Islands of information and bridges of communication

When taking on any new endeavor (like implementing 1:1 devices, perhaps) it’s easy to set up islands of information. What’s more difficult is connecting bridges of communication.

Carving out a niche, working hard, and providing a valuable resource are all wonderful. What’s difficult is sharing what you’ve made so people will actually use the fruit of your labor.

If you can make something helpful, and explain its usefulness effectively, then you’re on to something.

Nascent Technological Era (NTE)

It’s what we’ve just entered.

Teachers, who span the spectrum of the 5 Cs, are grappling with this place in history. Unfortunately, we can’t pick our generation; our generation is thrust upon us. The biggest problem is the NTE came so quickly. Oftentimes, pedagogical methodologies take years, if not decades, to influence classrooms. Teachers have been hit with glaciers that formed and melted quickly–maybe too quickly for their liking. LMSs. Google Drive. 1:1. Apps. These things and everything else that builds the idea of “blended learning” are unparalleled throughout modern education. Converting measurements with students in Finland via Skype is a far cry from learning in a schoolhouse on an American prairie.

Of course, this change causes fear. Fear is natural but conquerable. What’s also conquerable–or better yet, tamable–is the NTE. The challenge must be met head-on, not by curling into the fetal position and waiting for the inevitable or hoping for retirement to arrive more quickly than changing our practice. We owe it to the present generation, those young minds marinating in so many technological platforms, to guide them and teach them to think clearly in a cluttered world.

Are projectors obsolete?

1:1 devices really have me questioning the importance of a projector in the classroom.

Not so long ago, projectors were in high demand at school campuses across the country. These devices were–and still are–incredibly expensive. At the time, a simple projector could cost $2,000. Some districts were purchasing smartboards that also functioned as projectors, and the price of these tools was astronomical.

Receiving my first projector really changed the way I taught. PowerPoints and document cameras replaced overhead transparencies for sharing instructional materials and student note taking. It was great.

But there are drawbacks with projectors and smart boards. Only one or two students can use them at a time. Also, a projector makes classrooms teacher and lecture-centric as opposed to an environment that encourages student constructed learning. In my experience, lectures tend to monopolize time and take the place of project based learning during our finite instructional time. Students aren’t offered the opportunity to make the learning their own. This is a huge problem at many schools across the country.

1:1 devices highlight this downside of projectors, but that doesn’t mean projectors are unnecessary or bad. Direct Interactive Instruction (DII) is a great strategy for deploying new information, and PowerPoint, Google Presentation, and Prezi are all wonderful tools to enhance DII. Quality instruction and sound pedagogy will always be valuable.

With 1:1 devices, however, students can view presentations on their own devices. They definitely don’t need a teacher to read the text on every slide when they can do it themselves. What if a teacher shares a Google Presentation via Edmodo, allows the students to digest the information on their own or with a partner, and then walks around the room facilitating guided and independent practice? The role of the teacher changes dramatically in this scenario.

Perhaps when projectors start to break down or burn out they don’t need to be replaced with another projector. A $300 flat screen TV (with the aid of an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV) could be used for teacher and student presentations, agendas, etc. This is a much cheaper alternative and lasts a lot longer. I mean, I’ve had my Sony flat screen TV at home since 2008, and it has never needed a repair. I can’t say the same for my classroom projector.