‘Tis The Season for Technology

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Your school could benefit from a bit of holiday retail therapy

I often tell education audiences that there was a week, maybe ten days, in 1987 when your school had better technology than kids have in their bedrooms or backpacks. That was a historical accident that will never happen again. Wise educators not only leverage the talent, knowledge and expertise of their students, but their stuff too. It is incumbent upon us to not only build upon what kids know and expect when they come to school, but kids also own technology that they may enhance the learning process.

The holiday season offers a chance for some educational stimulus if you’re a savvy shopper. Here’s how…

Let Santa bring the iPod
Some schools are building iPod Labs. iPod Labs! I have no problem with the iPod, I own at least eight of them and am on my fourth iPhone. However, I have serious problems with the notion of iPod labs. 1) Didn’t we litigate the issues of efficacy regarding computer labs twenty-five years ago? 2) iPod Labs? Really? Does this mean that kids lineup from shortest to tallest once a fortnight to go visit the school iPods because they would never see one otherwise?

Are they then taught how to use an iPod? Are there iPod tests? Do some kids get a “D” in iPod?

When did iPods become worthy of study?

If your school believes that iPods hold educational value, especially the those capable of shooting video and monitoring physical activity, quietly suggest to parents that they get their children one as a gift that will be welcomed by the curriculum. There is no reason for schools to fetishize the iPod or spend limited funds on what kids might already own. Besides, the iPod is the ultimate personal technology. Sharing one stinks.

Great 21st Century educators spend 30 minutes per month at Toys ‘R Us
This has two benefits. 1) You find great toys that may enhance learning; and 2) Educators gain a greater respect for the world in which their students live. Hit the toy store, read the weekend sale circulars and you may find all sorts of cool teaching aids available for a song. Past holiday seasons have led to sub-$50 digital microscopes like the Eyeclops, low-cost video projectors, programmable robots, inexpensive drawing tablet, Hot Wheels cars capable of measuring velocity and more.

Sales!
Holiday sales are an opportunity to stock up on batteries and extra LEGO. Robotics brings S.T.E.M. to life, but who wants to build an elevator without a building around it? Stores often offer buckets of LEGO bricks as a loss-leader. Batteries are often discounted too. Stock up!

Hit the red tag table
Last year’s sales duds may be just the thing you need to bring your classroom to life. That slightly sad puppet or Teddy bear may be just the actor you need for video productions. That $14 Blue Man Group Percussion Tubes set can help score a podcast or be played by a robot your kids invent. Art supplies and creepy failed action figures may be just what you’ve been looking for and at “such a price!”

Become an Amazon.com Associate
Why should kids write book reports when they can review books on Amazon.com and have their reviews actually help others? Alternatively, ask students to write reviews of their favorite books, place those recommendations on your class web site, blog or Wiki and if you become an Amazon.com Associate, up to 6% of all purchases may be earned to purchase books for your classroom library. This may motivate student reading and provides an authentic audience for their writing.

Treat Yourself or a Colleague to a Book or Two
I have assembled a large collection of books that should interest creative educators and parents for The Constructivist Consortium. Peruse the virtual bookstore and Amazon will deliver the books to you in just a few days.

I also created a list of required reading for those interested in “school reform” for The Huffington Post. This article includes fifteen or so classics on school improvement.

Use your imagination and start shopping!

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Comments

One Response to “‘Tis The Season for Technology”
  1. Mark Hall says:

    I suppose your comments about the technology in students backpack is true, in some schools. But the digital divide is real, at least in my school. Yea, I have some kids with smart phones, and many kids with Internet access at home. But I have a number of kids who do not have Internet access at home, and do not have even a cell phone, much less a smart phone.

    So I wrote a grant to buy a set of iPod Touch devices for one particular class. Kids could check them out and take them home for the semester. About half of the kids took me up on the offer. Those that did not tended to have two reasons; they already own their own device as good or better, or more often, they did not want to be responsible for paying for it if it was lost or stolen.

    So about half of that one class can now go to the library, McDonalds, Starbucks, or a number of other places and get on the Internet for their schoolwork (and who knows what else). And they could not before I used scarce grant money to set this up.

    I think you are overstating the case that kids have better technology in their backpacks. Some do, but in the inner city, that is often not the case.