Information-Rich Classroom

1975 ClassroomI received an e-mail yesterday from an educator in Charlotte, NC, where I spoke to district principals this summer (the stockcar theme was great fun). I thought that I would pose my response as a blog entry and invite others to chime in.

(obligatory kindnesses) …You were the first person I thought of when I was faced with an enormous task. Our school may have the opportunity to build a new technology/science/media building. I have been asked to come up with rooms that would support current and future technology. My question to you is, what would your “Dream” classroom look like?? Smartboards, elph camera’s, SmartTV’s, mounted projectors??? I just don’t know where to begin!~!

You can imagine that this is candy to me. First of all, as you might have attended one of my presentations, my focus is on the information, not on the technology. This means that your students must have access to a broad range of networked digital information, both personally, and as a group. You too, must have this access. You both must have the ability to share with the rest of the class (not to mention the world) this information, and derivatives of the information produced by you or the students. You must be able to also collect analog information from the “real” world and digitize it for use with digital processing and display tools. It’s about access, using, and communicating information in an increasingly networked and digital world.

With all that said, you might check out the New Century School House project, where teachers have been describing their ideal classrooms for years.

Anyway, here is my technology shopping list for a single classroom:

  • permanently mounted projector and interactive display board. (you might consider wireless projectors, but I do not know much about them).
  • Notebook computer for each student and one for the teacher. At some point these will be TabletPCs, but I’m not sure if they have evolved enough yet
  • Electrical outlets such that all students can have powered notebook computers at their desks
  • Reliable hi-speed, wireless access to the school’s network and the Internet. Internet access should employ filters that can be circumvented by the teacher
  • A box of low-end still digital cameras, one for every two students
  • One high-end (5 Megapixel) still digital camera
  • A flatbed scanner
  • Two digital video cameras
  • Three mid-level microphones compatible with the student and teacher notebooks
  • Class management software (Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle)
  • Logically organized network storage for student work that is accessible from outside the classroom
  • Software facility for class publishing (blogware, podcasting, web publishing)
  • Full range of productivity software (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, image editing, video and audio production

Additions? or Comments?

21 thoughts on “Information-Rich Classroom”

  1. I would add videoconferencing capability to connect to colleagues, experts, and educational institutions around the world! See my blog for creative uses of videoconferencing in schools.

  2. Great list! I would a database application to the productivity software and make sure the web publishing application includes XML development.

  3. Dream world……

    Before talking about educational reform we need to focus on what students are going to do inside the classroom. Lets start by looking at the building and how it is arranged. Most schools are arranged into boxes where we put students or widgets which are going to built into a new product. Perhaps the arrangement of this building could be more like an office complex where each student has a workspace. When necessary students would gather for conferences, seminars, group meetings, etc. to share and explore ideas with teachers and peers then return to their area to work collaboratively on projects.

    Computers, we need to make sure each student has a laptop or other computing device that can be used to create content. Other items, like those Dave mentioned, would need to be available in the building for use as necessary. Projectors and interactive boards would be located in conference rooms and large gathering spaces. A few projectors should remain portable for special projects. Students would be accountable for their work not seat time.

    Now for a problem with this plan, teachers are going to complain, they won’t have a place for whole group learning or as it’s better known “lecturing.“

    Try imagining a team of creative designers for corporation XYZ designing their next great product sitting in a typical classroom.

  4. Tom Hoffman commented on this post in his unique way, with some valuable insights from an IT guy perspective.

    BTW, I left out the printer for a reason. 😉

  5. I would suggest including at least a week of uninterrupted, collaborative training and planning time. Once every quarter.

    All of the equipment and software recommendations are great. They offer a lot of potential for teaching and learning. However, without training on how to make best use of the technology and time to plan with their colleagues, that potential is nothing but nice photo ops for the superintendent.

    Oh, and tossing out the current antiquated classroom structure and standardized multiple choice tests would be nice too. Am I asking too much? 🙂

  6. There should be two lists. One list would descibe basic equipment for a student (/ information worker) as he or she travels from place to place. The other should describe basic equipment for a classroom (/ access point / meeting room).

    The student list is your basic ‘road warrior’ kit:
    – computing platform (ie., laptop, tablet, psp, whatever) and/or media player (psp, ipod)
    – digital recording platform (ie., digital camera with video, audio capture)
    – storage media and access (hard drive, CD/DVD-R and reader, flash memory and reader)
    – power point access (plugs and adapters, spare batteries)
    – production software (text editor, presentation sw, image editing, audio editing, video editing, spreadsheet, file transfer, web browser, email, IM or Skype)
    – newtork access (ethernet cable, wireless)
    – network services (web site, file upload storage, email drop point, IM account, aggregator)

    The classroom list is your basic conference support list:
    – power supply (numerous plug-ins)
    – internet access (wireless access and ethernet drops (no filtering – filtering is an individual preference))
    – multimedia display (projector(s), sound system, screen(s)) and playback system (includes support for old media, such as VCR)
    – high-quality multimedia (precision scanner, process printer, production studio audio-video recording equipment)
    – group communication (interactive video connectivity)
    – network services (room and event/school specific website and online services)

    The difference between my list and the one proposed is that in my list, the student kit becomes to a large degree one of personal preference; each student outfits him or herself with the basic kit according to their own preferences. The student kit is mobil, traveling with the student, and interfacing with the location-specific services on an as-needed basis. The location-specific services do not try to totally equip visitors (because then you get absurdities, like shared cameras or even shared computers).

  7. Please, please, PLEASE don’t forget the people support that is needed! I agree with Tim above who mentions collaboartive training and planning time. I think it would take more than once a quarter, but it needs to be ongoing, and include some classroom support (either by teachers supporting each other-time!) or a mentor who does some classroom visits.

    Tech support is also ESSENTIAL and that is a people thing… It is fairly easy to afford all of the cost of building and equipment, but what about salaries for these people?


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