MLE Session 1: Getting the Most Out of Hardware

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Links in support of my presentation can be found HERE.
Last week I had the opportunity to present at NMSA’s Middle Level Essentials Conference in Las Vegas, NV on Thursday and Friday. My sessions focused around the use of technology in the classroom and “Getting the Most Out of…” your students through the appropriate use of hardware tools, web software, and by understanding the changing perspectives of our students today. Over the next couple of days I’m going to be posting the presentations, handouts, and some reflections from the conference here at the Technorate Teacher.

Session 1: Getting the Most Out of your Interactive Whiteboard, Document Camera, and Other Hardware

Recommend downloading for the full impact of Slide #9

MLE Session 1 Handout
My sessions were decidedly more “tool focused” than I would have liked, but afterward I realized that there are widely varying perspectives on hardware and web tools in various districts across the US and Canada. Many of the folks in these sessions really needed this conversation. I think those of us with a technology focus would really like to move beyond the tool discussions, but there are still so many on the edges that see tools as THE most important discussion that we must help them along. The goal of my first session was to discuss some of the better ways to select and use hardware tools in the classroom.

An interesting sponsorship dilemma was the fact that Promethean provided an ActivClassroom setup for the room where I presented. While not being anti-IWB in my session, I actively discussed ways that they were inappropriately used and questioned the cost/benefit of them in the classroom. Additionally, they provided a set of ActivExpression clickers for our use, which contrasted oddly with my use of PollEverywhere.com and the discussion of Google Forms and iResponse for turning netbooks/iPod Touches into classroom response systems. Not sure I made any new friends in those regards…oh, that, and questioning why there wasn’t dual monitor support in the newest version of ActivInspire (so much for the presentation notes I spent all that time adding to my presentation).

The heavy hitters for both days were:

  • Interactive Whiteboards
  • iPod Touches/iPad
  • Netbooks
  • Classroom Response Systems

I had already figured these might be of the greatest interest, so I worked to lobby some for the little guys: digital cameras, Flip Video, and mp3 recorders for podcasting.

Overall, if there are two things I hope folks took away from Session 1, they would be:

  1. There is no hardware silver bullet – We have had a parade of hardware tools over the past 25 years, and none of them have been the single answer for all students. None of today’s tools are going to be that single answer either. We can replace well crafted learning experiences with technology, only enhance them. We’re going to look just as dumb in 20 years as those who though LaserDiscs would revolutionize education.
  2. There are a few major guiding questions when considering hardware for schools/classrooms – I focused on four questions: How do we…balance costs and benefits? Shift the power in the classroom? Ensure creation, not just consumption? Support student learning? Focusing on these questions will hopefully put the proper focus on hardware tools in the classroom, rather than having them serve as a status symbol of a school’s dedication to technology.

New Hardware Questions

For one of my presentations at the Middle Level Essentials conference in April, I’m going to be tackling the idea of getting the most out of hardware in your classroom.  The plan is for us to have a discussion about the best ways to get an increase in learning through the use of hardware tools many schools are purchasing or already have.  Some of the tools I imagine we’ll focus on are:

  • Interactive Whiteboards
  • Document Cameras
  • Flip Video Cameras
  • Digital Cameras
  • eBook readers
  • iPod Touch/iPad
  • Student Response Systems
  • Netbooks

With those in mind, plus others that may come up along the way, I want to have some focus questions to guide our discussion.  Here are the ones I’ve come up with, along with some other suggestions:

  • What are the costs of the tools vs. the benefit to the classroom?
  • To what extent does this tool allow creation of content, not just consumption?
  • What are the durability and upkeep issues for this hardware?
  • To what extent does this tool shift the classroom paradigm from teacher centered to learner centered environment?
  • From @jdeyenberg: How does it support student learning, collaboration, and curriculum outcomes?
  • From @jerridkruse: how will this help students meaningfully mentally engage with desired learning goals?
  • Also from @jerridkruse: who will benefit?
  • From @brophycat: How is it going to be used by kids who are learning?

What other questions do you or your staff focus on when discussing the purchase of a new piece of hardware for your classroom or school?

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