CLASSROOM 21 | by Greg Limperis
I wonder what the classroom of tomorrow would look like if budget were not an issue, if teachers had more say—and if tools and training were provided at an equal rate. Here’s my view:
I’m a very busy teacher. Assessment is something I need to be better at, but I find that doing it well often falls through the cracks, thanks to lack of technological tools to help this happen.
An ideal classroom to me would be one where teachers were all given tablets in a wi-fi or, ideally, a satellite-based classroom where that tablet was connected to the school intranet and Internet.
From there, an app would connect me to the school’s Student Management System (SMS) where I could see vital student info—parent’s names, contact info and Individual Education Programs as well. This would all link to a teacher planning book allowing me to lay out my classroom however I saw fit, not just in rows or square groups—but however I wanted to place desks within my classroom.
Click on a ‘desk’ and a student photo pops up with parent contact info. Instantly click to email or text that parent. Double-click on the student and enter grades directly into the electronic gradebook. Once there, I could enter comments, store tablet-taken photos—and comment on those as well. I could then share it all through email attachments or links to SMS members.
The SMS shows student performance in my class and in others. I’d also see a history of all previously taken standardized tests and their scores and a listing of all difficult subject matter for that student. Graphically, I would see how a student is performing based on grades, test scores and how those scores compare to other students within the school and across the state.
Now, these tablets would be set up with a blue tooth earpiece I can wear around the classroom and, given a school-provided gmail account, the ability to call no matter where I might be. If satellite-capable, the tablet would work off campus, on field trips and minimally, in the schoolyard. This would enhance campus security as well. I could post who left my room and why simply by clicking on a seating chart and choosing a link, e.g., generating a school pass.
This link would then store data on how often the child is leaving a classroom and when, creating tracking patterns for bathroom or nurse visits in order to limit wasted time on task. The data could then be made available to all teachers using the SMS so that a child’s whereabouts would be known at all times.
This digital grade book would be connected to a Learning Management System (LMS) that instantly imported, as set up, the grades for various assignments into the grade book for instant view by the student or parent. This LMS would be extremely customizable by the teacher, allowing them to scale and weigh assignments as needed.
Students viewing grades would only see their own grade in the system. Parents could also tap in at any given point to know if homework wasn’t passed in for a student on that day.
The SMS would be one that was both accessible at school on the tablet and at home by the teacher later that evening if they needed to input grades on their personal computer. This SMS would allow a teacher to photograph student work and save it as a picture or PDF that could then be stored with the student profile for later viewing.
As an additional nice feature: schools would have digital signage in all hallways connected wirelessly, allowing them to send any student work instantly to the digital signage, part of a classroom display that cycled through as people traveled through the school hallways. This software would allow for teachers to make comments on all imported student work directly through the use of a stylus that allowed for writing directly on the imported document or that provided the ability to click and place digital notes directly on the document.
The tablet would be equipped with two HD webcams that allowed for video recording and video conferencing. Instantly, through gtalk or Skype, educators could be collaborating with other educators next door or around the globe.
The tablet would come with a charging base that could stand on the teacher desk or hang on a wall. This tablet could also broadcast at designated times news of school happenings. Emergency notices, office contacts for requests of students or information could instantly be sent to the tablet much the same as pings are sent to someone on a chat session with an audible notice announcing the incoming information.
As for training, the tablet would arrive pre-loaded with training videos or flash demonstrations. It could also be set up to instantly connect to a live troubleshooting service rep, either onsite or within the district, remotely. To begin with, schools might need to implement a dedicated technology facilitator in order to help ensure this can happen, but with time this could change.
As you can see, the amount of technology needed is actually very limited—though the productivity afforded by these tools could potentially be limitless.
What I talk about is not science fiction. I could mention countless products that do at least one part of what I have described. The technology exists today for all of this to become a reality. We can make it a reality—we only need more educators involved in productive discussions stating what they really need, and helping those in industry to create these products for us.
