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The Tools of Tomorrow: New Technologies in the Classroom

Mark Nichol

Editor / Writer
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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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Jo Ann's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We too have adopted UDL.We have purchased smart boards, reading and writing programs and other technologies to help our special education students. The latest thing we are implementing is a program called SOLO. We have also opened it up to general education students who English teacher feel need the added support.

Leigh Ann's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Technology is a wonderful tool for students to use today. I am a brand new teacher and I have access to very few technological items in the classroom. My room consists of four computers with only two that can access the internet. My goals is to have at least four working computers by the end of the year. There are so many interactive websites for students to use that meet many of the curriculum standards. I do not have access to a smart board that many people have mentioned. I have applied for a grant to receive a smart board in my classroom. I feel that the chances are slim of receiving one of these "luxuries". I have used a smart board during my student teaching experience and loved it. Smart boards provide the much needed opportunities to make learning fun and interactive. As I progress through my years as a teacher, I look forward to the new and exciting inventions for the classroom.

Karen Mullins's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I wonder how long it will be until we have Smart Desks along with our smart boards? I think that the paperless classroom is near. Students access nearly 100% of my classroom tests on our LAN and I rarely have them print any of their exercises (to save paper in computer class!) I simply check their network folder. It is simple and easy to do.

Sherrie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I thought Dr Sonia Nieto's comment about technology was pretty amazing too. I know that all schools vary in the amout of technology equipment, and the time-frame available that students can interact and experiment with the equipment. I am on a complete novice level when it comes to technology. I can't help but worry a little in that, with greater availability, comes ability, and teachers may not be in great demand in the near future. Technology has already replaced many people out in the work force.

Tara's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

When I was doing my student teaching I had access to a SmartBoard and I loved it! For those that have written grants to obtain Smartboards...can you give me some advice? I absolutely love having technology in my classroom. I go to any trainings that come about, because I never feel that I know enough on the topic. I also wonder what the future will bring. Seeing how many gains the world has made in the past decade, I can only imagine what comes next!!

Tiffany Rodriguez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I know how you feel in that it seems like we will never be fully "up to date" on the latest technology because it continues to change and progress. Any time I get a chance to attend any type of workshop or conference that deals with new technology for the classroom, I attend. I am not so much scared about teachers being replaced becuase as we all know, technology frequently fails; however, I do think we are moving more towards virtual classes and classrooms. So, a few of us are safe!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My county has a program called Teach 21. Teachers have the choice of using technology in the classroom. If you sign up for the program you are given the smartboard, voting devices, 4 new computers, a teacher laptop with docking station. With the end of course capstone project I can request a classroom set of laptops. Along with this I will even get training. The price for these wonderful tools is 200 hours of training and hands on projects. I cannot wait to implement all of this in my classroom.

Terri B's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The school I currently work at does its best to keep us technologically up-to-date. When I read your comment, I thought to myself, why not? I love the idea of smart desks. It would alleviate the need for a student to carry pen and pencil to class, (they would always be prepared), prevent cheating, and I am sure a myriad of other benefits would come of smart desks. Perhaps after watching the many commercials about the common person who thought of an idea first, you should talk to Smart Technologies about this.

Paul's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a teacher for almost twenty years the boom in technology available to me is astounding. I am expected to use basic tools like: Grade programs, Powerpoint, Lcd projection, Streaming video, Music and Art to inhance my classroom activities. I would be lost without them. I have become so dependent on the convience these tools bring me that I would buy them if I moved to a place without them. I teach in southern California and know very little about schools across our nation. Are these technologies not available in other parts of the country due to budget or ???? or do most people have these tools too. The only problem I have encountered is the attitude that some of my students seem to feel. They think that there should be even more available daily.....

Paul's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Like many of you I use a good amount of technology in my classroom as well. To not have these tools at my disposal would inhibit my ability to reach as many students. I use Smart Boards, LCD projectors, Streaming Videos, the internet, time period music, art, On-line grading programs, and the like to enhance learning and to foster a powerful learning environment. Is the availability of these tools in most schools across our nation? Does NCLB help or hurt us.

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