NECC came to San Diego this year, and because I am local I had the opportunity to visit this national conference for educational technology in school environments. I was only able to visit on Thursday July 6 because of other engagements (some of which were job interviews (YAHOO!)), but I do have some general comments about the trends in educational technology that are being discussed at the national level. As usual, I will focus upon the aspects that I believe are positive for our profession.
First, it was refreshing to hear educators talk about integrating technology into the curriculum in ways that create individual learning moments and provide motivation for learning subject matter content and practicing higher level thinking skills. Project based learning that involves collaboration and constructivist work seems to work nicely for technology integration, and I saw projects that used video, photos, testimonials, authentic materials, good writing, and excellent presentation skills. Our students are very lucky to have this technology in our schools, and NECC is a great place for teachers and administrators to learn about implementing technology into their established curriculum.
In addition to good teaching with technology, I was impressed with the videoconferencing projects that I saw and the prices of the software and hardware to make that happen. There were many vendors represented, and that competition is allowing a teacher to do a lot with a few hundred dollars. There is also competition among video and audio editing software companies, and I believe that this competition will create the availability of software that allows creative teachers in a variety of subjects to create entertaining materials with educational objectives that can be shared just like lessons, tests, and quizzes are shared currently. With a clear plan educationally sound projects can be created with increasing motivation.
However, there were two particular vendors at NECC that I believe were the best part of the conference, and the price is right at their tables also. The first is our Library of Congress. Of course, we have heard it before that the materials there are an incredible resource for our students. They are the warehouse of national free realia that can be used in your classes, but every year their digital version of this realia gets better and better. It is truly worth every educator’s time to visit their site and think of ways to increase learning motivation and understanding through the use of their materials. I could see many ways to incorporate their materials into subjects other than history too, and if you need ideas please feel free to write me.
Finally, I am simply sold on the idea of refurbishing older computers and installing Linux (the open software of choice) onto these computers. I am sure that there are tons of companies that would love to find an educational institution to use their old equipment, and with the availability of this free software you can do wonders on a small budget. Of course, the linux machines will not do everything that you need. However, I do believe that you could save a lot of hardware and software costs by creating labs that run these machines for the most basic of tasks such as operating systems, connecting to the Internet for research, word processing, spreadsheet creation, and basic web creation. With the money you save you could buy a few really high end machines for the more advanced features of video editing, computer programming, etc.. Budgets are always a concern in education, and this is a great way to stretch a dollar. In fact, I would even suggest that our friends from developing countries follow this same model. There are tons of computers that can be reused for these purposes; and therefore, I hestitate to agree with the building of new laptops for the third world. Why not reuse what already exists in combination with open source software?