Bill MacKenty

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a $400.00 lightbulb - part 2

Posted in Educational Tech Design Support on 23 - January 2008 at 09:10 PM (16 years ago). 197 views.

A $400.00 lightbulb - part 2 (part 1 here). As I closed the last part, I asked: are we getting $350,000 worth of better education? As usual, the answer is: it depends. Here is a general list of questions and observations I’ve made about technology in education, and what we can do to make it work better.

Are the kids actually learning something?

It seems like a simple question, but as I often say - if you stick a kid in front of a computer for an hour and expect something miraculous to happen, you will be disappointed. Especially considering the price of technology, we have to be focused like a laser on this question. As with almost everything in education, instructional design is critical to the evocation of student learning.

A French teacher spends the first few minutes of class streaming live French radio over our wireless network, and the class discusses the broadcast to get the class started.

A math teacher downloaded a podcast which was discussing the fallibility of statistics (a topic they were discussing). The class then discussed the podcast.

Of course we could talk about how to measure learning, but that’s a much longer discussion - and an important one.

The point here? Kids are in school to learn; technology should be viewed as a tool to meet that end, not an end itself. This is one reason why integrating technology is so important, and points to the essence of the question: are we getting our monies worth? 

Are we taking advantage of the really good free stuff out there?

It really is a crime not to use FOSS and other free web-based services in 2008. Google applications for education alone could save tens of thousands of dollars. Couple this with Linux in the server-space and schools can save thousands of dollars - money that can be used for other educational programs, or as general savings. Open office is a stable, growing alternative to Microsoft office. There are hundreds of other free programs that schools can use to cut their operating expenses.

The advantage of web-based services are many; there is no software to install - (save for free quicktime, flash or shockwave plugins). Student work is saved on a remote server, updates and security fixes are made remotely, students can work from home, there are low technology requirements for clients, there are many rich internet applications for a variety of common tasks. Finally, some web-based sites offer reporting and aggregate usage data so teachers can keep track of student activity.