Image by superkimbo in BKK via FlickrI recently had a conversation with some colleagues about the bits and pieces of an Interactive Classroom. While every Ed Tech leader has their own view of what this classroom should look like - and what pieces are more important than others, I figured I would throw in my two cents.
The cornerstone of an interactive classroom is obviously some sort of projection / image device. Whether this device be a projector, large plasma TV, etc. - each district has their preferences, but the main point is all students are able to view the content displayed by the device.
I believe the next most important piece to be the interactive tool of the teacher's preference. While some districts outfit every classroom with a board or a pad - I believe it is important to survey and receive feedback from the teachers to find out their teaching methods and select the appropriate tool to fit that teacher. For example - most high school teachers (at least ones I have observed) prefer to move around the classroom - they would prefer a mobile pad. However, some teachers are strictly lecture and like standing at the front of the classroom - so a board would be their best solution. It is important that the solution chosen is used both by the teacher AND the student. If only the teacher is using the device - interaction is not achieved.
The next piece I would place in my interactive classroom of choice is the student response system. You simply can not beat immediate feedback. These devices allow teachers to teach content and then - very quickly - determine whether the students understood that content. Do they need to reteach it? Do they need to reteach part of it? Does a certain student need individual assistance? All of these questions can be quickly answered by the student response devices.
A piece of equipment quickly gaining momentum is the document camera. It is the "techie" version of overhead projectors that were popular - even when I was in high school. The document camera allows the teacher to project any image up on the screen - this can be anything from a book, bug or any other image to share.
Too often a piece that can be overlooked is the audio. It is extremely important to ensure the interactive classroom has adequate audio on all devices so students can hear - no matter where they are seated in the classroom.
I believe it is as important as the equipment that the teacher fully understand how to effectively implement these tools in the classroom - otherwise they are wasted dollars. Proper professional development is a necessity, not only to show the "push / click" features, but also the big picture concepts. Once a teacher grasps how these tools can enhance their classroom, they will begin to search out new methods and lessons on their own.
JDS | CIO