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Doug Johnson's Tech Proof

The Well-Wired Classroom


A pundit once speculated that should a 19th century physician be transported to the present day, he or she would not recognize a modern operating room. A 19th century banker would not be able to function in today's bank. In fact, the writer observed, the only professionals whose working environment would have changed so little that they could begin working immediately would be public classroom teachers. The practices and technology of teaching have changed that little in the past couple hundred years.

How long that remains even somewhat true is changing quickly in many districts. Although changes in teaching practices are less observable, changes in classroom technologies are dramatic in those schools with vision, commitment andwellfunding.

My first classroom in the mid-70's had a chalkboard and I could check out an overhead projector, filmstrip projector, or 16mm projector from the library. Compare that to today's "smart" classrooms that contain:

Telephones. A POT (Plain Old Telephone) with a voice mailbox remains the essential "information appliance." It's amazing to me how many classrooms still do not have this "luxury."

Networked teacher computers.Whether for keeping grades, creating study materials, creating multimedia presentations, or communicating with e-mail, a computer for each teacher is an essential teaching tool. An increasing number of teachers are gaining access to laptop or tablet computers that can be used from multiple locations in the classroom as well as outside it.

Data projectors. The ability to project the image of a computer screen so it can be viewed by the entire class is essential. As lessons become Web-based; as educational films are delivered digitally; and teacher-created multimedia presentations reach today's visual learners, the computer becomes a tool for whole-group instruction with the availability of a data projector -- preferably mounted in the ceiling.

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Interactive white boards. These devices that work in conjunction with a computer and data projector allow the user to write in "digital" ink, record the writings as a computer file, use the surface of the IAW as a touch-screen, and often come with highly interactive programs that allow students to manipulate projected images. Once you've used one, you will never want to do without access to it.

Sound amplification systems. Classrooms with students with hearing loss or large classrooms benefit from the teacher's voice being amplified with a wireless microphone and sound system.

Document cameras. These simple devices that connect to data projectors or TV monitors allow teachers to show either print documents or objects using a camera. Some can be attached to microscopes for viewing by the class.

Student mini-labs or portable wireless labs. If schools are to give students ready access to computing for research, for communication, or for educational computer games and simulations, student computers need to be in the classrooms -- either permanently in mini-labs or temporarily through wireless labs.

In the not too distant future, teachers will view these (and more) instructional technologies to be as critical as today's teacher views the whiteboard to be. And these digital technologies will be required to reach and teach our digitally "native" learners.

Is your district making plans to smarten up your classrooms?

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