After teaching high school band and middle school music for a decade, I entered the teachnology side of education. I've been serving in that capacity for the past ten years. I am currently the Instructional Technology Specialist for the Lakeland School System (outside of Memphis, TN).
What does your ideal school or classroom look like?
My ideal classroom would be large enough to accommodate several learning spaces. Ideally, lighting in the room could be adjusted for each area of the room. Furniture must be comfortable, mutipurpose, and easy to move. The room would have a built-in sound system that could not only run audio from any devices in the room (via a wireless sharing connection) but teachers (also available to students, as needed) would have a wireless lanyard mic to help project their voice. There should be a camera recording system installed that would allow the teacher to, at anytime, activate the cameras to record lessons (for their own reflection as well as for students to review as needed). There would be a built-in ability to hold videoconferences with anyone any in the world to bring experts into the classroom. The room would have windows, which seems odd to add here but so many schools don't include real windows in their classrooms anymore. Of course, every student would have at least one device but probably multiple devices. The wifi would be robust and easily able to handle a 1-to-many environment. Network access, while filtered, would be managable on site not only by the systems administrator but by the teacher. I think a system where students can be given an online interface to submit a request to bypass a block for an educational purpose would be good. If paperwork levels remained the same, I think there needs to be a clerical person for every grade level or group of teachers. Something to free up the teacher to actually teach and not shuffle papers. The walls would be smooth (no rough cinder block) and painted with dry-erase paint to allow for anytime collaboration spaces (the tables and desks would be, as well). Some type of projection / interaction system would be installed. It should wirelessly allow for the teacher and students to connect any of their devices for sharing with the group.
We are actually in the planning phase of building our first middle/high school so we have been discussing much about what our ideal school would be. Of course, we do have financial and regulatory concerns. First, the building should have classrooms like I mentioned above but should also have non-classroom learning spaces with many of the features I included in the classroom. The campus and all buildings should be inviting to students and parents. Students should WANT to be there. The school would be a hive of creation. Students would be hands on with their learning through projects and exploration. Grades would not be the motivator. I would incorporate standards-based assessments and provide students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways. Student work would be heralded and shared with the world not only to encourage our own students but to inspire others. Our doors would be open to educators and policy makers wanting to see the innovation first-hand.
Assessment would be meaningful and not used when immediate feedback to the student was not possible. Large standardized tests should not be used to assess students. Students don't see those results until the following year (if ever) and don't have the chance to learn from them. Assessments should be immediately followed by a reflection element allowing students to learn from the assessment as much as (or more than) they learned from the content-portion of a project or assignment.
If you were to lead a session at Edcamp USDOED, what would it be about?
I'd run a session on how to use digital tools (in particular, Google Apps for Education) to foster student collaboration, creativity, and sharing.
Have you ever attended an Edcamp?
EdCamp Memphis (organizer)