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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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Luis Martos's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I just wanted to share with those that feel that the tools that web 2.0 has made available to us are something to fear. It isn't. I recently had the courage to try and create my very on wiki. Though it is not nearly done, I have seen that it is not all that difficult. I can't wait to work with my students and let them share in the experience.

Ann Wolff's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I hope you find amazement in using it as I have...
After reading a magazine article (ED. Leadership) on wikis and blogs, I tried out a wiki and fell in love with the concept. Then I tried it with my students and now they have told me they are addicted to using it...that it is like Facebook. They read responses of others and respond on their own sometimes at 11:30pm on a Saturday night. It is the most amazing thing I have seen in a long time. And all of this began a little over a month ago. I am "over the hill", a digital immigrant, thus only moderately digitally literate so if I can do it, anyone can. The students eat this stuff up. I hope you find that you are talking up wikis as much as I do now!!

Terri Peoples's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Fast Forword is a phonemic software program that does increase students reading scores. Students used a self paced program that focuses sounds. Sessions are timed so make sure students have enough time to finish their modules. The students earn points based on how well they perform. Can be used in elementary through high school. The cartoon images should be updated.

Camille's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Teacher Friends~

I'm currently writing a book that will be published by ISTE on using Web 2.0 and other digital distance learning tools to connect students with career awareness opportunities in the STEM fields. I would like to include stories about real projects taking place out there right now.

If you have a project in your classroom you'd like to share with me and possibly have published in the book, please share here where all these pioneer peers can share as well.

Thanks for sharing.

cheap computers's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It is the most amazing thing I have seen in a long time.

Nicole Thompsen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

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artismygame's picture
artismygame
art k-5 michigan

I grew up on the beginning wave of the internet and modern computer technology, I knew what html, www, AOL, IM and "surfing the net" meant before most of my teachers and my parents did. Now that I am a teacher and have a classroom of students who have never known what it was like to "wait for dial-up" or can have any song instantly play on their Ipod, it is pertinent for me to learn about and create a classroom that embraces technological advances.But I think it is important for teachers to understand that technology is suppose to help not replace education.

DJ Langley's picture
DJ Langley
5th Grade Teacher from Fresno, California

It is refreshing to hear from a retired teacher who is truly amazed at the progress that education is making in terms of technology's use in the classroom. Thinking back only 20 years ago, we were using the very first of personal computers, and the idea of the World Wide Web would have had people saying, "no way". I have been teaching for 13 years and within the past 5 years the integration of technology into our school has exploded. I only dreamed of the strategies and resources that I now have in my hands to make my students proficient. These tools enhance our curriculum and make our lives a little easier in terms of student management and data analysis. Imagine life in another 20 years.

J.B. Kinser's picture
J.B. Kinser
Fourth grade teacher in Sheffield Village, Ohio

I have a SmartBoard in my classroom. The room is full inclusion and I team teach with the intervention specialist. Our classroom has a 1:1 ratio of students to computers. Each student has a netbook computer that has wireless internet. These computers also have the SmartBoard software installed on them which allows the netbooks to receive the lesson that is on the SmartBoard and work with it or edit it on their computers. The computers also can be used to participate in interactive quizzes (read clickers). Many of the students in my classroom had the same setup in their third grade classroom and are very proficient at typing and using educational technology. Many times I feel pressured to create home run lessons to compete with video games, but I have begun to realize that I will be competing with video games for the rest of my career. Using technology seems to keep the children engagedost of the time.

amanda's picture
amanda
teacher k-6, and student

I remember being in my elementary school as a student almost 30 years ago and we had one computer that was rolled from one class to the next. Each classroom would have the computer one day a month. Now, I have three comupters in my room and my students complain that we need more. I can see how computers have changed so much over the past 30 years. I believe that we need to grow with our students with technology. This year my school which does not spend alot for technology is under a new principal. We are now having Smart boards installed in every classroom. Thank you for technology, but my students at times can tell me how many of the new technology works. I feel as a teacher I need to be able to expand my knowledge for the benefit of my class.

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