Factors to Consider when Evaluating Technology for the Classroom

Mark Mariola, District Level Supervisor of Instructional Technology for the Garden Grove School District

In my 15 years at the district level, as the supervisor of instructional technology, I’ve evaluated many technology tools, some have been welcomed into our classrooms others have not mainly because they have not met the above criteria.  For technology to become a beneficial tool in education there must first be a vision for how it will be utilized within the parameters of the daily classroom routine. Teachers will need to be exposed to new technologies and then decide on how it can support their instructional goals. In addition, for technology to become successful and sought after in the classroom, it must be easy to setup, use and maintain and be available for the classroom teacher on a daily basis preferably as a permanent fixture in the classroom. Teachers, for the most part, will only use technology they feel comfortable using in front of their students and the time they will allow to gain this comfort level is relatively short. In my experience, if a teacher is unable to use new technology successfully on the first or second attempt, there is a good chance it will never be used.  The point at which a teacher and their students become familiar with the use of technology is the threshold to which that technology reaches its true potential and utilization.

Beside the above criteria, other factors to consider when evaluating technology for instructional use, would include; can it be secured (locked down), is it portable, does the manufacture or installer offer training on how to initially set it up and get it running, is there technical support and spare parts available (replacement lamps, batteries. ETC.)? Does the school or district offer staff development on how to integrate this technology with the current curriculum?

Whether it be a document camera, projector, interactive whiteboard, science probe, computer with Internet connectivity, or a tablet/slate type device, as long as it meets the above criteria then it has a good chance of becoming an essential tool for enhancing the teaching and learning process. If the technology fails to meet the criteria it will be endanger of becoming an expensive experiment relegated to a dusty corner of the classroom.

One of the biggest challenges in the use of this new technology was security and mounting. The cost to ceiling mount a single projector in our older classrooms was going to cost well over the price paid for both the document camera and projector combined.

The solution found was a very nice product offered by GORILLAdigital, the “KONGcart 2000 Series”. This stand has allowed schools to combine the most popular technology tools (document camera, projector and computer) on a single lock down metal cart. The KONGcart, with its large caster type wheels, easily moves from room to room or within a room and keeps all of the presentation equipment assessable to the teacher for a nominal $499 versus the $1500+ cost of ceiling mounting a projector.  It is an adaptable and universal product for a changing educational environment and will be able to adapt to something new no matter what technology brings.   For example, KONGcarts can now come with an accessory for iPads that makes them work like document cameras.

The next wave of technology is moving towards a wireless classroom where teachers will be untethered from standing in front of the class while teaching their curriculum. Wireless tablets and interactive apps give teachers the freedom they need to teach from any location in their room.

As a side note:

To be successful, I believe teachers must first get the attention of their students, the days of turning a back to a classroom full of students to write on a chalk board are over. Today’s students are visual learners, teachers must find new and creative methods of presenting instructional content that will excite and involve their students, technology has done a pretty good job of helping teachers accomplish this.

Over the years vendors and manufactures have asked me to describe what teachers are looking for in the technology they use in the classroom, my answer has always been, make it affordable, durable and very easy to use.

Mark Mariola taught biology, chemistry & physics at Garden Grove High School for 15 years and served in the district office of technology for 15 years.