By Brady O. Bruce
While the 2016-2017 school year has long since started, there’s always time to add technology to classrooms to keep them up-to-date and to improve student engagement. The technology in this modern world is improving so much that it is important to make sure the technology in the classroom keeps up with the changes, for the benefit of the children. In a world where you can buy bitcoin with bank transfer then anything is possible so it makes sense to have an environment where the children can take advantage of this new technology. As students become more and more immersed in technology outside of the classroom, teachers are increasingly hard-pressed to retain student attention with more traditional and non-interactive equipment such as desktop computers and whiteboards. When adding new technology to any classroom, easy implementation, flexibility and future-proofing are key.
One way to keep students engaged in the classroom is with personal devices and interactive whiteboards that allow them to collaborate and view digital content. An interactive whiteboard is an easy device to add. It can take the place of a traditional whiteboard or be mounted on a cart and shared between classrooms. Combined with personal tablets or laptops, students can interact with digital lesson plans in real-time in an effective and engaging manner.
Beaver Acres Elementary School in Aloha, Ore., is a key example of a school successfully instituting the one-to-one tablet and whiteboard method. The school received grants to support future readiness and positive change initiatives, which allowed Fourth-Grade Teacher Heather Hoxie to integrate one-to-one devices paired with a JTouch interactive whiteboard, produced by Infocus Corp. of Portland, Ore., to individualize and accelerate instruction. Hoxie’s students quickly embraced a faster pace of instruction, working individually on their devices and then casting and sharing their work on the JTouch for immediate presentation, feedback and collaboration. Unlike projection whiteboards, the display is bright enough for Hoxie’s classroom at any time of day, even with the lights on, because it uses the same technology as a flat-screen television.
When a school introduces new and updated technology, teachers can adapt their lesson plans to use it effectively as a new tool. “We still have to achieve a balance between good note-taking skills and good typing skills,” said Hoxie. “We also have to teach kids to discern between good and bad information, as so much of both are available online.”
From a technology standpoint, Hoxie believes providing individual devices students use at their desks together with a collaborative board that can display their work as well as teacher-led presentations is critical. This two-layered approach also enables more individualized instruction, allowing students to learn at their own pace while creating more fluid and effective interaction in the classroom.
Flexibility is another challenge when it comes to adding new school technology. New systems and devices need to be future-proof and able to adapt to new types of teaching content and other personal devices. “I need to be able to incorporate new information sources or devices as they become available,” said Hoxie.
This usually comes into play when choosing the type of equipment to add to a classroom. In Hoxie’s classroom, the InFocus LightCast software’s casting ability allows students to wirelessly screen share — or cast — from their device to the JTouch, then walk up and touch the screen to demonstrate something, manipulate content or bring up an adjacent web page.
Just a few months after implementation, Hoxie noticed an increase in student engagement. Her students adopted the technology immediately because it works just like the smartphones or tablets they use every day outside of school. “There are so many positive impacts,” she said. “I can provide supports or extensions for students in reading and math. This individualized instruction on their personal device allows students to move forward at their own pace.”
Because this approach to education technology is simple to implement, it can be easily integrated into a classroom at any point during the school year. When considering potential devices, explore the options for connectivity with other devices and the types of platforms that it can interact with, since a change in compatibility could render new classroom technology useless. Flexibility and ability to use devices across different student ages and learning subjects is also critical to maximize the school’s investment and infuse engagement and interactive learning into all aspects of teaching.
Brady O. Bruce is the chief marketing officer for InFocus Corporation of Portland, Ore.