Tech Talk


I recently attended an educational technology conference in Orlando, and wanted to throw in a few tips about some up and coming school-related technologies.
  • If you don't know already, iPods are pretty much here to stay. Once thought to be the latest fad which would quickly be replaced by bigger and better tech toys, the iPod has firmly established its relevance to the world in general, and specifically in the world of education. Its uses multiply regularly. Bottom line: if you don't have one, get one.
  • System integration systems are quickly becoming an actuality for school districts. For brief clarification, most schools currently use a collection of softwares to manage student information, library circulation, cafeteria accounts, and standardized test data. These system integration systems I’m talking about here are single softwares that bring them all together into one nice little accessible package. From what I can tell, we remain in the “bleeding edge” stages of working out the kinks, but it’s good to know that what was once thought an unattainable goal is quickly becoming a reality.
  • There were several exhibits advertising web-based professional development courses. From graduate degree programs to trainings on software applications such as Microsoft Word, online courses are definitely becoming increasingly prevalent.
  • SanDisk, a leading distributor of USB flash drives, will soon be releasing the Cruzer Freedom. Designed specifically for students, the Cruzer Freedom is a more rugged drive with the unique feature of partitioned, protected memory that allows the safe storage and sharing of copyrighted material (such as textbooks, novels, study aids, learning tools, etc.). SanDisk advertises the Cruzer Freedom as a digital backpack.
  • Live Ink is a reading intervention software for middle and high school students that alters the format of text on a page to make word and letter combinations easier to comprehend. It employs word patterns and grouping as opposed to traditional block text to improve reading comprehension, content mastery, and retention of information.
  • There is a nation-wide push for 1:1 student/computer ratios in schools. This includes handhelds, tablet PC’s, laptops, and good ol’ desktops. To that I say: we can dream, can’t we?
  • This will not come as a surprise to many of you, but the MySpace social network (dubbed a blog, but does not truly measure up to the true description) is now the #1 source of victims for pedophiles. There are a lot of kids and parents who think it is harmless. Share this information with them and show them how to have a MySpace account without revealing personal information.
  • Professional portfolios for educators have long been a useful way for potential employers to gain insight into applicants' experience in and out of the classroom. Electronic portfolios have also long had a place in the form of disks (and more recently, USB flash drives). Currently the trend has shifted toward using blogs for the design of e-portfolios. Some free blog sites are www.blogger.com and www.livejournal.com.
  • Tablets (laptops that have a rotating screen that you can lay flat and – using a stylus- actually handwrite notes that a software will translate to text) are one of the newest types of PC’s that are becoming very popular with college and high school students. I personally have mixed feelings about them because: 1) Kids today are proficient typers by 3rd grade. They can type faster than they can write! Looking at it this way, it seems like we’re taking a step backward. 2) Any computer that you write directly on will probably need lots of maintenance. Even with a screen protecting film, regular use of the tablet feature will wear down faster than a plain jane laptop. AND 3) The handwriting-text conversion feature excludes kids who have poor handwriting. If the software can’t recognize the markings, it won’t translate the student’s thoughts correctly. Like I said, we have a long way to go with this particular technology. Since they are increasingly popular, however, I felt them worth mentioning.
  • Last but certainly not least is a somewhat older software (well-only about a year old, but that is considered old in the tech world!) being distributed by Scholastic called Scholastic Keys for Microsoft Office. Install this to a workstation that already has MS Office on it, and it works as a simplification of the regular products. I can easily see it as having significant value in the classroom, and even as a training tool for some tech-a-phobic teachers!

Quote of note:

"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do." ~B.F. Skinner, Contingencies of Reinforcement, 1969