Roughly 90,000 U.S. elementary schools welcome children most weekdays, and from the time those students cross the classroom threshold until the final bell in the afternoon, they are exposed to technology. Some schools have more tech integrated into the curriculum than others, though that is changing. Common Core State Standards expect knowledge to be “collaborated on, published and shared.” That is done through various technological means, including pdfs, printing, publishing to blogs and wikis, sharing via Google docs, etc. At the same time, schools must be responsible guardians of the hardware that is used both inside and outside of the classroom.
As students and teachers increasingly depend on the internet, online tools, software and tech devices to achieve educational goals, opportunities increase for IT professionals. Here are four ways in which technology is valuable to school districts:
- Classrooms have dedicated computers for 1-to-1 use. Title I schools get funds via The Every Student Succeeds Act, and numerous grants and donations have outfitted classrooms all over the country with iPads and laptops for each student, which on occasion need to be replaced. Much to Apple’s consternation, Chromebooks are the most popular choice for districts, largely based on their affordability compared with Apple or Microsoft devices: Chromebooks currently account for more than 50 percent of the devices shipped. Futuresource Consulting anticipates that many Chromebooks deployed during 2014 and 2015 will be due for replacement in 2018.
- Goodbye, blackboards and whiteboards. Hello, smartboards. Interactive whiteboards, or “smartboards,” let teachers integrate many different forms of media — such as photos, illustrations, maps, graphs, games and videos into their lessons. More than simply an overhead projector, children’s laptops are networked to the teacher’s display, making learning interactive as the student can comment from his or her display. The technology also supports a rich database of online resources, including knowledge databases, videos and news items that can reinforce lessons.
- Where’s all the stuff? Fiscal responsibility is part of a public school board’s fiduciary responsibility. Laptops, carts and smartboards are all part of a growing IT inventory that must be tracked and insured. Barcoding district devices — as well as any other school inventory, including books, musical instruments, art supplies — and uploading that information to the cloud can help districts get a handle on where their assets are at all times. Funding compliance is ensured and spreadsheets are thrown into the circular file. Barcoding easily identifies, accounts for and reports on all inventory quickly and is an economical solution even for budget-strapped districts.
- Virtual reality (VR) is making headway in education. VR brings an element of fun into the classroom, particularly in subjects that can immerse the student into a particular environment, for example in history or English literature. St. Wilfrid’s Academy, Blackburn, U.K., uses ClassVR, for instance, to bring students to different geographic locations. The headsets are designed to promote engagement and experiential learning. The visuals that VR can provide students are superior to those from a movie because they immerse the child into an environment. The result: Children don’t feel like they are doing drudgery, but instead they have cultivated an interest and that’s a foundation that teachers can successfully build lessons around.