Over the years our district along with other districts across the country has focused on placing technology into the hands of teachers. This made sense for the most part when technology was very expensive and a little challenging to use. In recent years this option seems less relevant with the decrease in technology cost and the increased usability of technology.
Years ago technology was very expensive. I remember selling computers for the price of a small car or at times a modest home. Small companies had to take out a lease to acquire one. The computers were bulky, housed in metal shells and were heavy enough to need a cart to carry them around.
Laptops and portable devices today weigh one or two pounds. Devices like smart phones and media players weigh only ounces and are regularly carried in one’s pocket. These devices are lighter, portable and have computing power magnitudes greater than that of computers in the 80s or 90s. These devices are also considerably less expensive. Smart phones and portable devices start at prices of $200 or less. Laptops can be purchased for $500 or less. The interface for these devices is icon rich and object-oriented. It is now as easy as pointing and moving things around.
Recently, I was speaking to a kinder garden teacher that uses iPod Touches in her instruction. I was curious to know how the students felt about the technology. So I asked how it went. Before the lesson, she asked her class how many had ever used an iPod Touch. Every student in her class raised his or her hand. Yes, I know kinder gardeners raise their hand for everything but the proof is in the use. The students used the iPod Touch with little difficulty. If you have ever taught kinder garden, you know this is a miracle. The teacher uses the iPod Touches regularly to practice letters, numbers and colors. Technology is in the hands of students and the teacher facilitates.
Much like pencil and paper are in the hands of students, technology needs to be in the hands of students. We are beginning to focus our purchasing power on inexpensive portable devices that we can place in the hands of students. Most campuses in our district are purchasing iPads and iPod Touches. The teachers are discussing which applications to install on the devices. The campus technology contact at each campus is leading the effort and implementing the requests. The campuses are purchasing sets of 20 to 30 devices at a time and making them available in portable carts for checkout and classroom use.