At Tech & Learning Live in Princeton, NJ, last October, Mike Jamerson, Director of Technology at Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (IN), provided an evocative image for technology in the classroom: Edtech should be as easy to use as chalk.
From the inception of the Internet, developers and marketers have reappropriated common, everyday language to brand the online tools. Here are just two examples.
Prominent figures throughout pre-modern history once made use of a wax seal to provide a letter or document with proof of authenticity, which has a modern analog in the username/password authentication process that verifies one’s identity online.
The term browser once referred to a person who casually reviewed information in books, magazines or shops, and today this word has been repurposed to apply to the mediums (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari) through which we engage online content.
Mike is undoubtedly correct, as the success of edtech products or services is contingent upon how painlessly users can adopt its functionality. Microsoft is a great example, recently enhancing its learning suite with the addition or improvement of Teams, OneNote and Immersive Reader software.
Microsoft added Teams with one goal in mind: Allow teachers to spend less time managing classroom logistics so that they can spend more time with their students. Classroom rosters are automatically populated through integration with Student Information Systems, teachers can integrate some of Microsoft’s existing applications and apply them to their classes, and Teams provides end-to-end assignment management. Teachers can create, distribute, grade and provide feedback easily within a single environment.
OneNote is described as the digitalization of the three-ring binder, combined with a swiss-army knife. This note-taking software enables teachers to stay organized easily and to manage their classroom content. OneNote can be used with Teams, and presentation can be given on an infinitely expandable canvas, using free-form digital ink (returning to the theme of being as easy as chalk). While OneNote offers many benefits to the Team environment, it has as many offerings for personal use. It’s like having a digital teacher’s aid, since it will keep all of your class notes arranged whether they are taken in preparation, during class or in retrospect.
The Immersive Reader is one of the most innovative tools Microsoft has recently released. Users can customize the way reading assignments are viewed to suit them. Terms are easily pronounced to improve students’ dictation and pronunciation. Words can be visually divided into syllables for a better comprehension of the parts of a word. And there are intuitive parts of speech breakdown, which provides students with the ability to see and understand sentence structure for all of their assigned reading. The overall goal is to improve reading comprehension, while also improving reading speed.
At Gaggle, we believe that edtech shouldn’t just be as easy to use as chalk, but also as safe as chalk. Technological innovation shouldn’t come at the cost of student safety.