Thursday, January 6, 2011

What is the Most Effective Classroom Technology?

This is the million dollar question!  Like most educators in the blogging world I see the inherit value in educational technology.  Combined with sound pedagogical practices, the effective integration of technology has the ability to engage learners in a variety of ways.

The other day I came across this article where interactive whiteboards (IWB's) were touted as the most effective piece of classroom technology followed by individual netbooks for each student (these were being used predominately as e-readers).  The rationale for placing IWB's at the top of the list included the ability to manipulate virtual objects/data and cater to multiple learning styles (tactile, visual).
So what is the most effective classroom technology? Opinions will vary, but here is mine.  I believe for a specific type of technology to be successful in a classroom it must be multidimensional, cost-effective, easy to use, readily accessible by all, and most importantly engages students.  My choice is mobile learning devices, otherwise known as cell phones.  Let's face it, virtually every child possesses one of these powerful devices making it a cost effective option.  Many can be used as a research tool similar to a computer or as a student-response system when combined with a free Web 2.0 application like Poll Everywhere.  Like IWB's, they cater to both tactile and visual learners.  Add in the fact that kids love using them in school for learning makes this a compelling choice in my eyes.

So I would love to hear your opinion on this!  What do you think is the most effective classroom technology and why?

27 comments:

  1. I hope it is textbooks since every school seems to be using them hourly ;)

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  2. I definitely DON'T think it is an IWB.

    I think iPads or other tablets have the potential to be a game-changer in education.

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  3. For me, it has to be anything that empowers the students. The idea that comes immediately to mind is 1:1 devices (device itself not essential). They allow the students to play a far greater role in their own learning.

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  4. I think internet access is the key here. So maybe my answer to your question is: whatever form of technology is least costly to schools but provides each student with internet access.

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  5. I'll utter the obvious caveat: The "best" technology depends on the instructional goal. But I have to agree with Eric. No technology has a greater potential to change the game than 1-1 (connected) mobile devices--be they laptops, tablets, or (gasp) cell phones--which is language I avoid in favor of the less toxic expression *mobile learning devices.* The anytime-anywhere learning the MLDs offer will introduce a different role for schools. Best expression of this is the new National Ed Tech Plan. Worth a glance if you haven't seen it.
    http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010

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  6. Why put all the eggs in one basket, be it with IWBs, netbooks, tablets, cellphones. Think about. The hardware changes so fast. Why invest in iPads lets say. I got one less than 6 months ago and soon we will see one with more options and more capabilities. Same with IWBs, computers, iPods, etc. There is always something new and great on the horizon that schools want to latch on to.

    So why not invest in things that won't change themselves very much but have the power to change so much. What about access? Providing access to everyone in a district both at home and at school. Turning up the bandwidth to do the things that we talk about every day with ease.

    Focus less on the tools, sites, programs, apps, etc. And focus on the learning. With every new device or tool comes greater opportunities for learning but in the end it is still learning. And that is what is most important. Not what is the latest and greatest and which district put what in the hands of how many.

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  7. In a perfect world, individual laptops would be the most beneficial assuming internet access is possible across the school.

    Outside of the classroom I think a website and/or digital lockers would be the most effective technology to link students and teachers together.

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  8. I'd say the most effective technology in the classroom is the one the students and teachers choose and will use. Showcase tools, let students and teachers play with them, then let them decide what would work best in their rooms. The more bottom-up we can get, the better.

    It's hard being in a district that has decided, come hell or high water, that every room will have the same set of technology. I don't think individual schools should function that way either. If you give real choice and freedom in the decision process to both students and teachers, not only will you be acquiring exactly what they wish for, but you will instantly increase the likelihood of it's use once it's in place.

    While it's certainly EASIER to outfit every room with the same equipment as far as management, budgeting, etc., I don't think it's best for learning. Mix it up, go bottom up!

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  9. In a perfect world, I would like to see each student have a tool that allows them connectivity throughout the entire day. Whether this is a computer lab for every classroom (I know, cost prohibitive), laptops, or handheld devices is irrelevant.

    I do not see the IWB as the answer. So many teachers are still unsure how to use them to their maximum potential that they are largely underused in a classroom. Combine this underuse with rapid advances in technology, and I am not convinced they are the most cost-effective or logical answer. IWB allow students to watch more than they allow students to DO.

    Regardless of the tool in place, I agree its success or effectiveness is entirely dependent on how integrated it is with the learning that is taking place. Technology in the classroom cannot exist as a part of a lesson, or as a separate entity. It must be fully integrated and completely supportive of whatever the students are learning.

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  10. We are a one to one computing school--all students 7 to 12 have their own computer to use from Aug to June. It is amazing--the internet access is really the key to keeping affordable because of free web 2.0 tools. The funny thing is unless the TEACHER engages the students with assignments which are open ended you end up this the same results. So I truly believe the teacher is the key not the technology. We really need to retrain the way they think!

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  11. I have to agree with skeehner and edtechsteve. There is not one particular device or web application that is more effective or the most effective. You could create the ideal classroom with every piece of equipment available. If the teacher doesn't embrace it and encourage the students to use it then it all goes to waste.

    The most effective classroom technology is whatever devices, applications, etc. that the students have adopted and are actively using. What works for one might not work for the other. It doesn't matter though as long as they are using something!

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  12. I agree with you, Eric, connected mobile devices in the hands of every student are the future of education. At the same time, I also agree with Steven and others that the key is not necessarily the technology tool itself, but the pedagogy and instructional choices of the teacher.

