ICT Equipment for every classroom – a response

@TeacherToolkit is one of my favourite Twitter handles to follow – so many great ideas and resources are posted.  Just today I found a post about the top 10 pieces of tech a classroom needs to get rolling. Readers are prompted to consider:

If money was no option, what 10 ICT tools would you use in your classroom? 

Most of this list matches my own. But, since I love to play devil’s advocate, I’d like to use this list as a prompt for where change needs to happen first: the infrastructure. 

A computer for you; and preferably one for every child! 

100% agree. If money were no object I would want a chrome book for every student. Currently I have 2 Classroom pcs, both shared with students (one connected to the Smart Board). I have 5 chrome books for student use.  

Here’s where the infrastructure come in. I only have 3 power outlets in my room: one under the smart board, one on an adjacent wall, and one by the sink which would require running power bars in front of open windows (which must be open from May to October as we have no air conditioning). We can’t go against safety codes, so no extension cords are allowed. And we can’t daisy-chain power bars. So the simple lack of outlets makes this impractical. When I do manage to plug in 6 power bars and move kids to where the power is, the lights flicker and then dim. The fan even spins more slowly. It’s ominous to say the least. So the rooms need to be retrofitted to be able to power the technology we do have. 

USB or wifi access for document sharing and device connectivity. 

We have Wi-Fi, but because of cinder block walls and lots of pipes running through our halls (the 6-8s are in the basement) we have limited connectivity. Many students bring their own devices with them but can’t log on to the network unless they physically walk down the hall. And while it’s amazing that our whole board got wifi rolled out as quickly as it did, and we totally understand the massive undertaking it has been, the sheer bandwidth needed with 150+ students trying to log in at once and stay connected as they move is beyond what our original school network can really handle. As the CST, touching the wifi router is verboten so even the need for a simple reset requires calling in a TSA, which can take a few days. This is where the constant quest for bandwidth pops up. How much speed and space does a school really need? In my opinion, if you build it, students will max it. So we ask them not to stream video and steer them away from resource-intensive apps, but it’s still a frustration many days. So yes, wifi that can handle your needs is essential. 

A projector with interactive whiteboard functionality or television screen connectivity.

Got one. And it’s great. I also got an Apple TV box for my projector so my personally-purchased apps on my own device can show on the screen. The interactive part is limited since my front-of-the-room outlets are right beneath it, so there’s a lot plugged in close by. It’s tight quarters, but we do try. 

A presentation clicker for classroom mobility.

Lovely idea. Though in a class of 30 grade 7/8s there’s not much space in which to mobilize. 😉 I will occasionally swap chairs with a student if I want to join a group, and bring my wireless mouse and keyboard with me. This allows me to turn over classroom “lead” to students as well. If you have the money, the wireless keyboard and wireless air mouse combination gives you more flexibility (just make sure to splurge on one with a decent wireless range – mine has 110 ft).

A visualiser or document camera for displaying student work, or presenting live feedback.

I have one. But the board updated our OS and now it can’t be recognized.  Same with my Zoomy digital microscope. I’m sure by the fall it will be recognized again. So yes, they are great, but only if the work. My current work around is to use the Apple TV and my iPad to snap a shot of kid work and display it up on the board. 

Tablet devices for teacher and student e.g. iPad and not necessarily 1:1.

We have one class iPad mini in almost all of our rooms.  I use it for documenting student learning, and students use it for creation tasks. One or two iPads per group of students would be ideal to make creation, video, narration etc easier. Since we do a lot of collaboration I don’t *need* tech in everyone’s hands. But 10 or 12 tablets would make group work so much more engaging. 

Recording hardware/software for pod-casting etc

We have one microphone in my room. In lieu of speakers I plug the main pc’s sound into a guitar amp. But for the past year we’ve done most of our recording straight through the iPad. Ideally, when interactive white boards were installed the speakers should have been installed too, so that every room had sound. We would also love to have space where classroom sounds could be dampened a bit to allow for better recording. But between space limitations and supervision needs, that’s just not possible yet. 

A digital camera for showcasing work and evidence trails.

We use the iPad mini for this. We have learned a lot from our FDK staff in how to document learning using picCollage.  We do wish the two printers/copiers in our school would let us print from the iPads and chrome books. Right now our workflow is: document, uploads to app, add commentary, download to camera roll, export to pc, save as pdf, print, run upstairs to get it, hope it worked, potentially do it all again. 

Posting documentation in the room would be great too, but there simply isn’t room between teaching space, coat racks, windows and one available wall (which, having an outlet smack dab in the middle of it, is already prime tech real estate).

A few show-off gizmos; e.g. data-logging; remote control vehicles/robots/buzzers and lights!

Could I get a pencil sharpener first? Seriously though, while every school has one or two people who would love to get into the fun side of tech, we’re still trying to get essential tech into all classrooms. Maybe once we get that accomplished we’ll be able to move on to more exploratory applications. 

A social media output channel to connect with students, parents and fellow classrooms outside your 4 walls …

I love social media. But crossing that line from professional media to social media can be very difficult. Our union is quite clear that they would rather we not communicate via social media, email etc. but gives us supportive guidelines if it absolutely can’t be avoided. Apps such as Remind help me securely send one-way messages to parents. And I do email frequently (usually cc-ing my administration). I also run my webpage as a virtual classroom, so what I do each day is pretty transparent. Though keeping all this going does take a fair bit of time. 

Connecting with others is tough. Twitter has provided my best PD in years. Finding a willing offline audience who value what I find online is more challenging. Perhaps if we rebuilt the staff room…
So here’s my perfect list:

1. Teacher pc that doesn’t have to be accessible to students. 

2. 2 power outlets on each of the 4 walls, not near water or windows.

3. 8 8-socket power bars with 15-ft cords, so I could have some flexibility in how I assemble my room. 

4. Wifi router mounted in the room, to avoid connection issues (along with massive amounts of bandwidth…. Sigh)

5. 10 tablets for collaborative tasks, with secure storage and charging options for overnight. 

6. 30 chrome books, with printing privledges 

7. Tables to accommodate sharing tech easily

8. Extra chargers for common devices set up in a charging station, so BYOD tech can recharge over recess, lunch, etc

9. A recording area, set apart so that students could record what they need to and still be supervised. 

10. A little extra time in each day, to keep it all organized, running, and accounted for. An extra minute to update the website. An extra 10 minutes to read through tweets. Oh, how bout an extra hour to play with new apps? Or an extra 5 minutes to fix a broken charger? Or 6 minutes to untangle a cord? Or two minutes…


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