Is The Next Big Thing Already in Your Classroom?

I recently attended a presentation by a teacher who explained how she is using Google Glass in her classroom, and one or her ideas was to let a student wear the device as a way of getting a better idea of their perspective of her.

It’s a great concept but I wondered if we really need a $1500 device to do that. Most teachers already have the tools necessary to get a class-eye view of their work sitting in the pockets and backpacks of their kids. But there’s a larger question that needs to be addressed when discussing Glass being the next big thing in education.

Do we really need to look for the next big thing?

Instead, shouldn’t we try to make better use of the last big thing we bought, made a big deal of for a while, and then put in the closet when the next big thing was announced?

Think back a couple of years when interactive whiteboards (IWB) were all the educational rage. Our schools couldn’t install them fast enough. Classes were taught on how to make great use of them, educational theorists were convinced they would revolutionize instruction, and researchers produced conclusive data on just how motivational/engaging/effective they were.

Now, when I visit schools, I make a point to gather a little data of my own on how those IWBs function in classrooms. Many, if not most, are used as little more than projection surfaces. The software, which supposed to enhance the interactivity of the boards, is used as a slightly fancier version of the standard slide show software that was all the rage back in it’s day. Very few kids use them in any way.

In the meantime, we have lots of portable computers that are put into fixed labs and spend a frightening amount of time as a replacement for paper/pencil multiple choice tests.

There are stacks of clicker systems mostly in closets except when pulled out to use for a few minutes as a “fun” way to practice for standardized tests.

Along side them in the storage room you’ll often find a bunch of wireless slates, which were supposed to add more interactivity to classrooms.

Every one of our classrooms has high speed access to the world wide web. A resource with nearly unlimited potential to connect our students to each other and to the world, enabling them to publish work and ideas to a much wider audience. In most, of course, the web is little more than a digital encyclopedia, the direct replacement for Word/Excel/PowerPoint (new tool, same assignments), and, of course, one more vehicle for delivering tests.

I suppose it’s possible that Google Glass is the next big thing for education. But while we’re waiting to determine that, not to mention waiting for the next, next big thing, we need to make better use of the previous editions of the next big thing we already have.

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