What is the minimum Technology Requirement for a classroom / learning space? is a question that I have been asked a lot – particularly back in the back in the days of Building School for the Future (BSF).
During this post I don’t want to get into the discussion of whether we should still have classrooms or not. At this point in time I think we just need to accept that whether we like them or not classrooms will be part of our schooling in the UK for the foreseeable future.
Over the years my thoughts on minimum technology requirement for classrooms haven’t really changed. Back in 2005 a group of us got together in East Lothian to tease this question out. The result of our discussion was that each classroom should be equipped with…
- A reasonable PC / Laptop that can be connected to the Internet and is of a good specification (graphics card, memory etc…) At the time we recommended that the PCs should have DVD Players (it is going back a long way!) even though this worked out a little more expensive per unit it removed the need for classrooms to have DVD players as well.
- A projector - so that the computer can be projected onto wall or screen (the bigger the better).
- Speakers so that you could hear what was being projected (also remember at the time that many projectors didn’t have speakers in them and neither did PCs!). In the end we went for a slightly more expensive model of projector because it has speakers in it.
Eight years on in 2013 I don’t think I would change this recommendation very much at all.
Obviously we all need and want more kit, but I would still conclude that the minimum specification for a classroom should be…
- A computer of a good specification – It doesn’t matter if its Mac, PC or Chrome. It doesn’t matter if it is PC or a laptop (there are advantages and disadvantages of both). Obviously it should be able to connect to the Internet and the DVD question is still a valid one if your school doesn’t have good bandwidth or allow streaming video (eg: YouTube);
- You still need something to show your computer on (it’s not got to be a projector); and
- A sound system (normally decent speakers unless you go down the LCD TV Route).
I don’t believe that Interactive whiteboards necessarily represent good value for money.
Saying that if the money and resource was available I might consider putting one in each nursery and primary classroom. In the secondary school I would pick and choose across departments eg: all the math’s department might get them or all the science department BUT I wouldn’t deploy them across the whole school. Budget and resource can be spent better places and more creative ways elsewhere.
Across the whole school I would invest heavily in a robust wireless network (that included access in outdoor spaces). Battery life is good enough now that across the primary school I would invest in banks of laptops rather than a computer lab. In the secondary school, I might keep some labs for specific tasks but I would expect to see an increasing amount of desktops replaced by the flexibility of laptops where appropriate. I wouldn’t consider replacing all desktops/laptops in schools at this stage in time with only tablet devices.
One-to-one access should be on the horizon and part of the succession planning of all schools. With the exception of the bandwidth needed to support a one-to-one learning environment funding is the other main issue here. Leasing and BYOD / BYOB / BYOT provide two models to improve your ratios of computers to students.
Anyone else got any thoughts – remember I’m talking minimum here and we obvioulsy need good software and good 'peopleware' as well.
I still know of some schools in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK where there are classrooms without computers and even more where there is still no ability to project the Internet.