Monday, August 31, 2009

Is New Technology the Future of Classrooms?

(Today’s guest blogger is Donna Scott. Donna went to school and graduated from UH in Houston as an English major. Then she worked in a PR Firm in Houston but decided it wasn't for her and now freelances for an online education website. Thank you Donna for a great post!)

The massive technological advances of the past decade – faster computers, smaller cell phones, cleaner cars – seem to have infiltrated and revolutionized every aspect of our lives. That is, except for education. Still stuck with dusty chalkboards and dried-out Expo markers, education has fallen behind as everything else marches ahead. But a few promising tools have been developed to nudge our classrooms onward and forward into the future. The question is, are our classrooms ready for the push?

The SMART Board, an interactive whiteboard, has already found its way into more than 900,000 classrooms worldwide, according to Texas’ The Katy Times. The SMART Board projects the teacher’s computer screen onto a large surface and responds to the touch of a stylus, much like how a computer responds to the click of a mouse. The touch technology can turn learning into a game, such as allowing students to drag state shapes onto a blank map. One teacher uses it to give her students a virtual tour of Verona when she teaches Shakespeare. Lauded for its ability to capture the attention of restless students, the SMART Board undoubtedly makes a fine addition to any classroom. But each board costs $3,000 to $3,600, and teachers have to be trained to use them. Although a welcome addition, it is a costly one.

The game show-inspired clicker has also sprung up in many classrooms. The University of Texas in Austin uses them regularly for large lab classes, and even handed out 600 of the i>clicker devices to high school honors students to demonstrate the technology, according to THE Journal. The clicker allows students to confidentially click in answers to questions, and the teacher can see in real-time on his or her computer screen what concepts need further explanation if there is a popular incorrect answer clicked in. Even the shyest of students can receive the help he or she needs without having to raise a hand.

In making learning more interactive and inclusive, teachers have found that students are more interested in lessons. Unfortunately, the available technology will not be able to make its way into every American classroom. With low funding for the poorer districts in the nation, many schools can barely afford to install a single computer in each classroom, never mind a $3,000 SMART Board or clickers for every student. Luckily, the technology also shows that students respond to novel new ways of learning lessons. While not every teacher can have the latest in educational technology, he or she can still engage students with interactive and innovative lesson planning.

This post was contributed by Donna Scott, who writes about the online colleges. She welcomes your feedback at

Original image: 'GHCA's Computer Lab Running Gentoo Linux' by: Michael Surran


Michael said...

It definitely seems like new technology is the future of classrooms. More and more classrooms have TV's computers and many of the other things you mentioned like electronic clickers similar to those on a game show. It used to be that computers could only be found in the computer lab if the school even had that! Now you can find at least one if not several computers in classrooms. In some ways I think it's good, but there is nothing like good old fashioned books and chalkboards!

Nick James said...

I cannot agree with where this idea is going. The two greatest things that our students need today are fantastic teachers and technology. Regardless of the hurdles, administrations need to find ways of getting computers in their students' hands. Whether this requires writing many grant proposals and more, it's our obligation to prepare students for the future. Skills specific to technology are imperative for our students' success.

Perhaps the author didn't mean to imply that school can go on without technology, but that's what I took away from it.

Jonathan Wylie said...

I agree with a lot of what you said. I would love a smart board in my school. Schools and technology hardware just now seems to be divided into the haves and have nots. My school is the latter. Wouldn't it be great if the government used some of the left over stimulus money to put some real investment into technology in schools!

dennisjoe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nick James said...

I'm sure you've heard of it by now, but you should check out The only reason my school is going 1:1 with laptops is grant money. Regular funding simply cannot foot the bill in any school system I've come in contact with.

A friend of mine actually got an Elmo and a projector by writing a grant proposal on A lot of different foundations pay up to half the cost of these projects, which makes technology much more affordable and realistic to fund through small private donations. If you'd like a smartboard it might be possible to get one that way.

loonyhiker said...

Thanks everyone for your insightful comments. I love when a blog post can stimulate discussions like this!