Changing your classroom's environment, including its contemporary technology environment, need not be a huge, expensive, proposition.
Lots of solutions range from free to inexpensive, and can make a huge difference.
Perhaps you could create a picnic area in your classroom. Yes, let kids get comfortable with a simple picnic table (scaled to the size of your kids) and an umbrella that provides respite from the uniform fluorescent lights and too high ceilings. Throw a cheap green rug down underneath it, for the full "park" experience. A little creative use of CraigsList and you'll have this spot in place for $50 or less.
Or you might offer seating choices. Those seating balls are nice but can be pricey ... unless, of course, you find some neighbors dumping unused exercise balls. But options can be found easily at Ikea... stools, and stools, and stools, and stools, or a rocking chair, or $6-$50. Or look for cheap rugs and lapdesks.
You might test out your flooring and tabletops for use as "whiteboards" - not the Marzano kind, the "kids create" kind. If not, the cheapest "showerboard" at your local Home Improvement/DIY center will give you all the whiteboard space you need, assuming your windows have filled up.
Don't forget lighting. Lighting matters. No classroom should have uniform lighting, it is bad for the eyes, bad for the brain, bad for attention. Lamps are cheap. Get some. Use some.
But, you ask, what about technology... well, all the above is technology... but here we go:
The Ipevo $69 document camera might be one of the best tools you can bring into your classroom, and being 90% less than the Elmo, maybe your kids can have two. For display, Epson has LCD projectorsfor under $500. A long way from the thousands schools routinely spend. Hell, at NewEgg.com you can get solid brand new HP Laptops for under $400, or get the Asus Eee PC for $250. Both come with Windows 7 which means Speech Recognition is built in.
Open Office for free, with Firefox for free, and you can make your Windows computer a universally designed - accessible tool for free.
You can also plug the MITS Freedom Stick (free on your 4gb flashdrive) in for a full range of accessibility solutions. And you'll (again) want all of these tools.
Then, download these bookmarks for dozens of free resources on line.
How about really inexpensive headsets for all of the Text-To-Speech reading you can now be doing with Balabolka or WordTalk? You can getheadsets with microphones for very, very littleand not just one kind.You can buy no-mic headphones really cheaply.
With older kids, think of all you can do with their phones. With phones you have cameras and video recorders, audio recorders, note taking devices, internet tools. Plus they can work as book readers, notebooks, and can run Speech Recogntion themselves... VLingo or Dragon.
You don't need one-to-one. You don't need the same stuff for every kid. Your students will learn more from collaborating, and figuring out how to do things in different ways.
- Ira Socol
- About Ira David Socol
- Freedom Stick and Firefox Accessibility
- The Change.Org Posts
- IdeaChat 11 February 2012
- Counting the Origins of Failure
- Technology: The Wrong Questions and the Right Questions
- Today's "School Reformers" vs Real Change for Education - I
- Today’s “School Reformers” vs Real Change for Education - II
- The Toolbelt and Universal Design - Education For Everyone
- "Evaluate that!" - Schools for Children