I have been asked to sit in on a district meeting to plan for technology in a new elementary school that is being built next year. My district has been proactive in providing technology resources. It's a given that each class will have a teacher laptop, an LCD projector, a SMART Board, a document camera, and an audio system. 1-to-1 computing is not an option financially. All of our other schools have about 2 wired computer labs and at least 1 desktop in each class. Here are some questions:
* If we go with labs, should we used desktops or laptops?
* Would a different model, perhaps 5 laptops or netbooks in each class be better than a lab?
* What other equipment should be provided? (I'm going to push for some MP3 players.)
* In thinking about emerging technologies, what needs to be considered for the future?
* What questions do I need to ask district leaders?
* What else would you want in a "dream" school in the realm of technology?
All feedback will be appreciated!

Tags: computers, edtech, equipment, school

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Hi, saw your tweet! You have not mentioned what platform you use. Not sure if that makes a difference but I will share our situation. We are 5 years old at my elementary school. My beautiful computer lab was taken for a Kinder class as our enrollment grew! I would personally go with laptops, and even though my teachers enjoyed the lab for project-related stuff, they feel they utilize the computers more in their rooms. When you consider laptops, take into account the capability of your wireless network. We have cisco routers but they can't possibly handle all of the laptops in this school. We try to keep the student laptops hard-wired for this reason.
We are an entirely Mac district and we have our own Apple-certified technicians at district office, so services are terrific. We are presently discussing the purchase of some netbooks, but the issue of support for them has loomed large! We are looking at running Ubuntu on them though rather then Windows.
I would also consider digital cameras and flip video cameras. We purchased a digital camera per team and are now thinking about a flip per team for next fall. Scanners were almost something we purchased per team. We bought inexpensive Canon's powered by a usb cable.
I think the netbooks are the most emerging technology out there at the moment! Remember though, these will not be able to do all of the high end video/graphic type projects. This is the reason to still purchase the laptop/desktop computers with the memory and hard drives that are required by these programs.
There is a new operating system specifically designed to run on the Intel Atom chip called Moblin. We are just beginning testing on it but so far it looks good. We also are ordering Netbooks that have 6-9hrs of battery life, at least at the intitial purchase, not sure how they will pan out over the long run.

Wireless technology has come a long way in the last 5 years so once upgraded bandwidth with the wireless is less of an issue.
Hi, it sounds like you've already got a fairly good idea of what you want. The high school I work at has a similar set up - each of our classrooms has a Smart interactive white board, a digital projector, document camera, teacher laptop. Although we have a number of laptop carts, each holding 30 laptops, most of our teachers prefer computer stations in their rooms. One automatically thinks that laptops are more mobile, but the fact of the matter is they need to be hooked into the wall as well, since unfortunately no one's brought out a laptop yet that can hold a charge for a whole school. For us it's either cables all over the place (also a fire hazard) or placing them close to wall where we have enough outlets, in which case we might as well use stations. Of course if you have the money to place a power outlet next to each student desk - that sounds like the best option.

Something you might want to consider are student response systems. We use Senteo from Smart Technologies but there are a number of good ones out there. We have 10 sets of 30 that 40 teachers share and its worked out great so far. The kids really enjoy them.

Monica
I personally hate the mini-lab for each classroom idea. I found having 5 computers in my room of 35 was more of a problem than a help. I ended up giving them away so we could build our studio. 5 laptops or netbooks would have been more useful as I could put one at each group table but even that, given the power issues mentioned below, is not a real solution. One would need to essentially buy 5 extra batteries for each machine so it could stay on all 6 periods of the day.

I would also echo the call for things the students can actually use like FliP cameras. While it is nice each room will have all the great teachers tools I personally have found very little use in any of them beyond my projector and sound system. It is the stuff the kids actually use that has produced the most benefit for us.
I would make a few suggestions concerning IWBs and projectors. First, unless its already been decided, don't limit your considerations to SmartBoards. Another suggestion is to get boards with the attached projector. This will reduce the shadow on the screen and eliminate the need for additional wiring to a ceiling mounted projector. I'm also pretty sure that SmartBoard makes a model that can slide up and down. With this feature you can lower the board so smaller students can write on it, but also raise the board for class instruction.

Other equipment that you might want to consider providing are microphones and headphones. You may also want to consider laptop carts instead of labs. I don't understand the logic behind a computer lab with laptops.

