Technology (Enhancing + Engaging + Connecting)

Teachnology Tools

class presentation tools

PHOTOS COURTESY OF LITTLE DIVERSIFIED ARCHITECTURAL CONSULTING

KISS. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. For a quick picture this teacher at Invest Collegiate: Transform Charter School in Charlotte, N.C., used her laptop display. For a longer or more complicated presentation there are other tools are available in this new classroom.

As digital natives and early adopters become the majority in our teaching corps, the requests for new and unusual technologies for classroom presentation have multiplied exponentially. Although our focus on equity in the past causes many of us to think that every teacher should have precisely the same equipment in their classroom, there are those administrators who have wisely determined that each teacher should have what he or she requests. This approach means that most classrooms will not have the same tools. Of course, those that are provided will likely be used.

Control devices make visuals more engaging.

Wireless presenters or remotes are now older technology. Many were originally designed to advance slides and turn the presentation on and off or black it out during discussion. Some were equipped with laser pointers. This tool allowed the teacher/presenter to move around the room while advancing the slide presentation and highlighting specific areas of interest with the pointer. The newest wireless presenters more closely resemble a universal remote control. With them you can control the audio and video on your laptop as you present as well as advance slides and point. The cost of these devices is less than $15 and they interface with a plugin in one of the USB ports on your laptop or desktop.

There are several ways to engage students by using visual displays. One way is to use response pads either as separate devices, or to use software that allows a response through a student’s handheld device (phone or tablet). The research on this methodology indicates that it tends to coax answers from even the most introverted students and therefore increases participation. No raising of hands or calling out of answers required!

There are also several devices that allow a teacher to actively create on the screen. Wacom makes a digital drawing device they call the Inkling that allows you to write, sketch, or draw on any paper surface and transfer the notes or drawings directly to a Mac. It costs about $80. Wacom also makes both large and small drawing tablets that can be projected on a screen. Those are often used for graphic facilitation so that the facilitator doesn’t have to work with their back to the participants. LiveScribe makes a smart pen that uses dot matrix paper to save notes to a tablet or laptop. Those notes can be attached to audio clips. The cost is about $130 for the pen and paper.

Visual display devices can be portable.

Even in textbook-free environments it is sometimes useful to display a page from reference material. Document projectors are becoming popular for classroom presentations again. Far more portable than the old models with the spring-loaded flatbed that brought the document into focus, the new models at a cost of about $70 resemble a small desk lamp that can be easily repositioned to display documents on the screen. Pocket projectors for use with laptops or tablets have been available for some time, but up until recently have been somewhat pricey. Some are now available for around $250. Before you select one be sure it will work with your device. Sometimes they exclusively work with Apples or PC’s and not both. Although not strictly technology, mobile whiteboards (the kind you write on with a marker) often come in handy when an additional surface is required for projection. Interactive whiteboards are now the staple of classroom technology. This is often to the frustration of the instructional technology support teams, because as the boards age they become less reliable on a daily basis. Several manufacturers are now selling projection systems that turn any plain surface like a whiteboard into an interactive surface. The system from eBeam costs about $750; the basic system from IPEVO starts at $150.

class presentation tools

PHOTOS COURTESY OF LITTLE DIVERSIFIED ARCHITECTURAL CONSULTIN

Easier Solution. Display and presentation is often a challenge on today’s classrooms. At the Invest Collegiate: Transform Charter School in Charlotte, N.C., the mobility and flexibility of new technology for presentations makes presentations easier and more adaptable.

Many science teachers are using digital microscopes that give the teacher the ability to display and enlarge images that were previously seen by only a very few lucky students. Instead of having to look into each microscope and focus it and then letting the student look and hope that they see the same image, the teacher can now demonstrate what should be seen. Of course Video recording can be done with a GoPro camera ($150 and up) or a simple webcam (standard equipment on many devices). For those that prefer a camera to a tablet or phone, there is a Wi-Fi enabled memory card for your digital camera. The Eye-Fi Mobi transmits pictures directly to your printer or laptop from your camera. Many teachers are using digital images of their students to include in their displays to personalize the student work.

Accessories can make classroom life easier.

There are other technologies for the classroom that aren’t used for the visual displays, but can be just as useful to the teacher. From cubbies to science specimens, teachers always seem to need to label something. Brother makes a Wi-Fi enabled high speed label printer that teachers swear by. It retails for around $90. And speaking of printers, 3-D printers, once so rare they were exhibited in museums, are now making their way into the classrooms and makerspaces. As predicted, the proliferation has also decreased the cost. A printer that requires some assembly will cost about $350, a plug and play model will be in the range of $900. For those that prefer to minimize paper copies there is a lightweight and portable multi-page scanner that handles about 12-15 double-sided pages in one gulp and sends the digital copies to Evernote or Dropbox. It is made by ScanSnap. Several teachers have sung its praises because they no longer have to keep paper copies of forms at their desk and can easily search for them on their computer. It costs about $450.

All of the battery powered electronic equipment will require recharging and batteries sometimes give out at the most inopportune times. Many teachers rely on a power hub as their go-to-device when something loses battery power. Anker makes a 40w model that has five USB ports for charging five devices at a time. A mobile charger is also a handy device. Usually charged through you laptop USB port, some are small enough to fit into your pocket. Powerstick+ is one variety. It retails for about $65.

Not every teacher can unpack a piece of equipment and immediately put it to use, even though it may have been on their wish list. Every new piece of technology should come with two things: personal support and technical support.

Finally, while it is easy to fantasize from this list and imagine that the quantity and quality of high tech tools for classrooms is likely to be virtually limitless in the near future, it is very much like an auditorium stage full of high quality musical instruments but no musicians. Just as we need talented musicians to bring those instruments to life, we need talented educators to make the technology sing. Watching an effective teacher orchestrate student engagement through an expert mix of technology and personal interaction is still a joy to behold.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of School Planning & Management.

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