Finding the Right Tool

by Beth Knittle on March 31, 2014

Many districts today struggle with finding the right tool for the right job, in teaching and learning there are different jobs; with the advent of PARCC, a computer given assessment, the need for schools to acquire new technology is great.   There is vigorous debate about what that tool should be.  If you do any reading along this line you know people are passionate about their choice of device.  

Honestly the device is last thing to be considered.  Just like with teaching you need to start with the objectives, what do you want to be able to do?  Schools need to define these objectives, prioritize them and then determine how far their money will go.  If your goal is to increase the number of devices available to administer the PARCC test that may lead you to purchase a different device then if your goal is to facilitate the creation of interactive media rich material.  Different schools are at different places when it comes to the level of technology integration and therefore would require different tools. You cannot make the general claim that one tool is better then another. Current discussions revolve mainly around the iPad vs. Chromebook.  Many districts in my area have invested heavily in iPads. But any good Ed Tech Dept should always keep an eye on things, in technology the landscape changes daily.

We have been using Google Apps for about 5 years now with students and staff and are quite familiar with the standard suite of tools. Our tech department is trying to encourage “device agnostic” formats in documents, files and products. We have explored a variety of devices; traditional Windows and OS computers and laptops, android and surface tablets, netbooks, iPads and chrome books. We have dabbled in a lot of devices and operating systems. Changes occur in both applications and hardware in a heartbeat and it is hard to keep up.  We strive to find the right tool for the job.

When it comes to teaching and learning we want our technology to support our staff and students to be able to do the following;

Create and share video

On an iPad we use iMovie. In a chrome environment wevideo but at the rate we would use it it would be an additional cost. Tablets seem our best bet here with both a front and rear facing camera.

Create presentations

These presentations should include images, video, narration and handwritten input. Currently we use Explain Everything on an iPad or a PC/Mac – with bamboo tablet and applications such as PowerPoint, and Keynote.  Though students and staff do use Google Presentation – it is not as media rich as we would like and adding narration is not an option as far as I can tell.

Access and create eBooks

eBooks (ePub) with video and interactivity not just text, links and images). Currently we use Mac OS iBooksAuthor, various iOS book creator apps and iBooks. What would the alternative be on a chrome book?

 Improve Accessibility

We have many students who have eBooks, web sites and documents read to them using various assistive tech screen and eBook reading applications. These capabilities are built into iOS.

At this time our students and staff are immersed in a rich environment with our PC, iPad and Mac devices. They are not limited in their ability to create and access interactive, media laden content. This level of richness is not yet available in cloud-based computing.  Stand-alone, non-cloud based, single-use applications can offer functionality cloud-based applications cannot.  Yet, we still benefit from Google’s open source, cloud-based, collaborative applications suite. As Google and 3rd party developers improve cloud-based applications the ed tech landscape will change once more. In a couple of years we will likely be exploring new options.

I’d love your feedback.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Pearl Johnson April 13, 2014 at 10:17 pm

Yes technology is changing faster than a blink of a eye and it seems like we can never keep up. Schools systems are even father behind because once they get something approved there has been 2-3 new technology gadgets.

Bethany Petty April 25, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Our building is going 1:1 with Chromebooks next year, and I couldn’t be more excited! This is going to be an outstanding instructional tool! I’ve researched screencasting with the Chromebook, and am excited to see what my students can do with tools such as Screencastify!

Marcus Jackson May 15, 2014 at 2:38 am

There is no doubt education is undergoing huge transformation and technology is indeed disrupting it. Google apps is good,but there are more efficient tools that can increase productivity.

Aneshia Lewis June 22, 2014 at 8:15 pm

I agree that technology is having a great impact in education. It is also true that different schools are at different places when it comes to technology. I think that it is good for students to know how to work both Mac and PC.

Allison R. July 4, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I agree that school districts are incorporating more and more technology resources. I really like that you mentioned the importance of focusing on the objectives first before purchasing technology. I have found in my school that technology is often purchased without teacher input. It is then put into our classrooms and we are expected to use it every day. However, some of the technology might not necessarily be as useful in some classrooms and grades as in others. For instance, we recently received ELMOs and promethean boards, yet are still told that we need to be using the overhead projector. We also have received Activotes for the promethean board. I currently teach kindergarten and in this grade, I do not feel that the Activote is a good use of the school’s funds. With all of this said, I feel it is so important to get teacher input before selecting the technology being brought into the classroom. This way, we can truly focus on the objectives first.

Beth Knittle July 5, 2014 at 9:00 am

Allison,

Thanks for your comments. Technology as I understand it is a tool that allows us to do things more efficiently and effectively. Or allow us the opportunity to do things we could not do before. Sometimes it might not seem as efficient because there needs to be time to learn how to use a tool and change habits, but after it should allow us to “work smarter not harder”. The tools you have received may or may not be applicable to your classroom situation. I would look at them as an opportunity (1) to learn something new for yourself (2) to gather data to see if they are beneficial or not. In this day of data driven decision making I have seem plenty of decisions made without the data. Here is a chance to provide some.

I have seen KG and Grade 1 teachers us Activotes at morning meeting. Students use it to check in, or answer a question or two as a review or to introduce the day’s theme. I wish I could find the link but there was a teacher who created picture quizzes to accompany the stories they were reading in class. She used it to emphasize literature themes and check listening/reading comprehension. She asked questions such as “who is the main character?” Where did the story take place? etc.

Have a great summer break and smooth start to the school year.

Dayna November 22, 2014 at 10:17 pm

Hello Beth,

I enjoy reading your blogs its interesting what type of technology gadgets are being used within the classroom environment. It seems Beth your district likes to use Mac products. I know what eBooks are but Beth could you please explain to me how you integrate eBooks into your classroom environment. Is the eBook an app that you use in the IPad or laptops. Beth have you used Chromebooks before and what exactly are Chromebooks used before?

V/R Dayna

Kristi Moon April 25, 2015 at 10:36 pm

I like that you wish that objectives for technology be figured out before deciding which technology to purchase. That’s smart, and it would hopefully prevent schools from making blanket purchases for things that may not be feasible in other grade levels, as someone mentioned in an above comment. My school most recently purchased a set of iPads for the whole school to share (which gets crazy) and 5 student laptops for each regular education classroom due to required daily math/reading program requirements. It has been nice, but like others have said, teacher input is always appreciated!

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