For an entrepreneurship class, I am doing research into the educational technology market for a company to create. The market is in an interesting time, as it is very active yet very unorganized. Everyone seems to want technology and agree it is useful, but no one seems to know exactly how to use or implement it.
As part of my research I am doing three interviews. My first informational interview was with Marc, a 7th grade public school teacher and Renzulli workshop teacher. Marc using technology in his classroom for numerous tasks and teaches workshops for other teachers learning to use Renzulli, a popular educational software. Marc is a good person to interview since he has perspective of education technology from both the students and teachers.
First, I’ll focus on the students aspect of technology in the classroom. Marc’s school has about 75 computers for about 360 students (library desktops, computer lab, two laptop carts). The middle school age (6-8th grade) seemed to be the best place to really start using technology. The students are old enough to understand and use the technology, yet they aren’t advanced enough where they are set in their ways. For example introducing technology to a high school student can cause problems because the students knows how to use a computer and has their own tasks they like to use the computer before. It’s hard to change these habits. The habit of using technology for education needs to be introduced at a younger level, the middle school age.
Another interesting observation he made from the students perspective is that they were more productive with using the laptops in class rather than going to the computer lab. The kids enjoyed using the laptops more than the desktops and also were more productive in their class environment. I feel they were more productive in their class environment because that is their usually learning environment. The computer lab is more of a vacation from the classroom rather than a real learning environment. The kids also enjoy using the laptops, since they are simply laptops and seem a much cooler computer to use. Kids like using more cutting edge technology and don’t like using anything less than the best available at the school, which in this case is the laptop. The school also offers the use of jump (thumb, pocket, flash) drives for the students to transport their work between school and home. This is a good addition that the students seemed to take advantage of. For technology to really be useful an ease at which the students can use it needs to be created. Digital needs to work as well if not better than pen and paper work. This mean convenience of storage, transportation, and creation.
Next, we can talk about the use of technology from the teachers standpoint. In Marc’s school, every teacher is issued a laptop to use and is required to do certain things such as grading and attendance on the computer. Some teachers only use their computers for their required tasks and others for many other reasons. This is a problem from the teachers standpoint. There is no unity. All the teachers have varying skill levels with the technology and can utilize the uses in many different ways. Some of the teachers that are more set in their ways are reluctant to use technology and other teachers are more willing. The saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” comes to mind. Some teachers have been teaching for many years and feel no use for adding technology to their time tested teaching methods. If some of the teachers are reluctant to adopt the use of technology in the classroom how can one expect the students to use it. A unified example must be shown by the administration first.
An interesting side note I also found was that teachers and students were not allowed to add anything to the computers they were using. All the software that was on the computer at the start stays on the computer and no additional software is added. The software was a mix of proprietary and open source software. I understand why this is needed but more freedom in the use of software might enable more people to want to use technology in the classroom. I would have also liked to see a greater use of open source software, but that is my personal opinion. I feel open source allows for a greater variety and software and more customization to individual/classroom use.