Thousands of people came to MacWorld in San Francisco. Among them were several hundred teachers who found applications and help integrating technology into the modern classroom- some of it for little or no cost!
I've always been amazed at the number of parents who bring their children to Macworld. One father I spoke to said that he felt his son would learn more than in the one day of school he was missing. Some students were there on field trips but most were there with their parents, showing that many parents see the importance of technology in their children's future.
The keynote speaker at the Education symposium was from eMINTS, a project from the University of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Education which integrates technology into the classroom. She emphasized the importance of inquiry-based learning and the Socratic method and the importance of real-world situations with communities of learners. I'm sure that these teaching methods are familiar to most teacher, although now they are often referred to by new names. eMINTS also works with schools and districts to teach teachers new skills. Their eThemes site, with materials for many academic subjects, is available for exploration online at http://www.emints.org/ethemes.
The focus of the other presentations was the use of blogs and podcasts in the classroom to provide authentic learning opportunities and audiences for student work and how this impacts learning and teaching. The resources for making and publishing them are free and they can have either a limited audience or be available globally. In spite of the name "podcast," iPods are not necessary for either of these and they generate excitement for working on storytelling and organizational skills as well as reading and writing.
Free resources are GarageBand (Macintosh), Audacity and Amadeus to edit sound recording, iTunes and Podcast Maker at www.potionfactory.com as well as myriad sites on which to post the finished products such as WordPress and iLife.
ProfCast can help teachers make podcasts of classroom lectures (useful when, for example, there is a whooping cough epidemic in a high school AP class, or when a student's parents take him to Europe for three weeks in the middle of the semester and want you to be certain that he doesn't fall behind) Blogs can also be used to place responsibility on students in the classroom for notetaking, putting the blog online for the class - including explanations and homework. Not only does this provide online resources for the class, but it requires the blogger who is explaining the lesson to understand it fully — a great reinforcement.
Many new or updated applications were shown, such as:
Google SketchUp Pro (or the free SketchUp) which are drafting programs and are user-friendly enough so they can be used for the junior high level model house-building in math classes or bridge-design projects. Both these programs require OSX 10.4
typeit4me 3.1 is a new version of an existing program which can really save you repetitive typing. It comes with detailed on-screen installation instructions and can be turned on or off, depending on the needs of the user, and it needs "Assistive devices" to be enabled. It would be really useful for the salutations and closing of the many recommendation letters you write for your high school students, as well as Wednesday letters home in the elementary classroom.
iListen comes with easy setup and can be set up for more than one person for use by multiple students during the day. It has a COMPLETE set of videos to introduce the program and you can install multiple human language variations, making it useful for ELL students or for students in foreign language classes.
The product is easy to set up for individuals, walking through the simple directions although the student will need to be able to read fairly well in order to establish a profile for his or her voice.
It's best to read at least two of the pasages when you establish the profile so that the program will be better able to you understand and individual's voice. Otherwise the student will need to do a fair amount of correction.
This is an excellent product which I feel will be useful for those students who for some reason cannot type to enter words or data into a computer. The new version is much improved over the previous version with greater sensitivity that our understanding of the human voice and easier controls. The amount of correcting may still be frustrating for some students however.
Lynda.com was there, and they have expanded from instructional DVDs to major online education with programs that allow for both individual education from DVD to Online student multiuser programs for groups of students. The multi-user program charges ten dollars per student per month and students can view tutorials anywhere any time with access to exercises and the courses. it does require high speed connection however, but that means of your students can both use the training at school or from home this could read advantage under for teaching of program or four reinforcing what is done in the classroom.
There were multiple music programs on display- all with updates: eMedia has added Guitar pro 5 to their list of musical "how-to" and beginning music programs. It is a an excellent guitar (and bass) tablature program which can be used in the school's jazz band or in the "introduction to music using guitars" which have become popular in the last few years.
SmartScore 5 lets you scan, transpose, edit and print scores and is compatible with several of the composition programs. It also includes guiar chord symbols which change when the music is transposed. This last is very handy for music teachers who must work with many age-groups throughout the school population.
Trolltouch has touch screens for all the monitors available for Macintosh computers. They work with all Macintosh programs, including those from Johnston for students with various handicaps.
The Intelliscanner mini from IntelliScanner Corporation would be a good scanner for a small library. It allows you to place UPC codes on books, CDs, DVDs or other objects and then scan them with a true "hand-held" device. It is quite small and quite accurate. The accompanying program helps organize the colection.
Lastly, though not yet as practical as the previouly mentioned programs and hardware, there is the PenIt notes system from Maxell and Hitachi which allows you to draw or write notes or both on a special paper with a pen which takes in what you have done. Later, with a simple "touch," of the pen, the material is transferred into the computer's memory. The notebook of special pages is available from Meade. Once in the computer, you can cut and paste (edit) what you have written. Unfortunately, what you wrote remains in your own handwriting (at least for me- I have terrible handwriting).
While not really practical yet, they are advertising it for data entry into statistical programs and I can see that it is on its way to becoming a useful program in education for planning and design.
All in all, teachers were quite impressed with the resources and possibilities.The excitement that was generated by the podcasts and blogs and blog opportunities for students enhanced the creative ideas that the teachers had for their classrooms along with new ways of teaching and new ways of having students work with data.
There were at least two hundred teachers at the symposium and I didn't hear any negative comments from anyone! If educational institutions can find ways to harness this enthusiasm and optimism, we are really on our way to having a much more effective educational system.