CLASSROOM 21 | by Greg Limperis

I wonder what the classroom of tomorrow would look like if budget were not an issue, if teachers had more say—and if tools and training were provided at an equal rate. Here’s my view:

I’m a very busy teacher. Assessment is something I need to be better at, but I find that doing it well often falls through the cracks, thanks to lack of technological tools to help this happen.

An ideal classroom to me would be one where teachers were all given tablets in a wi-fi or, ideally, a satellite-based classroom where that tablet was connected to the school intranet and Internet.

From there, an app would connect me to the school’s Student Management System (SMS) where I could see vital student info—parent’s names, contact info and Individual Education Programs as well. This would all link to a teacher planning book allowing me to lay out my classroom however I saw fit, not just in rows or square groups—but however I wanted to place desks within my classroom.

Click on a ‘desk’ and a student photo pops up with parent contact info. Instantly click to email or text that parent. Double-click on the student and enter grades directly into the electronic gradebook. Once there, I could enter comments, store tablet-taken photos—and comment on those as well. I could then share it all through email attachments or links to SMS members.

The SMS shows student performance in my class and in others. I’d also see a history of all previously taken standardized tests and their scores and a listing of all difficult subject matter for that student. Graphically, I would see how a student is performing based on grades, test scores and how those scores compare to other students within the school and across the state.

Now, these tablets would be set up with a blue tooth earpiece I can wear around the classroom and, given a school-provided gmail account, the ability to call no matter where I might be. If satellite-capable, the tablet would work off campus, on field trips and minimally, in the schoolyard. This would enhance campus security as well. I could post who left my room and why simply by clicking on a seating chart and choosing a link, e.g., generating a school pass.

This link would then store data on how often the child is leaving a classroom and when, creating tracking patterns for bathroom or nurse visits in order to limit wasted time on task. The data could then be made available to all teachers using the SMS so that a child’s whereabouts would be known at all times.

This digital grade book would be connected to a Learning Management System (LMS) that instantly imported, as set up, the grades for various assignments into the grade book for instant view by the student or parent. This LMS would be extremely customizable by the teacher, allowing them to scale and weigh assignments as needed.

Students viewing grades would only see their own grade in the system. Parents could also tap in at any given point to know if homework wasn’t passed in for a student on that day.

The SMS would be one that was both accessible at school on the tablet and at home by the teacher later that evening if they needed to input grades on their personal computer. This SMS would allow a teacher to photograph student work and save it as a picture or PDF that could then be stored with the student profile for later viewing.

As an additional nice feature: schools would have digital signage in all hallways connected wirelessly, allowing them to send any student work instantly to the digital signage, part of a classroom display that cycled through as people traveled through the school hallways. This software would allow for teachers to make comments on all imported student work directly through the use of a stylus that allowed for writing directly on the imported document or that provided the ability to click and place digital notes directly on the document.

The tablet would be equipped with two HD webcams that allowed for video recording and video conferencing. Instantly, through gtalk or Skype, educators could be collaborating with other educators next door or around the globe.

The tablet would come with a charging base that could stand on the teacher desk or hang on a wall.  This tablet could also broadcast at designated times news of school happenings. Emergency notices, office contacts for requests of students or information could instantly be sent to the tablet much the same as pings are sent to someone on a chat session with an audible notice announcing the incoming information.

As for training, the tablet would arrive pre-loaded with training videos or flash demonstrations. It could also be set up to instantly connect to a live troubleshooting service rep, either onsite or within the district, remotely. To begin with, schools might need to implement a dedicated technology facilitator in order to help ensure this can happen, but with time this could change.

As you can see, the amount of technology needed is actually very limited—though the productivity afforded by these tools could potentially be limitless.

What I talk about is not science fiction. I could mention countless products that do at least one part of what I have described. The technology exists today for all of this to become a reality. We can make it a reality—we only need more educators involved in productive discussions stating what they really need, and helping those in industry to create these products for us.

Keeping track of data and sharing it with others should not be such a tedious task. Let us together build the next big learning management system, assessment tool, data dashboard and performance indicator all in one. We’re closer to achieving that reality than you might think.


Greg Limperis is a Middle School Technology Facilitator in Lawrence, Mass., who founded the very popular Technology Integration in Education professional learning network, reaching thousands of educators worldwide. He has shared with others what he knows and they have joined him in sharing their insights as well. Join them in bringing about change using your 21st century skills.