Many tools come together to assist the modern teacher in the classroom. Some of theses tools are selected by the teacher themselves, but most are provided by the school or suggested by curriculum decision makers. Tools may consist of a laptop, calculator (Casio Classpad in our case) or digital camera. It is also common to see an interactive whiteboard in place and a school wireless network. Services may include a networked hard drive and collaboration space (intranet, LMS or wiki). Lots of cables, attachments and converters are available and training to apply these technologies is often expected to be completed in your own time or provided in-house, by the school.
Thankfully a common trend is emerging. One where teachers are taking matters into their own hands and bringing their own "gear" into the classroom. This equipment is quite often fairly cutting edge and is sometimes provided at the additional cost to the teacher or student. However in order to realise the forward thinking lesson ideas and modern tasks, theses additional tools are essential.
Many schools are finally starting to relax their policies surrounding these devices and for good reason. At the most basic form expect:
Currently:Â calculator, dictaphone, stopwatch and timer, notes, camera, and internet access. All these things personally managed to suit the users workflows.
Future/emerging uses: Film recorder, Video conferencing, GPS locator, integrated email and calendar (integrated with your school/organisation). Attendance records, and countless teaching enhancement features through third party apps.
Bring your own projector!?
I anticipate a future classroom where the teacher brings not just her laptop, but also a projector. Brookstone develop a pocket projector for iPhone 4 devices. The projection can display up to a 50" image, it also has a 0.5W speaker and even provides a built in battery. With many senior school teachers constantly changing classrooms, bringing your own reliable projector makes sense.
I also thought it would be worth mentioning the Magnifi by Arcturuslabs.com. Last term I worked with my lab technicians in the science department on a solution where they could record the micro-organisms through their microscope. We found a fairly expensive solution but just a few months later I was excited to discover the Magnifi.
The Magnifi attaches to your iPhone and connect to any eyepiece (like a microscope for example). The lens magnifies and focuses the image and the iPhone does all of the recording. Ready for sharing or projecting straight to your projector!
Despite best efforts by schools to provide an enclosed portal and centralise learning to a single collaboration space, many teachers still seem to prefer the flexibility of services like Edmodo or Moodle (even Facebook). Local server rooms are experiencing a shift in load as staff and students abandon local network storage for more flexible spaces like Dropbox, Microsoft Skydrive, or Google Drive.
Students may have been doing it for years, but recently I witnessed a teacher connect to her 3G USB stick in order to circumnavigate the school internet proxy. The initial reason she chose to do this was because the resources she needed (in this case a Vimeo video) was being blocked/censored by the education service provider. The teacher in question receives such fast and reliable connection with her 3G attachment that it is now used almost exclusively for her internet access.
Google were quick off the mark (and perhaps a little ahead of their time) when they launched the Google Chromebook with built in 3G access. Recently I was at a conference in Ireland, fellow ADE Frasier Spiers shared his thoughts surrounding the future of devices and connectivity, please see his outstanding blog here, One insightful paragraph reads:
"Imagine, in 5-7 years having gone from the complexity of laying ethernet in fixed locations in schools, building broadband, deploying servers and switches all over the school to the simplicity handing out an iPad and a SIM card and getting on with the learning."
Tethering mobile phones to non 3G iPads or Laptops is common place now. But some providers still block this feature. For iPhone/iPad tethering assistance see here.
Im waiting for one of these to appear in the classroom!
Self paced Professional Development
Why stop at bringing your own gadgets into school? Many teachers expand their own knowledge by developing a Personal Learning Network. Through these online networks inspiration and ideas for your class are never far away. For advice on expanding your PLN take a look at my advice here.
It's good to see teachers taking charge of their own classrooms and resources which are available to them. The above ideas are simply used to better engage students, but I do question how much a teacher should stray from the services the school provides.
Is student/teacher data safe on external servers stored who knows where? Should a teacher engage a student in a social space which is not endorsed or monitored by your school? Is restricted internet access necessary for the wellbeing of our students? Progress in schools is notoriously slow, often pushed through by lovers of change and innovators. I say lets go for it!