Creating a Rich Learning Environment

Obtaining affordable technology to integrate into his schools is among this Washington administrator’s primary aims.

Chip Kimball is the assistant superintendent and chief technology officer of Lake Washington School District in Redmond, WA. The district, located just east of Seattle, serves 24,000 students and has a long history of technology investment in its 46 schools. For Kimball and his district, the convergence of the Internet, classroom projectors, and peripherals such as interactive whiteboards and document cameras provides possibly the greatest opportunity in a decade for the integration of technology into daily teaching and learning. The biggest challenges he faces are finding cost-effective devices that will make technology more accessible to students, and solving the home-to-school communication problem. Here, he offers his solutions.

WISHLISTSHORTLIST
Interactive teaching and learning station for every classroom
An interactive teaching and learning station consists of a digital whiteboard, a document camera, personal student input devices, a wireless keyboard/mouse, and on-demand online resources. The combined tools allow for a rich teaching/learning environment that includes dynamic and interactive engagement with content, real-time student feedback that guides classroom discussion, visualization of manipulatives for the whole class, the classroom use of student work, and Web publishing of daily activities. By 2007, Lake Washington hopes to equip every classroom with an interactive station.
Promethean
An interactive teaching and learning station requires the integration of products from several manufacturers. Promethean (www.prometheanworld.com) manufactures the ACTIVboard and is dedicated entirely to the education market. After two separate competitive analyses, we found that the Activboard software is superior to the competition. Ultimately, it’s effective software that makes integration possible. We also have had success with Prom-ethean ACTIvotes, AVerVision (www.aver.com) document cameras, Hitachi projectors (www.hitachi.com), and online video resources from United Streaming (www.unitedstreaming.com).
The parent portal/online consolidated calendar
The entree into electronic home-school communication is the personal calendar. Busy parents and students typically have many calendars going at once. From sports, scouts, and homework to PTSA meetings; from field trips to volunteering to work, the number of events and schedules a parent manages can be overwhelming. Even more challenging for a school is communicating when things change. With an online consolidated calendar, the number of phone calls from the school is reduced dramatically, while parents have real-time information that can be easily integrated into their personal life. Also available is real-time information about a student’s performance. This gives parents a peek into the classroom and student activities, and a deeper look into what their child is accomplishing on a daily basis. This kind of cooperative effort will ultimately help students succeed; meaningful, real-time home-school communication is key.
Trumba
For online consolidated calendaring, OneCalendar from Trumba (www.trumba.com/schools) is a sophisticated, easy-to-use online solution for individuals as well as schools, community organizations, and anyone who manages a variety of calendars. Effectively integrating multiple views and calendars, and most home calendar systems like Outlook, its built-in flexibility communicates constantly changing events including sports schedules, homework assignments, and large district events. For the parent and teacher portal platform, we’ve selected Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) SharePoint for flexibility, ease of use, and integration into existing systems. EDmin.com’s INFORM suite (www.edmin.com/products/VED) provides student data for teachers and parents, including extremely useful analysis of student performance against district standards. We use all three.
The $250 fully capable student laptop
To sustain a 1-to-1 computing environment over time, schools need to be able to provide a laptop for every student, which can be replaced every three years as a normal part of the school’s operations. The unit should have full computing capability, as well as be wireless and rugged and carry a battery charge for a full day to keep students ready to learn.
Take your pick…
A number of reputable manufacturers are continuing to build inexpensive and powerful laptops, including HP (www.hp.com), Apple (www.apple.com), Dell (www.dell.com), Sony (www.sony.com), Palm (www.palm.com), and others. Currently, the devices are either too expensive or lack the required capability to work effectively in schools. But a breakthrough likely is on the horizon.

To submit your own Wishlist/Shortlist, e-mail editorial@thejournal.com.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.

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