Good luck!
I'd like to reinforce Scott's comment about getting a SmartBoard with the projector attached to it. I have this in my room and I rarely need to orient the board. The shadow is minimal. When my bulb blew, I used another room with a ceiling mounted projector. Every time the room above us had some sort of activity where the entire class moved, the projector vibrated and I needed to reorient the board at least once per class period. The worst situation was having the projector on a table. No matter how careful we were, the students or I would bump the table and we would have to orient the board.
I am the Technology Coordinator for a school division in Canada and have tried many different configurations over the years. We placed 5 desktops in a number of classes only to find out that only a few teachers utilize this well, generally the teachers that like to teach their class in mini workstations throughout the day.

We are looking at placing netbooks in the schools on mobile carts. The goal of this being a reduction in the teaching of technology as a seperate item and more integration into the daily activities of the students. With the new netbooks a ratio of 1 to 1 computing may eventually be an option.
I teach in a special ed Center for gifted kids so my situtation is different, clases range from 12-24 kiddos on different days of the week. I like having the six desktop computers w/ printers (headphones and Wacom drawing pads) so students can work on individual projects, but we also have access to a mobile cart of laptops that we can get any time the whole class needs computers. The only time they are not available is during standardized testing windows. We have a projector which we use all the time, an Airliner tablet, cameras, video, GPS, and other stuff. It works well--I have no complaints but I don't teach in a traditional setting.
My suggestion would be to skip the projector and smartboard and to install flat panel LCD displays. The total cost of ownership is much less (you don't have a $400 bulb to replace every 2500 hours) and the resolution on flat panel displays is much higher. Finally, they are much easier to use. You press a button and it turns on immediately. You press it again and it turns off.

Lastly, as far as school technology is concerned, it is becoming clear that the connection to the outside world is critical. Purchase the largest pipe you can afford. As a matter of fact, purchase bandwidth until it hurts. Where can you find the money for bandwidth?? I'd start by staying away from expensive LAN server storage systems and locally hosted email solutions.
Choose platforms by which students, faculty, parents and all others vested in education can collaborate ....

“… And I have become convinced that the most revolutionary force for change is the students themselves. Give children the tools they need and they will be the single most important source of guidance on how to make the schools relevant and effective”. ... Don Tapscott

http://www.customerthink.com/blog/crm_for_students
floor outlet boxes - all new construction should have this standard - like in conference rooms, etc
projector + interactive slate for ms/hs
Interactive whiteboards for elementary seem to work well

In my opinion, labs should only exist for specialty tech classes and heavy-duty multimedia production, not for general class use, and should be desktops (makes no sense to have laptops sitting on a desk that can't be moved!)

Laptop carts are annoying - the power cords are tied in and you can't just grab a cord and plug it in.
SO, we built laptop holders that - each elem classroom has 5 laptops (iBooks and Macbooks). If they need a full class set, they can either work with the other grade level classrooms to gather a set together or they can book the ones we have in the computer lab... (we use shared google calendars to book these resources).

our wireless network is by aruba - it's been great so far (new this fall)

Invest in BANDWIDTH - all the good tools are online, and everything else seems to be moving that way as well, which also lets students access their resources from home, the library, anywhere with internet.

document cameras are great - get a few higher-end/fancier ones for the science labs, while most users will find a more basic model to be enough.

And if you go for google apps for education, you won;t have to host an expensive email server (exchange) or a sharepoint server - huge savings.
In answer to your question, I agree with Ed. Tools for student use would be my priority. I'd take computer stations for my students or portable laptops (1 per 2 students) over a smart board any day of the week if I could only have one or the other. While I loved my smartboard, the real meat of my instruction comes from research and application on projects. In my dream classroom, I would have laptops because, as much as I love technology, messy is fun, messy is good, and messy is where the real action happens. I would want to be able to put computers away to pull out the mess. I'd want to build a system that allowed both parents and students more access to school tools. My students currently find creative ways to work at home (buying their own flashdrives to save school work, talking their teacher into e-mailing their work to them at home and e-mailing it back, staying after school so they can have computer access). I currently am looking for either online tools or more training in Moodle that would allow this. I would want ways students could work more collaboratively both at home and in the classroom. I hate being tied to a lab. I can never get in for the time I need, and students are constantly traveling in search of a computer they can use to finish a project. I'd love better access to digital and video cameras with editing tools. I'd love jacks for headphones so that when I put groups of 4 at a computer to watch and comment on a site, they can listen without disturbing others. Much of my curriculum comes on CD's. Frequently students need to listen to the text as they read it for the first time. I'd love players with jacks so that computers are not taken up for this purpose. FYI, I should have told you that I teach 5th grade, have taught for 28 years, and love technology use in the classroom.

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