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Changing the classroom, acquiring tech and avoiding obsolescence

4 min read


Ken Royal

How do you avoid technological obsolescence as you rethink where the classroom of today will be three to five years down the road?

I know that there are a few administrators somewhere reminiscing about my plan — way back when — to outfit my teaching staff with Palm devices and portable, attachable keyboards. “Yeah, he was nuts … even wanted to give language arts students Palm Pilots with keyboards! Glad we didn’t do that!”

While the concept was years ahead, the technology device that seemed to cheaply work was headed for obsolescence. When it comes to classroom technology, it is difficult to figure tomorrow, but districts are required to plan three to five years out. That crystal ball is different for each district and, most likely, for each school. It is an impossible task.

As I talk with administrators and educators, the same questions continue to surface:

  • How do we get our teachers tech, and how do we get the right stuff to maintain a viable technology-based learning program three to five years from now?
  • How do we review throughout the plan to modify for the continuation, rather the end of the technology plan?
  • And the primary question: How do we begin to afford any of it?

Most of us aren’t building devices or configuring software in our garages to adequately address any of those questions. So, looking to the education tech marketplace to offer challenging, useful, and creative solutions continues to be our source, I recently talked with Lupita Knittel, vice president of product marketing at Promethean, an education company, about incentives for getting districts from no tech to the complete digital classroom.

Knittel said Promethean looked at what might be headed for obsolescence in existing classrooms. “It is important for schools to protect and maximize their investment in technology. Another program is the Promethean Promise, through which our customers extend the life of their investment by having access to guaranteed low price for replacement consumable parts, such as projectors and lamps, affording schools the opportunity to move resources to higher impact items.”

That means taking a look at things we have taken for granted instead as a yearly upkeep budget expense. I remember ordering expensive projector replacement bulbs when I was an instructional tech specialist. If the future classroom’s makeover could drop that monetary outlay, it would be a huge savings for a district.

Knittel shared that Promethean and other companies need to be creative, especially given today’s tight budgets, to allow districts to carry out digital learning plans. “One of our current technology deployment programs, developed based on direct feedback from our education customers and advisory council members, includes not only interactive HW and SW, but also critical elements to ensure success of the program, such as ongoing professional development and training for teachers and administrators, annual preventive maintenance, extended warranties and support for complete peace of mind.”

“All this is packaged into a customized installment payment plan to best suit each customer’s situation. At the end of the term, we facilitate a full technology-refresh program at the same or lower cost. This approach allows faster access to technology enriched learning environments for all students, faster adoption and integration of technology by all staff, and reduces risk of technology obsolescence by offering built-in refresh cycles,” says Knittel.

The other day, I talked with a young administrator who was sharing stories about his first-grade teacher technology star. He rattled off about the brilliant things this teacher was doing. I asked, “What are your other teachers doing?”

Well, it turns out the entire school shared two old whiteboards — and that’s it. In my opinion, that’s simply unacceptable. To have an entire school waiting in line for technology leads to a few teaching-with-tech stars rather than a full teaching culture change. I shared Promethean’s idea with him as a possible way to get some tech. I know that when all teachers get the technology they need (and I’m not just talking one device), there is a natural commitment to use it.

Of course, specific professional development and collaborative teaching will move users beyond a surface use, but everyone having a tech teaching setup is important. The pioneers will still be pioneers, and the less tech-savvy and non-users will discover change. Followers will become leaders.

Ken Royal is a teacher/education and education technology blogger/reporter, video interviewer, podcaster and education event news commentator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology experience. His teaching accomplishments include: four-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, and the Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. Read more of Royal’s work at Royal Reports.