Specifically their assumptions regarding the value of branded Interactive White Board (IWB) systems , which cost schools about $5500 (US) apiece.
After writing my first response I went back to a current night-time ritual: working through the episodes of the 1951-1952 "live" TV science fiction series Tales of Tomorrow on Hulu. And this episode appeared, and episode focused on a retired professor who builds himself a "reading robot."
The robot uses scanner eyes, converts those images of the pages into digital text, and reads on the simple command, "Read to me, Herr Doktor."
And the debate at Tech&Learning merged with the start of this Frankenstein story as I watched.
|The Great IWB Battle|
But maybe in a way I am, because the failure of imagination is based replicating ("scaling up") things we see around us right now (or five years ago) and not imagining what will be possible before our kindergartners get out of primary school. And so like The Simpsons episode where the answer to the question "Where can we show something like this?" (A 16mm film), is, of course, "The School!" We continue to build museums of technology.
In the debate on Gary's blog, Alan November says this, "Professor Mazur spent 3 years developing his questions for his physics class that he uses with the clickers," and Chris Betcher says this, "I wouldn't buy a $1000 projector for a room for the same reason I wouldn't buy a $500 netpad as my main computer." And in both cases they are discussing the need to project five years ahead in thinking. But the problem is, their five years ahead seems to assume that nothing will change.
So, as I look around at tablets and nano-projectors, at true touchscreens and multitouch, at the rapid 'de-centering' of learning, perhaps the best way to get interactive white boards now is by buying a Wii for each classroom and using it for IWB-like purposes when kids are not playing (note date).
Lowest investment, best multiple purposes. Or, if not that, I'll hook my TabletPC up to any projector and I have a cheap, pass-around-the-room IWB. But either way I won't be bolting a $5500 piece of equipment to a teaching wall... because I don't want to reinforce the teaching wall.
What I want is for kids to interact cooperatively with information in ways which better "fit" them and which offer better acess for kids on this margins. That's where I start when I think about things which might lead me toward purchasing touchscreen technologies of any kind. But we often tend to miss the first question regarding purchasing Information and Communication Technology for schools. "What do we want to do?"
With that question in mind, we can start letting our imaginations mix with research. The first time I held a nano-projector in my hand two years ago, I immediately imagined a classroom where we passed four or five of these around to link to students' mobiles. And I probably decided that IWB purchases would now become rare in my mind. Not because I could go out and buy a ton of those two years ago, but because I knew what was coming.
So where might that lead my tech purchasing? Toward cheaper IWB-like solutions now, and toward the WiFi and phone system and AC/Electrical technologies to support schools full of individual - and probably very different - mobile devices.
Likewise, if I want kids working and researching in the global cloud, I might not be buying top-of-the-line MacBook Pros or very expensive PC Laptops, but cheaper short term solutions of various kinds so that we might (a) judge student use and response, and (b) put some real cash into widening our data pipelines.
But no matter what the "What do we want to do?" question is, we should really leave anything beyond three years a set of hazy considerations.
Question, dream, imagine, consider the education you want to offer. Then look, research, question. Then buy what works now in a way which allows you to respond to the future you know is coming.
- Ira Socol