Keeping track of data and sharing it with others should not be such a tedious task. Let us together build the next big learning management system, assessment tool, data dashboard and performance indicator all in one. We’re closer to achieving that reality than you might think.
Greg Limperis is a Middle School Technology Facilitator in Lawrence, Mass., who founded the very popular Technology Integration in Education professional learning network, reaching thousands of educators worldwide. He has shared with others what he knows and they have joined him in sharing their insights as well. Join them in bringing about change using your 21st century skills.
I really don’t like how intrusive your “ideal” technology classroom is on the freedom, independence, and creativity of kids. Why should they be tracked every second, and every step? Why are their “grades” so critical anyway, since there are so many other, more common and more important ways of “assessing” and giving and getting feedback? Why is their feedback less valuable to each other, to teachers, and to administrators than the feedback of teachers? Shouldn’t they learn to collect, judge, and feed back that feedback in a timely and positive fashion? And when does that kind of assessment mutate into grades – at one end of a spectrum – and instruction – at the other?
There really is that much technology in the classrooms I use, and they are in a 63% low income, 61% non-English speaking homelife urban school. We don’t use it the way you might in Lawrence – but…we don’t have the kind of problems you have with Mayors and poverty bureaucrats. We do have kids, however, who use their phones for documenting problems worth solving; we have teachers who capture kids doing good stuff in a timely fashion; we have administrators who show – to parents and politicians – the timely insight of their teachers and students.
And we also have papers, videos, music, sports, and other achievements that kids put in their electronic portfolios, along with stuff they document in their jobs, for college or vocational skills, or for grandma back in Ecuador or Nepal. That kind of tech is both natural and comfortable: it’s neither intrusive nor an end in itself. The point of that tech is that news, demonstrated skills, and feedback are all an all-the-time activity. We don’t wait for tests or grades for feedback, we ask each other for help, and often get congrats. Feedback is hardly an exercise in the nasty, and, rather, more often than not a celebration of somebody’s achievement.
Why do you really care if a kid is in the hall, when he gets his work done, well, and judged by both teachers and other kids? And wouldn’t the point of all those test scores be better letters of admission, with higher rates of financial aid, rather than a letter grade in a database or teacher book? If you’re really serious about teaching, get to that bottom line as quickly, as thoroughly, and as usefully as possible to help each kid get more faster, and to help them help other kids.
It’s really not that complicated. And tablets are cool, but the average smart phone can do all that you’re talking about – and most kids have ’em already.
Greg, I agree with your vision for seamlessly integrated systems. I would add the ability to link assessments with standards/benchmarks to replace yet ANOTHER system that many educators are asked to use (a curriculum mapping system, like Atlas Rubicon). And for the “grades” reliance here; perhaps incorporate a built in rubric maker/grader (have you seen the new Canvas LMS’s Speed Grader? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rp5rT6M-xY ) linked to your standards.
With the Common Core State Standards, these kids of tools will be more important:
Great vision! I Hope it becomes a reality!
Sounds good in theory… The reality is different. The problem is that you assume that there is a one stop shop. The reality is that the LMS does not do everything well. Our analysis of Moodle versus Easygrade indicates that there is a significant difference in click time to enter grades. Based on the number of students and the number of assignments we determined one class would take more time to enter the grades in Moodle than EasyGrade. How much more time: 4 days. It takes 9 seconds to enter a grade in Easygrade (with a comment) and at least 23 seconds for Moodle. (More if you have a zero or an INCOMPLETE that needs to be changed manually). Additionally, the navigation scheme is not friendly or efficient. So before we begin to fantasize of “ideals” head back to the trenches. Look at what is happening. Design from the user perspective. Your initiatives are downloading onto teachers.. and taking time away from students.
As you note, there are many systems that do one aspect of this. The integrated part is what is really lacking – even if products easily and efficiently talked to one another, this would be an improvement.
In this day and age when we are responsible for every movement that a student makes, this sort of tracking system could save considerable time.
With students also using tablet devices, we could do away with paper, pens and waste. Although to do this well, we would need to be able to use a pen on the tablet device, to write and not just to type.
Love your vision.