Last week I attended Honored Guest Day at my gymnastics student, Belle’s school. I was supposed to see Belle’s classroom, watch a skit, eat a cookie, and go home. It would be cute and it would all be over by 9:00 am. Great. What isn’t great is that Belle’s mom told me to get there at 11:00. Belle was crushed; so instead of classroom, skit, cookie, her school let me stay for math, computer class, and recess. I was a big hit at recess (Being old and still able to do cartwheels and cool tricks on the bars makes you awesome.)
Belle’s classes were shorter than mine had been, taking place in twenty-minute blocks instead of the hour-long chunks that I was used to. Most foreign to me though was Belle’s computer class. It’s not as if I didn’t have computer class. They put the first computers in our library— err, I mean media center when I was in kindergarten.
So I too had to learn the home row. The kids still worked on desktop computers though they were Macs, not large boxes resembling Wall-E.
The adorably technologically inefficient thing I learned to type on
But they were working on Power Point presentations. They had blogs. For learning typing they emailed friends. The teacher could monitor what they were doing from her own computer. I asked the teacher if she was some kind of Mary Poppins turned computer science genius. She said she had majored in history, and that this was just what the classroom was now. Teachers have to keep up with quickly changing technology.
It’s not to the point of being on a totally different 5th grade planet than the one I went to school on but it’s getting there. The high tech educational tools these kids are working with are such a far cry from what we had.
Behold the Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper.
It made me wonder where we’d be by the time I had 5th graders.
Which brings us to (if at all possible the following words should be read by William Shatner. Without Shatner the next sentence won’t quite have the gravitas I’m going for.)
5th grade: the final frontier!
What will technology in the classroom look like in five, ten, or twenty years? What will it look like next week?
Miss Nelson isn’t missing, kids; she’s just been turned into an invisible surveillance drone.
Advancement of Classroom Technology
In-class technology already includes tools like SMART Boards. Some developers want to go beyond that to reactive furniture. Reactive furniture works like a SMART Board. Capacitive sensors detect movement through solid materials. So multi touch screens can be embedded in things like a wall or a desk. SMART desks would turn a student’s entire desk into an interactive whiteboard.
Other technology is being pursued that can help teachers better keep an eye on what students are up to on their computers. Eye tracking measures the point of gaze relative to the position of the head. By tracking eye movement, a teacher can tell if a student has his eyes on his work or if he’s eyeing his phone, the clock, or the girl in front of him.
While we’re looking past burned out projector bulbs to the future, I’m putting in my request for hologram guest speakers. Someone get on that please. President Lincoln in real time would’ve made that whole Gettysburg Address thing a lot less boring.
Just kidding. I memorized the Gettysburg Address. I loved that thing because I was as nerdy back then as I am now.
Cohesion of in Class and out of Class Learning
Along with an effort to improve in-classroom experiences, there’s a move towards decentralizing classroom technology. Homework no longer means writing a book report. It can also mean digital fieldtrips. It can mean making use of interschool teaching platforms. (For example my college had an interlibrary loan system where we could check out physical and online materials from any library in the state.) Academic histories are now more portable than in the past so that F in Bio 101 can follow you everywhere! There is open courseware (lesson plans created for free public use via the internet.)
Online schooling and flipped classrooms might also become more common. Traditional teaching goes like this: Teacher assigns a chapter to read at home. Chapter is discussed the next day in class. Teacher assigns a test so students may demonstrate their mastery of the chapter. Repeat. Flipped classrooms work like this: Students study topics by themselves, using open courseware or lessons created by the teacher online. Class time is spent solving problems and doing work that demonstrates learned knowledge, taking the place of a traditional test. Teachers become tutors who help children with the material as opposed to dictating it to them.
This project-based learning model is starting to replace the traditional lecture format. Kids aren’t blank slates into which you can pour one version of information and just hope it sticks. The thought is that project-based models allow for more varied learning styles to succeed.
Which brings me to…
The Changing Role of Miss Nelson
Miss Nelson may not have been converted into a drone but her role is changing.
If she isn’t lecturing then what is poor Miss Nelson to do with all that spare time teachers will now have? (Just kidding, teachers work like dogs for our kids. Everyone go call one of your past teachers right now and say thank you and you’re sorry for being such a punk.)
That said, with teachers becoming more of a tutor, lesson plans might be generated via algorithms or obtained from the aforementioned open courseware. This and taking the focus off of tests leads to less grading and might actually give Miss Nelson some time to finally take a much-deserved vacation.