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Interactive Classroom: Easy or Custom Fit

Compgirl1 One technology product does not an interactive classroom make. So, how do districts get there? It might be best to start with the “Easy” and “Custom” perspectives.

I do remember, years ago, as an instructional technology specialist arguing the need to coordinate the right hardware with the right software, and then throwing my hands in the air in frustration to get one thing—a hardware or software—to at least make a dent in my school technology plans. I know that still happens, but today it's an absolute necessity for all educators and administrators to consider a suite or array of products that build an interactive solution, and not just one, out-of-context puzzle part.

While a complete solution can come from one education supplier, it doesn’t have to, as long as what you patchwork together is of a coordinated design and it works together. Many companies offer their own whiteboard, software, document camera, student response systems, software, and online teacher/student communities. Some of those products might be OEM, where a company acquires a product from another manufacturer and incorporates it into their product line as their own. Anyway, you could, if you wanted to, stick with one company for many interactive solutions, which pretty much guarantees they’ll work together in some sort of classroom and teaching harmony. Or, you could pick and choose the best for your purposes from different companies.

Choosing the best from different companies is more of a custom choice, and requires more knowledge—just like choosing “easy install” over “custom” when installing new computer software. Many go with the easy install. That said, when custom is done right, by tech personnel and the educators, who will use the equipment with students, it could be a symphony. After all, if you get netbooks you like from one company for your 4th and 5th graders, getting tablets for your middle schoolers from another company may pay off. It just depends on your plan.

Today, most companies not only get that they need to provide online communities for teachers and kids, beyond just being commercial statements, but most also understand that their products and software need to work with their competitors’ models. This doesn’t diminish company pride, or company competition—they’re still trying to launch the newest and greatest technology—first. It’s just good business to say your product is compatible with existing school equipment.

Those with less expertise may want to do the “easy install”, and those with more expertise—the “custom”. And if your technology planning committee needs help deciding, most education marketplace vendors have experts that can create the interactive technology blueprint to fit.

Note: The August/September, back to school issue of Scholastic Administrator, features a Guide to Interactive Classroom Solutions. It will appear in print and online.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in The Royal Treatment are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.