Full Smartboard Integration

Someone asked me a few questions in regards to my comments on technology in the classroom, the more practical side.  This is an interesting exercise, mostly because Teachers, School owners and Developers have different POVs concerning the implementation of tech in the classroom.

I am going to be lazy and put some of my answers on this blog, leaving out the bits that I don’t want you to know, but leaving in the the bits that might be of interest to you.

Here we go:

The reason a hagwon would spend 5-10M on a classroom is the same as any other investment; Competition.  I know that a cheaper solution might be possible, but I have only looked at market prices and how much it would cost me if I wanted to set it up the way I envision it.

The question we need to ask, is it possible for a school to improve the current classroom mechanics by using technology.

The first problem for schools is capacity. Technology does not solve this problem, it might even aggrevate the problem as such, unless we make the classroom itself scaleable AND flexible. I would like to possit the idea of developping the classroom around the student rather than plunking the student in the classroom. It would also allow the teacher to increase class size in Korea (which at the moment is a paltry number for hagwons like mine) without reducing the effectiveness of the teaching. The more students in a class, the more profitable the class.

The second problem is curricula. Currently the curricula in Korea are very limited and NOT ADAPTED TO THE INDIVIDUAL STUDENT. There are some discrepances between the different wishes of the parents. On one hand they want some kind of “set”, so if the kids follow this set, they can succeed at the exam, while at the same time they are tugging the idea of “my kid is unique” and needs “special care”. With a fully integrated slave tablet/Smartboard/Master Tablet integration with an internal network and Student database (with website interface for parents).  All these problems could be solved in one go. By creating a standard and allowing kids to find their own way at the same time.   Without a distributed information network, all students are forced to do the same work in the same way, not maximizing their learning potential.

Control is an essential part to make it work. It is easy for kids to get side tracked if opportunity is given.  It is like a river, the water flows free within the bounds of it’s shores.

Control on curriculum. This control is more about the ability to provide engaging content/exercises for the students. Something that currently takes a lot of time from the teachers, which is counter productive. Imagine an airplane, when does it make money? When it is flying. The same with a teacher; when does a teacher make money, when he teaches. Everything else is just a waste of his productivity, unless it improves his ability to teach (fly). A plane needs fuel, and so does a teacher, but flying is still the money maker.

Control on assesment. I do believe that scores will soon dissapear as the best way to judge kids. Currently, assessment tools are expensive and too slow, requiring too much admin (aka not teaching)! With the integrated model, assesments are mostly “automated”. We can measure the speed, the vocab, the grammar and all the other things students use their tablets for, without having the teacher spending too much time on what can be simply automated.

Control on the network. It is obvious that sometimes full access is required to teach the student how to become self-sufficient learners. But it can easily lead to abuse, ergo sum, control needs to be exercised. The teacher needs to be able to see what the student is doing, from his “master” tablet. Currently the teacher has to walk around the room to check the work, which leaves all his attention to one student at a time. Imagine if he could supervise ALL of them in the blink of an eye. Teachers attention would be more focused on assisting where assistance is needed rather than monitoring.

Control on their work/checking. Students need to make mistakes, but teachers need to give feedback. What if we could cut the energy and time spent on keeping students focused and corrected in an easy, intuitive manner. It can be even done in a playfull manner.

A computer can count how fast students do their work, where they pause, what the critical points were in their work, based on the direct feedback of the interactions with the tablet. The possibilities are endless.

* Test results
I don’t test. If children have a test (national test) and parents make a request, I will spend a week teaching them HOW to answer, but not what to answer. Parroting is a self-defeating instrument. I also find that hagwons who test inside their hagwon cannot, by any means, provide an objective measurement of their students. Their intent is to keep students in the school and will skew any test to maximize student attendance rather than student efficacy. All test should be done outside the school and by objective institutes. Korean parents don’t understand what “objective” really means.

I can’t give you a clear answer on that yet. I have some broad strokes in my mind how one could make it go smoother, but ultimately communications with parents need to be intesive in information and efficient in time, 2 opposites. Automating that could take a load off of teachers, admin and parents.

* Top time wasters are class prep and assesment (teacher admin). The problem is without GOOD classprep class cannot be good. Without assesment, there can be no overview/communications/follow up. The tools used should help the teacher reduce time wasted on getting it done. “Class in a can” is not a good solution. What we need to do is develop a framework for the teachers, impose an agenda on the teachers, some kind of progression, offer tools to help him prepare a class, without it costing too much search time.  Let’s say that we have a framework per “Academic year” some kind of reference point. Within that “Academic year” certain skills need to have been acquired and other skills need to be learned in prep for the next “Academic year”, Those skills could be lined up in an AGENDA, that the teacher can follow, and once the teacher notices skill A has been learned, he can go over skill B. Certain contents can be good to teach Skill A, but bad at teaching skill B, in that case, the teacher would be “advised” to use materials the school and other teachers have collected, a kind of repository of “best practices” whereby the teacher can use their own inventiveness to add to the “class”. This would reduce the teachers search time and time to think about what to teach and can focus on how to teach instead.