My school is fortunate enough to provide students with personal computers for use in the classroom and at home. Internet is provided to students in the building and is used to distribute information to students, write papers, perform research and similar educational tasks. Teachers are provided iPads to use in class which can be synced with the classroom display (60 inch LCD display). Additionally, classrooms are equipped with speakers which is attached to portable microphones which teachers may use to amplify their voice in the classroom.
In this class, the teacher distributes notes and scaffolds the class activities by distributing a OneNote document which is a note taking document by Microsoft. Teachers can add graphs, pictures, full documents and sound files to the OneNote file and easily distribute the information in an organized way to students.
During this class period, students were asked to type their responses to an initial thinking question and then the teacher debriefed student responses as a class. When interviewing a student, he responded that typing responses to the initial thinking question versus writing them allows him to express his thinking more quickly and can write more information down. The hope of the teacher using the OneNote is that students can take notes in between the information provided. The notes are not collected, but provide students a resource to be able to search their notes and include supporting documents between their notes.
Today, the activity was a lecture about living conditions on Mars, the document in the One Note was a table set up as Two-Column notes. The teacher scaffolded the lesson by providing the information on the left column (the topics covered in the lecture) and the right was to be filled in by the students during the discussion. When talking with the instructor, before the school had computers for students, she would have printed and distributed the notes outline to provide students a tool to learn from the lecture.
During the lecture, the teacher utilized her iPad. She had a PowerPoint Application which allowed her to control the slideshow remotely as she walked around the class. During the lecture, the teacher weaved in and out of the students to see what they were doing and take corrective action. This tool also had a laser pointer function that allowed the lecturer to highlight an area of the screen she wanted students to pay attention to more closely. Additionally, the use of the iPad and the many applications helped switch between tasks gracefully without significant transition time. Within 30 seconds, the teacher moved from her PowerPoint presentation to a Word Document (to inform students of what good research looked like) to an excel file to display team groups. I think this was a good use of technology to aid in classroom management.
Finally, one low tech piece of technology that was used in the class was a microphone to amplify the teachers voice. Microphones are used by many teachers at the school, they help create clarity of instructions and teachers don’t strain their voices to talk over students. One improvement I would make as the teacher using a microphone would be to repeat what students say a when the student is not using the microphone. This way everyone can hear students comments loudly and clearly.
One downside to the use of technology in the classroom is when the tools don’t work. LanSchool is a tool which provides teachers an overview of what students are looking at on their computer. This technology is currently unavailable so students easily take advantage of the computer use and look at non-school related sites. This can be challenging for teachers if they are not careful at monitoring student computer use. While technology has it’s benefits because students can access many sites for information, it also presents problems when trying to teach and students are off track. Students even claim that they computer use can be distracting, one student in particular claims he is easily distracted by his coding (Java Script). In all, technology has improved classroom culture and provides different learning opportunities, there are also unique new challenges that also detract from information. Many of these tools are classroom management tools and few are subject specific contributing to the unique needs of the specific lesson.