Classroom Technology – Not Keeping Up to Classroom Demands

In many school districts the technology team spends much more time repairing equipment or answering software questions from faculty rather than planning new projects or helping teachers incorporate technology into their instruction.

In addition, according to a recent survey, IT staffing shortages continue to afflict schools keeping many of them from realizing the full potential of classroom technology as a learning tool. The survey indicated that less than one third of the respondents work in districts where adequate IT staff is present to meet their needs. On top of that, slightly more than half of those who responded indicated they spend more than half their time addressing help desk issues instead of working on long-range planning and projects. The survey suggests that the burdens placed on school technology teams are limiting innovation rather than fostering it.

Classroom Integration

Topping the list of specific IT positions the respondents said were lacking in the schools was instructional technologist, an indication that teachers are not getting the help they need to use classroom technology to improve their instruction.

Funding Challenges

Most school leaders cite funding as the number one challenge facing their technology departments and one source of their staffing problems as well. Even districts who have received grants for equipment have problems going forward. Once district received a $600,000 for laptops but is now faced with replacement and upgrade costs to the district when the grant money is gone.

Rapid Technological Advances

Another key challenge to school IT departments is the rapid pace at which new or upgraded forms of technology are emerging. For example, bandwidth needs have increased tremendously in recent years, driven by the rise of video applications, and are placing a huge burden on school network infrastructures.

The Impact of Data

One technology department staff member reports that they support over twenty disparate data systems that directly support classroom technology. The time spent supporting databases is now equal to time spent on desktop support.

Conclusion

Without the help they need from the experts in the IT department to help them integrate computer technology into their lesson plans, teachers are challenged to find classroom technology that does not require IT support. In this computer-centric, visually-oriented age, we often forget about our tried-and-true technologies, such as educational DVDs and video, that work reliably a majority of the time, even when other technologies fail.

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Some Types of Classroom Technology Are Effective in Teaching

Classroom technology can enhance the way they learn and influence how they understand and retain material learned. There are many forms of technology available that teachers can integrate into the classroom. An example of how teachers can use technology to their advantage when teaching is to create websites because it is now very easy to do so. Teachers have many websites available to host them and they include class notes online, school and teacher, educator pages and teacher website among others. These websites make it easy for teachers to start using websites as a form of classroom technology. However, teachers can also create websites by using the Microsoft Office Front-Page software program if they do not need hosting or want to control their own websites.

Having a class website is an effective tool for teaching because students like visiting websites belonging to their teachers. Such a website can carry many functions for teachers. For example, it can list the assignments given to the students and make it possible for them to download it, teachers can display work created by students and communicate with parents. The students can also add content to such a website and teachers can have the option of opening it to other internet users.

Another form of classroom technology that teachers can use effectively in the classroom is a web log or blog in short. The web log allows students to put in short information online regularly. A teacher can have a blog where students can read information that may be tips on homework, advice or any other information. Students can also put in their own entries into blogs that other students can respond creating a form of journal. Information passed on here will relate to the specific subjects taught by the teacher.

The other form of classroom technology that teachers can effectively use is pod casting. Podcast work like radio shows where many people pass information. The information passed in the class will relate to lectures and the teacher may add music and pictures depending on the topic of discussion. The equipment required for pod casts is a microphone that one connects to a computer and software that allows for pod casting. The software is available for download. Students can podcast discussions or create podcast to share researched information. Pod casting also allows the students to interview people who may be more knowledgeable in the specific subject or topic that the teacher is teaching.

Another type of classroom technology that teachers can incorporate into lessons is e-books. These are books available for download online and teachers can create e-books that the students can use. The steps to follow are to research information, put it on Microsoft Word and make additions that make it interesting and then upload it to Lulu. The students will then be able to access it. The use of such technology in the classroom will not only make the lessons interesting, but will also enhance the understanding of material covered in class.

Educational Technology Needs a Lesson Plan

I remember feeling very progressive when I purchased my daughter her first educational software, Reader Rabbit, in the early 1990s. Now a 22 year-old college graduate, she and many like her have never known a world without computers. Not only does she use an internet-enabled phone to constantly communicate, but her job as an emergency room nurse requires computer skills as well. So, needless to say, I am a strong proponent of using educational technology, both in the classroom and at home. Whether we like it or not – it’s a part of our daily lives now.

But that is only the first of a couple of reasons I support the use of technology with young children.

A second reason is that the use of educational technology in early education programs tends to level the educational playing field between those who have this access at home and those that do not. Being able to use computers and other technology at school can help all children develop the necessary life-skills needed in our technologically focused society.

Many experts recommend that all early childhood classrooms have an educational technology center that includes a computer, a printer, a digital camera, age-appropriate educational software, and access to the Internet. We would like to suggest that these centers also include a variety of educational DVDs and videos for those students who learn best with the added audio visual element that these mediums provide. Because children learn differently, at different rates, requiring different stimuli, when integrating technology into the lessons, it is important to plan to use all forms of technology – not just a few.

When creating such a technology center, here are some things to remember.

o Technology is not a replacement for the teacher. Technology elements, whether computers or educational DVDs and videos, are merely tools designed to help children learn. The teacher is still the guide.

o Consideration the applicable students’ age, developmental levels, and individual needs when selecting software, videos, and other technology.

o Don’t forget the parents. Collaborate with them and impart the importance of their involvement when their children are watching an educational television program or playing/working with computers.

o Monitor children’s use of all forms of technology that use earphones. Some research suggests that the volume at which children listen to the music can be extremely harmful.

In other words, what educational technology needs, to be properly integrated into the classroom is a good old-fashioned lesson plan.