Last week at InfoComm, Christine Persaud of Canada’s MarketNews took a closer look at some of the educational tools on the show floor in her post, InfoComm 2011: The Education Market Takes Tech By Storm. Companies in her focus? Optoma, in partnership with U.K. software company WizTeach, Samsung, Creston, and even Ergotron. Continue reading
Sheila Veschusio, Education Industry Leader @ Ergotron
At the National Middle School Association (NMSA) event last week in Baltimore, MD, I found there was a lot of excitement in the education community for the new technologies going into classrooms.
It was great to see the enthusiasm on the students faces as they worked with the various media provided in the 21st Century Classroom.
Thanks to everyone that stopped by the booth. Special congratulations to Susan Y. of Phoenix, AZ, the lucky teacher who won an Ergotron TeachWell unit at the show.
Michelle Judd, Sr. Marketing Manager, Global Communications @ Ergotron
Shawn Roner, @shawnroner, on his blog http://edbuzz.org, is discussing this week ISTE’s Top Ten Edtech Priorities for 2010. ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education) is an association for educators and education leaders with a mission to help improve learning and teaching by advancing the effective use of technology in PK-12 and higher education.
No doubt, as Shawn’s post points out, schools are already in the planning and consideration stage should Federal and State governments release the funds in 2010 to “facilitate school reform.” Technology will be a part of proposed spending and it is up to “school leaders to consider the extent to which technology will shape this effort.”
Of note, number 4, “Continuously upgrade educators’ classroom technology skills as a pre-requisite of highly effective teaching.”
Ergotron’s research into the classroom over the last year was illuminating to many on the team. Long-term memory of technology in the classroom? Sometimes you got to watch a PBS special on a black and white TV.
Things have changed. I just responded to a student’s blog, from a link on Twitter from @teachakidd. Lee Kolbert is using blogging in the classroom and was asking her Twitter followers to comment and to tell where they were from when they did so.
Yes, things have changed.
Our sympathies, if you want to say it that way, and cheers do go out to the educators, who are having to learn how to do more with less, and to learn more to teach more. Learning technology can be fascinating, but it is time consuming too.
It’s good to note as we continue to design products for the education market. Easy to implement technology is definitely part of our strategy.
I recommend reading the whole post. It is a comprehensive list and I like that it ends with number 10, “Promote global digital citizenship.”
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.
On the other hand, it’s about taking that new way to do things and convincing the very people that need it that, well, that they NEED it; that “once you have it, you won’t remember your life without it,” discussion.
That is, perhaps, the most difficult thing part of innovation…selling the idea.
Case in point. I’ve recently spent a lot of time in K-12 schools and higher education institutions, to talk to them about their technology adoption, what does and doesn’t work, and to observe their workflows.
Education practitioners are very clever and resourceful, and if faced with a problem, will more than likely find an inexpensive and very functional way of solving it, which makes them an excellent resource for different ways to look at things.
As I was talking through some ideas on how to tie their technology tools together to make them work better for them and their students, it was interesting to watch two groups quickly form. People who were anxious to try new ideas (I’ll call them The Embracers), and those who were clinging to the old (I’ll call them The Clingers).
And what really surprised me is that the motivation for The Clingers wasn’t the usual “we’ve always done it this way” stance. More often, it was because the new workflow wasn’t their idea, in a sense, they hadn’t owned it yet, and consequently, perhaps, it couldn’t possibly work because of it.
Now these are people that had embraced technology through their campuses, and were at various levels of implementation. However, the gap I found amongst some people was that spending money on the technology in education didn’t guarantee success, simply because they hadn’t collectively adjusted their approach to workflow.
As I mentally prepared to go the distance to convince the Clingers why they needed to reconsider, an interesting dynamic took place. The Embracers did the convincing themselves, speaking to how changes in workflow open up a whole new set of options on curriculum delivery, collaboration with students, and class time utilization.
At each site, educators and technology administrators thanked me profusely for all of the ideas to incorporate into their schools and institutions to make their technology investments go farther. But you know? I was thanking them more profusely for all of great dialogue. As I was selling the ideas, I was learning how to sell the ideas. That’s a good education. Sometimes learning to sell ideas requires active listening.
What ideas are you selling? And have you found your advocates?
Suchi Sairam, VP, Roadmap Innovation @ Ergotron
There’s been a lot of discussion over the last several years about “digital natives” vs. “digital immigrants.” I just recently came across another great way of describing this from David Truss, “I come from the Batman era, adding items to my utility belt while students today are the Borg from Star Trek, assimilating technology into their lives.”
I spend time volunteering in schools, to give something back AND to observe how the next generation is going to approach and solve problems. Now I get the opportunity to see REAL “digital natives” in action – how differently they view the world, even compared to 5 years ago.
That’s when I realize that much of our educational system is not designed to teach the students of today, and that the needs of today’s students evolve so much faster than in the past.
I applaud educators and administrators for trying to keep up, it’s a huge undertaking. These kids multi-task – all the time. They really don’t read physical books, they read online. The good old days of the cool mechanical pencil are long-gone. And they spend SO much time on computers, from such a young age. Friends of mine are looking to get their 3 ½ year old daughter her own Mac. Three and a half? Wow.
It makes me wonder if parents and instructors are recognizing some of the implications of kids spending so much time on computers from younger and younger ages. Back problems, neck aches, and eye strain are well known problems with adults who spend a lot of time in front of computers at work and at home, doing repetitive tasks. Why not kids too?
In fact, research conducted by Cornell University found “40% of the elementary school children they studied used computer workstations that put them at postural risk.”
Not only that, they are using these computer stations from such a young age, through important periods of physical growth that could be heavily influenced by physical constraints of extended computer use. It was good to see Dr. Crom’s recent blog entry on ergonomics in computing for children, there is a concern to create awareness and address this problem. The American Chiropractic Association is also doing its part, publishing tips to reduce injuries related to computer use.
Ergotron wants to learn and be involved in this dialogue. We want to help find ways to help solve this problem of “now” and the future, so this next generation of great problem solvers isn’t slowed down due to physical ailments caused by computer use.