The right tools and technologies, properly utilized, can have a significant impact on the classroom learning experience for both teachers and students.

Case in point: One of my favorite third grade teachers that I work with, I’ll call her Dana . . . because her name is Dana! (pronounced Donna) . . . has been looking for a better way to engage her students in the learning process.  She has been using a conventional overhead projector with copied and hand drawn transparencies to teach language skills.  It is tried and true technology that she has used for years.  However, Dana wasn’t satisfied.  She felt there had to be a better way.  As she looked around her classroom, she saw the building blocks for a better approach:

  • Curricula and supporting teaching materials (paper based)  that she had used successfully for many years
  • Dry erase whiteboard supported by a ceiling mounted LCD projector for presenting interactive media content
  • A PC connected to the projector running Microsoft Office

The challenge: How could she take the content she had been using, repackage it, and present it in a way that would enable her to better engage with her students, both as a group and individually?  A key for Dana was spending more time working with her students and less time standing by the overhead projector with her attention focused on adding hand-drawn content to the transparencies.

She felt that the tools she needed were there, but she wasn’t sure how to bring things together.  Should she scan the documents to create electronic versions?  How would that work?  Should she take the content and translate into a Word document?  Was Word the best choice?  What about PowerPoint?  After she created the files, how could she present the material effectively without the need to continually walk back and forth to her PC to change what was being projected on the whiteboard? How could she build content that asked questions, discuss the questions with her students, and then share the answers?  How could she create content that she could reuse and easily modify and apply to other lessons?

The solution: After talking with her to determine what she was trying to accomplish (always the key first step!), we came up with a solution that should meet her needs:

  • Translate the content from the transparencies she had been using to a series of PowerPoint presentations.  Since it is designed for this purpose, PowerPoint gives her a much more effective set of tools to create and present her lessons.  The ability to add sophisticated animation effects is particularly helpful.  This just can’t be done in Word.
  • Utilize a wireless mouse point/presentation control device (e.g. the Satechi SP400) connected to her PC.  This will provide the flexibility Dana is looking for to control the presentation while she moves freely around the classroom and interacts with her students.
  • Create/save the content into a series of files that she can add to over time.  This will make it easier for her to create future content and to also share the content she creates with other teachers.  As a key added benefit, this approach, which is supported by an effective server-based backup strategy, automatically ensures that she will never lose any of the material she creates.

Implementation/Next Steps: After we worked through creating some initial content, Dana, was as excited as I have ever seen her!  She was eagerly looking forward to creating new content to share with her students.  Before I left, one of Dana’s fellow teachers, Kara, stopped by.  Although she had only spent a few minutes learning to use the Satechi SP400, Dana was eager to give a full and complete demonstration using one of the presentation she had just created.   How COOL was that!

Future Opportunities: As she gains experience with the technology, Dana can explore opportunities to take the approach she is using even further.  One possibility is to use interactive whiteboard technologies (e.g. products from Mimio, Smart Technologies and Polyvision) to further enhance the ability of her students to interact with the material she is presenting.

We’ll save the discussion of this approach for another day!

What do YOU think?

Please post a reply and share your thoughts on the topic of how to get the most out of enabling technologies in the classroom.

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