like to try it out on my laptop and projector. Sounds neat, and I sure would love to have one.

Christina's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Donna,

I just read an article from the Dec. 6, 2006 edition of The School Administrator and it will answer a lot of your questions about Fast ForWard. I found it really fascinating. Steve Miller and Paula Tallal explain neuroplasticity which describes how the brain learns and retains knowledge, especially language skills.

I will let you read the article yourself rather than try to explain all of the technical jargon, but it made me want to try the Fast ForWord program TOMORROW!

I teach a class of EIP students who really struggle with reading and I have a much better understanding now of why they may be in their present condition.

Amanda's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I graduated in 2001, and at that time, didn't even know what a smartboard was, much less how to use one. Today my classroom is equipped with a Promethean Board, full sound system, and I have become extremely proficient at creating Promethean Flipcharts. I am fortunate that my district is very forward thinking, technology-wise, and every 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classroom is equipped with a Promethean Board. The acti-vote system goes along with the Promethean Board, and ultimately- along with the ActivSlate- it helps to set up a wireless classroom in which the student can interact with the lesson happening on the board. So, why not smartdesks? I am all for it! I can't imagine teaching without the Promethean Board anymore!

Beina's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Universal Design for Learning provides a framework for effectively using technology to make learning events in classrooms accessible to all learners. If you are interested in learning more about UDL check out:
http://www.cast.org/

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