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  13. I agree that the teacher and an inquiry based approach to learning are the keys to a quality education. As educators, we need to retrain the way we think about education. As adults we look for ways to work smart not harder, yet we revert to a pre-Industrialized concept of education when we teach.

    On another note, if I was a a student in today's classroom, I would invest in an iPad and download the Kindle app or just buy a Kindle. As a past English teacher that swore I would never curl up on the couch with a computer, the Kindle allows me to have every novel I love at my finger tips. I can highlight passages and take notes and have them with me no matter where I am in the world. If students only had to carry around an iPad or Kindle instead of heavy backpacks full of textbooks and notebooks, a lot less homework would be misplaced.

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  14. No matter how much access you provide to the web at school or home, there's always going to be that pocket of students that don't have a smartphone, laptop, iPad, etc. What good does access at home do if the student doesn't have a device to tap into that access? Call it the "digital divide" or whatever the new term is now. It does still exist. How do we address this? Do we just tell students "Too bad" if they don't have a laptop, smartphone, etc.? I like it when a district or school makes it a priority to put everyone on a level playing field (in terms of the mobile technology tool). To answer your question Eric, yes mobile devices are highly commonplace and we should be allowing students to use them at school, but for them to be truly effective we have to give students equal access to the tool first.

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  15. Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) are a great convenience for the teacher -- a convenience whose expense I find hard to justify when weighed against the minimal increase in student learning. IWBs also reinforce the teaching model of "teacher talks, students listen." IWBs are only interactive with ONE person at a time.

    Shouldn't the students be interacting with EACH OTHER instead?

    I have a better method that I use with my students. Interactive Boards that cost only $2 each. I blogged about it here: http://bit.ly/2dollarWB

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  16. For me in my position, I think our student tablets are the most important piece of technology. You can use IWB features with a tablet even if all you have is a projector screen and projector. It gives you the versatility of a laptop/computer plus the functionality of a tablet.

    Through these tools, students can access the internet, reserach tools, and produce a wide variety of learning evidence. Even with ipads in my building, I don't see them have the capabilities of the tablet computer even if they are cheaper.

    I don't think IWB are even in my top three because for most they are simple glorified projector screens. Even if they are used like they should, only one maybe two users can really interact with it at a time. I have 25+ students in my class and activities on tablets can engage all them rather than a select few.

    I could see the arguement for cell phones, but those are blocked in my school and in the JH, not all kids have one. If they do, it is not a smart phone or does not have texting so the capabilities would not be as high.

    However, the tool is still only as good as the activity being done with it. All technology can enhance learning or simply distract and confuse it. Tool will never be as important as the learning activity.

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  17. Teachers' professionalism is the key to fully make use of the digital power from right technologies. I think the best choice is to balance the budget between technology products purchasing and teachers' development.

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  18. Based on all of the technology that I used during the course of my student teaching experience, I do have to say that the one that the students responded the most positively to was the lesson that I did when I included a Poll Everywhere activity. It was fun, engaging, and the students LOVED it! I still tell people about it to this day! :)

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  19. At the bottom of this post where I discuss your post (http://readlisaread.edublogs.org/2011/01/06/whats-the-best-classroom-technology/) I say that I think if I had to choose one thing, it would be the computer with LCD projector. I don't use it everyday, but if it's all I had, it would go far. However, today the best technology I used was a Text Book. I explain more in my blog post. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  20. I absolutely agree.... CELL PHONES.... (Smart Phones in particular)..
    We would reach our 1 to 1 ratio a lot faster if we allowed students to bring their own devices in every classroom...

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  21. Great post! I agree with so many comments, edtechsteve, Skeecher, Art and Kyle and Jessica. I was going to say the number one piece of technology has to be the teacher; a teacher who gets it can make use of even the most basic technology and inspire learning and creativity; however, we have pc's in every classroom, but no projectors, and so we are starting with that very basic piece of technology. Although a TV screen would work too. And with the newer USB projectors, you do not even need a computer. I agree with Kyle that to expect and assume all students have cell phones would be nice, but we are not there yet. Until we can ensure equal access, we are only deepening the digital divide. So what is the one technology tool that will make the most difference? Gotta be the teacher.

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  22. Interactive white boards most definitely

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  23. Replies
    1. I agree Gregg that the teacher, and might I add, his/her pedagogical goals are most important for effective education. We have to keep in mind that we are not raising technological geniuses, but wise, intelligent human beings that can contribute to the improvement of society. Computers and gadgets are only tools for developing the human brain and its infinite capacity for creativity.

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  24. I think a mobile device, like the iPad, that can connect to 3G wireless is one of the more promising devices for education. Elliot Soloway does something like this with Verizon Wireless, but there are certainly other models schools could investigate to pay for something like this. I think what's key here is to think about where students do their homework. It isn't always in a place where they have a wireless signal, such as the bus, the car, or even at home if they don't have Internet. Having 3G coverage would still allow students to participate and the iPad type device would allow the students to do any number of activities, from content creation to information dissemination.

    Having said that I don't think there really is any one device that is more effective over another, because it is a situational decision made by local stakeholders. I think mobile learning is going to be a large factor when deciding on a technology, but it won't be the only.

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  25. iPad. Or iPod. Or perhaps my Mac. But DEFINITELY the iPad at the top of the list! Sorry to all you PCers but Mac it is all the way!

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