Saving the classroom computing experience


This post is actually an amalgam of a number of conversations that I’ve had with friends over the past weeks.  So, I won’t name names but I’m sure that those who were in the conversation will recognize their part.

The conversations were a result of talking about the successful use of technology in the hands of students and the barriers toward that success.  Their observations may or may not echo your experiences.  It would be great if you could add your thoughts/comments to the bottom of the post.  Much of the conversation dealt with frustrations but there might be light at the end of the tunnel.

Lack of Professional Learning

It’s interesting to see the arguments and they’re so similar to the Digital Immigrants/Native discussion.  Just because more people are comfortable with personal devices doesn’t necessarily translate into success in the classroom.  Schools and school districts shouldn’t assume that they’re enjoying success.  In fact, it’s only with the constant stirring of the pot and the sharing of resources, that success will happen.

Technicians

Most school districts hire computer technicians whose job it is to visit schools and fix things and install software.  Observations were made that we have more technology than ever in schools and yet have the same number or even fewer technicians that actually touch the equipment.  That results in an increasingly larger inventory of technology that needs attention before it can be used.

Priorities

So, even when the technician does get to the school (one person reported that it was once ever two weeks, barring emergencies) there is a priority to the jobs that are addressed.  While there was a debate on the order of priorities, we kind of agreed that this was pretty much it.

  • network problems
  • secretary’s computer/printer
  • principal’s computer
  • vice-principal’s computer
  • teachers’ computers
  • computers/tablets for students with special needs
  • adaptive technology for students with special needs
  • the newest computers/tablets acquired for student use
  • older computers/tablets if there is time

More Priorities

  • printers for the students
  • other peripheral devices

It’s an interesting list of priorities and it’s difficult to argue with the order.  But, frustration does exist if that student in Grade 5 is writing the next great Canadian novel or that student in Grade 11 is one last run away from having their programming project complete and submitted.

Hanging On

  • schools are notorious for hanging on to things and computers are no exception.  Letting go can be hard but sometimes technology has just had its day and you’re further off without it.

These days, school districts rely increasingly on the cloud (a horrible name when you actually get to see a computing centre) for things like an office suite or activities that would normally be handled by software installed on the computer.  Remember how the province used to rely on OSAPAC to provide a number of new pieces of software annually?  This list shows that things are changing.

With the increasing acceptance of students bringing their own devices to schools, there has been indeed a real shift in computer use.  With the exception of specialized topics, the use of web-based resources makes a great deal of sense.  One of the people I chatted with indicated that their IT Department has a three year cycle for installing new software on computers.  You could easily draw the conclusion that it’s obsolete even before the students get a shot at it!

The older computer is an interesting scenario.  Newer software often runs much slower, if at all.  But, for the most part, things that are available on the web would work nicely if there was only a working browser on the computer.

It doesn’t take long to find stories like this:

Technology in Education: How Chromebooks and Google Classroom Change the Learning Process

There generally was great love shown for the use of Chromebooks rather than a continuing reliance on the traditional desktop.

Samsung provided this interesting infographic a few years ago – Why Chromebook? (infographic)  Their concept of four generations makes a great deal of sense. The message remains the same but has also extended with the new features in Chromebooks including even longer battery life, more contemporary extensions and Chrome applications, touch screen, and the ability to run Android applications.  Many are waiting with interest for the release of the newest Samsung Chromebooks.

This infographic from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning makes the case for the ease of use and a possible workflow.

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, Important Chromebook Tips. Digital Image. January 7, 2017 Published http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2017/01/an-excellent-infographic-featuring.html, February 4, 2017 Accessed.

More importantly, you don’t need to image and install a multitude of applications.  With the reliance on cloud-based applications and storage, much of the traditional thinking behind computer use just goes away.  Instead of all the work and tweaking that maintaining an approved image of applications requires, accessing things in the browser really question the traditional way of thinking about classroom computing.

There are so many things that just form part of the experience that make it a good choice.  For the those who like the tablet format, the inclusion of Android applications is a natural – probably even better since they can now be used with a keyboard if necessary.  For those needing help, the adaptive features are handly, including using Chromevox.

For the foreseeable future, there still is a need for a traditional computer with traditional software installed for some purposes.  However, the general use can well be addressed via the web.  It equalizes the process for the bring your own students and teachers.

The Smartlock Feature would be intriguing to see in classroom use.

Your Chromebook will be unlocked when your Android phone is unlocked and nearby.

The general thought was that this are so many interesting features and benefits of a move in this direction.

Will all computer makers follow suit?  Will your district?

But, should you go this route because it’s the newest and shiniest kid on the block?  It’s even more crucial that you step back from the technology and determine just what it is that you intend to accomplish with any technology acquisition.  Instead of asking “how many”, the first questions should be “what would we do with it?” and “how will we leverage professional learning to get the most from any purchase?”

Your thoughts?

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OTR Links 02/08/2017


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.