Sunday, June 9, 2013

Classroom in Conditional Tense

Last Tuesday we had our summer Tech EDGE conference. It was a great day with excellent presentations, great conversation and participation. We have been playing with formats for a closing section. This time we tried out an "Imagine" session. A forum to ask questions and generate ideas for collaboration and collegial support between university, district, schools, and teachers.

I am still not this session was successful and I think our follow-up next year will tell. I would like to respond more thoughtfully to a question posed during the session. Mary, one of our cooperating teachers asked what classrooms of the future look like. I responded at the time with- I don't really know and by the time I do it will change again.

Later when I had time to reflect I came to understand her question differently: What should/could our classrooms look like now? Now, that is a question I can address and wish I did then.

I first would like to point out that technology is just a small piece of what a great classroom space is and should be. There needs to be enough room for all kinds of real world activities. Virtual is great but it complements and not replaces painting, sculpting, outdoor spaces, a vegetable garden, animals, musical instruments and more. As far as technology I still think the device is a tablet and right now an iPad. The device should be individual (1:1) and students should be able to take it home. This way you can flip your classroom, communicate with parents, and assign digital homework without thinking whether our students have access at home. Classroom technology should  add a few desktop machines with large screen for applications and websites that are not currently optimized on tablets. For example Google Earth is great on mobile devices but some features appear only on computers. Finally the ability to project in the classroom.

The real clincher for me is actually in the availability of software/apps. Not everything teachers need is currently available but needs are going to emerge as we experiment and develop ideas. While districts like creating app packages I would argue that teachers need some flexibility in trying out and downloading apps with a great fit to their classroom and curriculum. I truly believe that our power s schools is through the diversity of experiences we provide to our students and then share with our colleagues.

This is very simple, and actually doable. To make it work though we need two things: room for students and teachers to experiment and ERR. And professional development that focuses on long-term collaboration.
The main obstacle is implementation like this requires trust- community to trust schools, administrators to trust teachers, and teachers to trust students. Can we?

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