October has been deemed "Connected Educator Month" by the U.S. Department of Education. In an effort to do my part, I wanted to share a thought about the current state of technology -- or maybe you could call it a dream.
Futurists discuss the certainty of our students using only tablets for everything in school in the very near future. If every child had a tablet, think of the possibilities.
Let me share the dream:
The students arrive at homeroom and check in to school via their tablets. They then choose their lunch options and, via the tablet, the information for attendance and lunch count end up in the office.
Math is the first subject on the schedule and every student is getting differentiated instruction via their tablet that is custom designed for their needs. At one point the teacher of the flipped classroom pauses the class and asks everyone to go to an app and watch a group video as the teacher narrates it for the class. An energized discussion follows.
Next on the schedule is the students' special class. Some students go to Art where they are designing augmented reality creatures to be used in their technology class where they are creating physics-based video games. Music class has the students on a different app that lets them create waveforms and is explaining acoustics through the student's creation of different synthesized sounds. These students will have the opportunity to share their projects via video conferencing and other social media sites.
Let's move on to Social Studies where the students are traveling to the birthplace of William Shakespeare, via Google Earth, and a few virtual field trips to England. They talk to an expert via Skype or Google hangout about the writings of Shakespeare.
Language Arts is so exciting. Imagine a literature circle format. The students are having virtual book talks with a class in England via video conferencing. It is interesting to hear the different classes discuss Huck Finn. The students also have time to work on grammar, again differentiated through the various apps being used.
Finally we have science where the students are working up a model on their tablet of a space ship to prove that their ship will fly based on realistic science rules.
This is the type of day our students should be having. This is the type of day our students are expecting to experience in today's classrooms. These possibilities exist today and should be used now. It does not have to be a dream. The connected classroom can be a reality.
As we know, budgets are tough in the field of public education and every penny must be used to its full benefit. We know that schools are making drastic changes to their use of money in order to keep that which they find critical and cut the extras. Here is a thought: What if we stopped purchasing pencils, pens, crayons, textbooks, paper, workbooks, calculators, note pads, highlighters... and the list goes on and on. I wonder how much money a single district could save if they did not purchase those items. I'm wondering how much money a district could save if only textbooks were not purchased from that long list. I'm going to guess our districts would save tens of thousands of dollars. Here is the bigger question. Would we save enough to buy every student a tablet? A single tablet for each student would keep the district from having to buy many of those materials stated above. It seems to me that if a district were to go to a 1:1 initiative, they would ultimately be saving money.
There is no doubt that we are living in a technologically-driven society. A culture of technology has evolved and our students deserve to be a part of that culture in a connected classroom.
Happy Connected Educator Month!