Tomorrow's Classroom: Predictions for the coming year

Jeff Wilson

Jeff Wilson is a former Director of ICT and member of SLT in Secondary education. He is
currently an independent ICT educational consultant and is passionate about sharing his
technical expertise and classroom knowledge to enhance teaching and learning through
Technology Oh...and he supports Newcastle United.

Website: www.Jeffwilsonict.co.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

What will our classrooms look like in 2017? It really depends on whose crystal ball you look at! School budgets are being squeezed tighter than a jar of peanut butter at a squirrel convention. As a result, teachers are looking for free tools and apps to enhance their schemes of work and create resources using video and animation to help engage students, particularly reluctant learners. Leadership teams are now examining the prospect of creating a sustainable ICT solution that suits our new digital learners and will still be relevant in the future.

Schools cannot continue to invest in suites of computers which have timetabled access for all subjects. Instead the technology needs to be affordable and accessible within any classroom. To achieve this, implementing a wireless infrastructure that is capable of dealing with the vast number of devices that may one day be used on the network is essential. The next decision is which route to take in making mobile technology available to all "A number of schools will move everything but the kitchen sink into the cloud."students in the classroom; 1:1, BYOD, iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, etc.

If past experiences are anything to go by, we need to look across the water to what is happening in the US. It may come as a surprise, but the device which has outsold all others in the US education system is the Chromebook, with over 51% of the K-12 market. Anyone who has ever used a Chromebook will probably understand that the low cost, simple operating system and battery life have made it a very attractive product for schools requiring devices that are easy to manage and simple to use.

For schools who cannot afford to purchase large quantities of devices, or who require a sustainable model for students having access to mobile devices, then I predict that companies who provide 1:1 solutions are going to be very busy in the coming 12 months. However, a word of warning, I was involved with implementing a 1:1 scheme with a Secondary school which went into liquidation after the students had signed up and received their devices. That was fun! The school had to take over all direct debit payments, and the full protection insurance policy that had not been paid. I even ended up taking iPads to a local computer shop to get screen replacements for the inevitable student mishaps. Seriously though, if you are considering rolling out a 1:1 scheme, speak to many suppliers and weigh up the best option for your school and your students. Always ensure that the students are provided with the best insurance cover they can afford. There is nothing worse than a lesson planned for them to use their iPads, only for it to be out of commission for a couple of weeks with a broken screen.

Once the students all have devices in their hands, is there any need for an interactive whiteboard (IWB)? Probably not… teachers will be able to stream their presentations and resources to the student devices, allowing them to work through them at their own pace. Personally, I have found that IWBs have ultimately been very rarely been used to their full potential. Why then should schools spend a lot of money on them only for teachers to complain that they are dull or constantly out of calibration after six months of use?

The total cost of ownership of IWBs is an unsustainable expense for schools, especially once the price of bulbs, support for replacement, sound system setup, replacement pens and don’t forget the constant need for batteries is taken into account. It is a surprise that so many have been bought by schools over the years.

The best practice that has worked effectively in many schools, and one that I think we’ll see more of, is a teacher wall that can be written on using a dry wipe marker and a large format screen. Schools can now decide whether they can afford the additional functionality of an interactive TV screen, or just to use the TV screen to display high-quality presentations and resources, and to write notes, etc on the teacher wall.

Everyone must have seen those ‘past-it’ footballers on Match of the Day using the fancy interactive touch screen to show where the Man Utd defenders went wrong. Imagine Robbie Savage trying to use an IWB… he would end up circling the wrong player and probably with a permanent marker, the bulb would have to be changed every couple of weeks and the batteries would die as he was showing the run that Mata should have made. This technology would never make it in a professional situation, so why is it accepted in the classroom? With good warranties, integrated sound and only requiring a power and HDMI cable, it is easy to see these large screen TVs taking over.

In the classroom, teachers will become free from being tethered to their computer and constantly needing to turn their back on the class to write on the board, as they are able to control the screen via a"I would recommend using a system such as Reflector or AirServer." mobile device. Teachers will also be able to mirror their mobile device onto the screen via a screen casting system like Apple TV, however, I would recommend using a system such as Reflector or AirServer as these are a fraction of the cost, and they are not constantly broadcasting unnecessary traffic across the network.

Imagine a classroom where the teacher actually stands at the back of the class where they can observe every student and controls the screen which all students are attentively watching. A major benefit is that behaviour issues become easier to notice and deal with immediately. In essence, teachers will have the best of both worlds. They can either display their resources onthe screen and control them via their mobile device, or they can display the resources on their mobile device onto the screen. This then allows teachers to decide how they are going to create their resources for lessons. Do they want to wait 20 minutes until their laptop has been started and is ready to use, or use their iPad to create presentations, videos, animations, etc?  It all comes down to personal choice and teachers deciding which is the most efficient method of working for them.

Ultimately it is vital that schools investigate efficiency, as we all know that something significant needs to happen to reduce teachers’ workloads. This is where technology can play an integral role in allowing teachers to work effectively and efficiently. We just need to give them the tools, training, support and allow them time to investigate how technology can assist in their day to day tasks. To keep their heads above water, teachers should embrace emerging technologies and work smarter rather than harder.

What are your plans for edtech in 2017? Let us know below!

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