Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mr. Woodbury Checks In On The Importance of Integrating New Technology In Our Classrooms

Mr. Woodbury is a veteran math teacher who is in his second year at BHS. He has quickly become one of our teacher leaders in integrating technology in the classroom. Here are some of his thoughts on the importance of integrating new technology in our classrooms to help engage students and prepare them for what is ahead:

Here are my thoughts on the iTouch use within the classroom. The iTouch is part of an incredible wave that is infiltrating education. The kids have their own “cloud computing” at their finger tips. Kids can tap into the “cloud” to get all the things they use to have to supply themselves. Their note cards can be maintained on the iTouch. They can research classroom discussions instantly. Tests, notes, classroom examples can all be sent to the student when they are home sick or on family vacations. As a result, this type of cloud computing is fast becoming a utility in much the same way that electricity is now.

High schools and colleges across this country are taking part in the iSchool Initiative and replacing conventional text books with electronic versions. The TI-84 graphic calculator, that many parents pay as much as $125 is now available on the iTouch for 99 cents. The kids can download the application (Graphic Calc) as they sit in class, at home, at Starbucks...

The itouch version is totally finger controlled. No longer do the kids have to make a Window adjustment to make the graph fit the screen. Each graph is a different color and it makes the graphs easier to read and understand. The screen-view can be enlarged to make the text easier to read. This is just one of many ways that the iTouch can be used as a tool for students in math classes.

There are additional opportunities in other disciplines. There is a “Classics” application that allows students to select up to 9 books and download them to their iTouch. These classics include illustrated versions as well as text versions. Thus kids of all ages can get a jump on learning how to adapt to technology as it changes.

The iTouch also helps teachers make interdisciplinary connections as classes use this technology as a collaborative tool. For instance, a BHS Business class studying the stock market is working with one of my math classes and using the iTouch to track their progress as students sell and trade stocks (in a simulation).

This tool also allows students to keep up with their studies when they are out of school. A student who was going on a family cruise took his iTouch along and he was surprised to learn that he could keep up with assignments via the iTouch and the internet.

High schools cannot afford to stand idly by with the avalanche of technology changes that are happening today. As the ever-growing number of people using these tools to watch movies, buy buy houses, take classes, and do thousands of other routine tasks, we need to make sure that our students are also integrating these changes so they will be prepared for the real world. The iTouch is their thin client that’s little more than a monitor hooked up to the rest of the world.

There are some drawbacks. We must continue to use both the TI-84 and iTouch within the classroom because the SAT’s and AP Exam folks have not kept up with technology. Currently they will not allow students to use the iTouch during exams. Another challenge is that some students live in the moment, and make a poor decision that their wants are more important than another students'. Thus, the little devices can often disappear.

Bill Gates just last week said, “The next sea change is upon us.”

We as educators and parents must be able to teach our children how to swim in this sea or they may suffer the consequences.

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