Jane Payfer, CMO @ Ergotron
True confessions here, my grandmother was a teacher. My mother was a teacher. My aunt was a teacher. My cousin is a teacher. My brother is a principal, and still a teacher, and yes, in some unofficial capacity, I am a teacher too, having graduated many, many years ago with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree.
I had a diploma, but never the gift of patience required to be successful in a classroom full of inquiring minds and frequently, squirming bodies. I was in the classroom, but not for long. After starting my own family, I took refuge in corporate life.
Which makes this TeachWell Mobile Digital Platform launch especially dear to my heart. It brings me back around fully to where I started: in classrooms, learning how to make a better world through the education of our children.
About two years ago, Ergotron started working with teachers to uncover what they needed to be more effective in their classrooms. Teachers taught us how tough it is to integrate all the different sources of educational content they use in their lesson planning, preparation, and in their classrooms.
While a lot of content is still “paper based,” much is now digital content, whether online or from a stored media source like CDs and DVDs. There are a lot of different kinds of devices needed to share and present all this content, computers, digital cameras/visualisers, CD and DVD players, projectors.
About a year and a half ago, we thought we had a pretty good grasp of the technical challenges they were facing, when we uncovered another challenge. Not only were there too many gadgets in the rooms – the hardware used to access the digital content was stashed away inconveniently in too many places. Some of the playback devices were shared resources, locked away in the “AV” room. Other teachers purchased their own players, but didn’t have enough space in the classroom to store them away when not in use. The end result was the same. It was frequently too hard to access the hodge podge playback devices, get them powered up and turned on, when it came time to actually use them.
In addition, traditional desks were physical barriers between teachers and students. Most of them are monstrosities older than the teachers who use them, taking up way too much space for the limited storage function they provide. They hinder the collaboration and interaction necessary to keep students’ attentive and enraptured with subject matter. Worse yet, it takes precious time to get out from behind them, and even the most organized educator feels tethered to them, with frequent trips back and forth to pick up the tools necessary to get through a class: markers, laser pointer, tissues. Exacerbating the situation further, audio visual carts haven’t changed or improved since the ‘60’s even though the technology they support has gone from film strips to 35mm proctors to DVD players.
What this means, in real practical language, is that precious teaching time may be wasted on “technical difficulties.”
The reality is there isn’t much teaching time to waste. A study done by Richard Rossmiller, University of Wisconsin Department of Educational Administration Chairman, illuminated this issue, showing that only 364 hours of a typical U.S. school year of of 1,080 hours were actually spent in “time-on-task.” And this was in 1983!
My brother’s 1998 masters’ thesis reinforced Professor Rossmiller’s findings, with an average of only 40% of the class period in Washington state schools spent conveying new educational information. The other 60% of the time was spent getting students ready to learn, books open, in disciplinary discussions, and, you guessed it, trying to get multi-media content working. No wonder our students’ test scores are in decline.
Students are losing out, not because we don’t have enough “good” teachers, or because our teachers “don’t know how to teach,” but because teachers may be getting bogged down and caught up focusing on the technical “how to” instead of the content “what.”
Having solved a similar situation for today’s nurses, Ergotron knew there had to be a better is way.
The TeachWell Digital Platform was born.
A little over a year ago, we had a pretty good specification of what TeachWell would need to be. To be sure it would provide the best functionality it could for our teachers who are giving the best they’ve got, every day, we spent the past year refining, testing, and perfecting the concept.
So, that’s exactly Ergotron’s hope for TeachWell.
That when using it, the good teachers in our schools can get back to teaching. Our students will be more engaged in the learning process. The deep well of digital content used by today’s 21st Century Educators, will be taught well, ensuring the knowledge transfer has impact. The lessons are learned. The subject matter is conquered. And the teachers’ physical well-being isn’t compromised in the process.
This is the goal of TeachWell.