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Edtech in Action: How to use wireless technology to untether a teacher

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Edtech in Action is a new series of articles from attendees and speakers of Tech & Learning's events. Click here to learn more about these events and to apply to attend.  

Initiative: EdCOT (Educational Classroom of Today) 

Where: West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, West Windsor, New Jersey

It started with a simple idea: What would a first grade classroom look like if you utilized wireless technology to untether the teacher from the front of the classroom? 

The result was EdCOT (Educational Classroom of Today), an initiative that has been embraced by teachers, students and parents alike. It has empowered students to take control of their learning, improved communication with parents, and created a repository for student work that is easily accessible by teachers anywhere, anytime. 

The initiative was based on the idea that good elementary instruction requires flexibility. Instruction can take place in a large group, in a small group, and all around the classroom. Therefore, technology should support movement by the students and enable the teacher to create learning centers wherever students gather. We realized that we could take advantage of new wireless technologies to support a classroom that would allow teachers and students to work in a location based on instructional need, not the location of wires. 

Each EdCOT classroom was outfitted with a 65” LCD monitor, wireless digital media receiver, eight student tablets, one teacher tablet, and digital portfolio software. Combining the resolution, brightness and clarity of large monitors with a wireless digital media receiver means students can clearly see the shared screen of any device in the classroom. The setup is so simple to navigate that the first grade students manage its use when the teacher is absent.

Two significant outcomes of the initiative have been improved parent communication and increased student independence. One teacher shared that many parents have raved about the high level of information they receive about the class even though the teacher received half the typical amount of email from parents. Students often determined what tools they would use for an assignment, what format to utilize, and which assignments they wanted to share. Now, what started as a way to allow the teacher to move freely around the classroom has quickly grown into a free flow of information between parents, students and teachers, that is collaboratively managed by both teachers and students.

Rick Cave is the director of technology in the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District in West Windsor Township, N.J. E-mail: rick.cave@ww-p.org; Twitter: @rcave

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