Posted by: Barinas | September 14, 2012

To Gadget or not to Gadget?

I am in this class where I have seen some cool new toys that I didn’t know were available.  Say that the class is going on a 10-minute break.  To keep track of time, the professor simply opens a program on the smartboard that acts like a 10-minute timer.  There’s no wondering aloud if the 10 minutes are up or which clock did you use to mark the time.  How much break time is left is right there in full display for all to see.

But what if the professor needs to separate the class into random groups of three?  Well, no problem, either.  Simply pull up another application that has all of the students’ names.  A couple of clicks later the software will randomly shuffle the names into groups of three — quick and easy.

What’s even cooler?  Let’s assume that these groups of three should make a five-minute presentation and present their findings in a way that the entire class can see.  The typical course of action is for each group to make a banner and hang it on the wall.   With all the cutting, gluing and hands-and-crafts involved, this process can easily take more than 20 minutes to complete.  But the professor has a digital projector that puts to shame that old light projector in which instructors make notes on plastic sheets of paper.  On this digital device you would instead place a regular piece of paper on its panel, and a video is projected on the smartboard showing an exact rendering of the page.

Imagine all the time that we saved thanks to this technological advancement.  Instead of spending lots of time making banners, we wrote our presentations on a standard 8.5×11 piece of paper that the projector magnifies on the whiteboard.  We can then use the digital markers to make notations on the paper without altering the master copy.  The digital projector even lets you adjust the zoom at your convenience.  How cool is that?  And we haven’t even yet talked about the technology we use to enhance lesson plans!  All I have mentioned so far is technology that helps teachers with general classroom management tasks that are not directly related to the lesson itself.

The debate goes on about how some teachers mistakenly tailor their curriculum to the technology rather than vice versa.  Others argue that many technological tools distract students from the lesson itself.  But let’s not forget about the technology that is not used to teach lessons.  Here we are talking about technology that helps educators manage a class with greater ease, and better time management.  Note how this technology helps teachers in ways beyond what a standard blackboard and chalk could do.  Whether it is tracking time, assigning groups, aiding group presentations, or displaying websites on smartboards, there is a wealth of technology that helps teachers save time on class management, so they have more time to focus on the teaching itself.

Technology for conducting lesson plan material may understandably have its sticky points, but we should not leave out of the conversation the technology that aids with the logistics and nuances of classroom management.  No one can say that these technological tools are merely a distraction or may adversely affect the quality of class instruction.  Though their impact may seem small, we have seen from these examples how class management technology helps both educators and students save time, and enhance the classroom experience.

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Responses

  1. My daughter is in kindergarten and her teacher has a great use of their Smartboard. Every morning when they come in there is an opinion question on the board, the other day was “Do you like rainy days or sunny days?”. When the kids come in their names are in a row, they move their names to answer the question. This takes attendance and teaches at the same time. That is the teacher’s first discussion question for the morning. She also uses it in that she puts a handwriting worksheet on the board, the kids come up and use it to write their letters. She has various students come up and write the letter. This gets them used to going up in front of the class, comparing themselves to others, and working on the letter itself. I suppose you could do this exact same think on a standard chalkboard or as for the “question of the day” you might use a felt board but… it’s just so much cooler on the smartboard! It just goes to show the many uses of one piece of technology.

  2. Your post really got me thinking outside of the box when it comes to technology in the classroom! Our first instinct is to think about its instructional uses, but brainstorming ideas about how it can positively (or negatively) effect classroom management is a whole different discussion. The fact that different technologies can help us save time by avoiding mundane and time-consuming tasks also means more time for teaching, collaborating, discussing, and _learning_! I would like to explore some other gadgets or tools that can be of use in classroom management… God knows I need all the help I can get with my organization!

    • This link is for a corporate classroom but I think it still has applications to what we are learning: http://masie.com/classroom2011

      • Hi Karen, thank you for the link. I liked its title “Refreshing the classroom”. What? Is it stinking? They don’t need to be telling teachers to use their air fresheners LOL.

        Kidding aside, it’s interesting to see how according to their survey, the whiteboard is one of the most sought-after technologies in the classroom. I couldn’t agree more. Whiteboards are so interactive!

        Their findings also show that the classroom won’t be replaced by a virtual one, at least not in the near future. However, as stated by the author, the classroom “should evolve into a Learning Lab, Learning Studio, Learning Workplace and Learning Center, changing with evolving designs, learners and outcomes.”

    • True that kaitlin! There’s so much to explore that it can feel intimidating!

  3. Tools are just that… tools. The effectiveness of many of them are dependent upon how we use them. If our tools are distracting us, maybe it’s because we are not really engaged in what we are doing… that the tasks before us seem mundane – even irrelevant. Maybe, just maybe, the human “tool” at the front of the classroom is related to some of the downside of how tools get [mis]used 😉 I say this with a bit of humor, but in all reality, too often the poor perception of the effectiveness and value of new tools is due to how we use them, not the tools themselves. This could just as well be said of the pencil. Yet, for some reason, when we see a poor writing teacher, we don’t assign blame to the new shiny pencils, do we…

    Which brings up a much more significant issue… that some of our new tools require US to CHANGE the way in which we do business [read: learn] to really leverage their potential. Kodak is a prime example… a company that is set to disappear in Chapter 7 liquidation where just 20 years ago employed over 65,000 employees in the local Rochester area.

    Teachers will never be replaced by new computer-based, internet-enabled tools – BUT teachers who don’t understand or who are unwilling to learn how to leverage those tools in new and meaningful ways WILL most certainly be replaced by those who do.

    The gloves are off…


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