Tools for the 21st Century Classroom

Within the few weeks, hundreds of laptops will be delivered to all our classroom teachers. This shift from desktops to laptops will allow elementary instructional classrooms to receive 2 additional student computers. Within the next several months, LCD projectors and a sound system will be installed in each classroom. Finally, by the end of next year, document cameras will be deployed as well.

The primary focus of these digital tools will how they will directly impact instruction. Teachers will love the mobility of the laptop and how lessons are enhanced by the highly visual and interactive document camera. The potential for engagement of the students will be incredibly powerful, as our children live in a media-rich world and rely heavily on visual sources for information and understanding. As these tools help us shift the use of technology, particularly the computer from a productivity tool to an instructional tool, there are a few important things to consider.

Classroom setup
The teacher's computer is no longer strictly a productivity tool. Initially, classroom teachers' laptops along with the docking station will be placed on their desks. Many teachers have their desks positioned in the back of the class and out of the way of the students. However, in a few months, the docking station will also be connected to an LCD projector, sound system and a document camera. Teachers may have to rethink the placement of their desks or come up with an alternative surface to place the laptop/docking station so they can be in a position to interact with the students and allow for optimal classroom management. You don't want to be projecting media from the back of the class and talking to the backs of your students' heads. 

Student engagement
The addition of this new technology into instruction will require a great deal of flexibility and "thinking outside the box". It's important to recognize how students become actively engaged in the learning process when visual media is used to reinforce concepts, and support comprehension. The availability of the Internet creates endless possibilities as teachers access images, video, maps, graphs, virtual tours, and other primary resources. In addition, access to teacher examples and student work helps visually demonstrate the process for writing, solving a math problem, or doing a science experiment. Keep in mind that students can lead instruction by using the document camera to manipulate objects and explain what they are doing. Using technology to devote more class time to students demonstrating their thought process, sharing their work, and gaining confidence in their abilities directly impacts student achievement.

Unexpected benefits
  • Decrease in copying expenses as content can be displayed on the projector
    • Place 1 copy of a quiz or worksheet that was scanned in and have the students write their answers on a piece of paper
    • Overhead transparencies are no longer needed as the computer/document camera can project the content (use the copy machine to create a scanned file)
  • Use the image capture feature of the document camera
    • show the steps in a process, various drafts of a writing piece, or create an image of an object that can be uploaded to the teacher's website as a study guide or incorporated into a test - using a picture of exactly what the students saw during the lesson
  • Provide much needed background knowledge, particularly to our ELL students
    • demonstrate experiments in 3D - dissecting a flower, examining an insect
    • accessing real world examples from the Internet or by using manipulatives
There are so many wonderful examples of the digital tools of the 21st century classroom. I can email you some handouts that I've obtained from other schools if you want to explore this topic further. In addition, if you teach in a classroom that already has these tools, please email me your reflections about how they have impacted your students' learning. I would like to compile some documentation about some of the great things our district teachers are doing with technology to enhance instruction!


Web resources


http://www.emints.org/ethemes/resources/S00002162.shtml

http://www.edtechnetwork.com/document_cameras.html

http://www.umesd.k12.or.us/techlinks_100ideas

http://www.timbedley.com/articles/article05.htm

http://www.elmousa.com/files/ShowMeGreatLessons!.pdf