Interactivity for the 21st Century


Interactivity for the 21st Century

A Southern California tech coordinator wants to create a classroomthat engages all three essential participants in education: teachers,students, and parents. Here’s how he intends to do it.

Brian McElfish is a technology coordinator and math teacher at Serrano Intermediate School, a campus made up of 1,500seventh- and eighth-grade students in Saddleback Valley Unified School District in Orange County, CA. The goal of theschool is to create the classroom of the future and develop students who can thrive in the global workplace.


Laptops for teachers
Teachers are in a transitional stage in their effort to learnhow to use technology on a daily basis. Giving them alaptop computer to move from home to work, to whereverelse they may be able to use it, provides the opportunityfor the computer to become a tool that is used on a dailybasis, inside and outside the classroom.
Presentation systems
Presenting information to students in a manner in whichthey are accustomed to receiving it is highly beneficial intoday’s video-game/MTV/quick-edit world. So, we need toput tools in teachers’ hands so they can present in thismanner. This would also encourage them to use the laptoptools they were issued.
Student engagement
Students complain that they are bored in school, butresearch says they’re bored because they are not engaged.We need to put tools in their hands that spark them, wowthem, and become so commonly used that the students endup learning from them. The tools can also provide vital, timelyfeedback to help teachers make curriculum decisions.
Writing more
Students need to write more and be provided with feedbackon their writing. Using technology, they can receivegrades for their efforts without the lag time of a teachergrading each essay by hand for 120 to 160 students.
Parental/community involvement
Parents and students should have up-to-date records oftheir grades so they can make decisions about their academicprogress. Parents should be able to contact teachersand receive responses in a timely manner, and teachersshould be able to respond at their convenience via e-mail,rather than fighting over telephones during breaks, searchingfor parents at home, work, or elsewhere. Finally, parentsand the community should be able to sample a dailyslice of life at the school.


Purchasing power
In the past two years, our district has purchased hundredsof laptop computers, all the same model, from Dell. We’ve gotten some great price deals, and keepingthe computers all the same models simplifies maintenanceissues. The district has also chosen Microsoft Officeas the standard productivity suite for both platforms.
Classroom of the future
My campus’s wishlist includes an LCD projector (the districthas settled on midpriced Epsons), aSmart Board, and a wireless microphonesystem for teachers (Lightspeed Technologies). We have contracts with Unitedstreaming and the DiscoveryChannel ( to use their content forinstructional purposes.
Ring in with your answers
Students in our school interact with lesson material viaSmart AirLiner tablets that connect through Bluetooth wireless with the Smart Board, up to threetablets at a time. We also are purchasing ResponseCard keypads and receivers thatallow the students to choose which answer they most agreewith; the results display instantly on the teacher’s laptop.Also, by using iPods, a digital camera, anApple camera connector, and an XtremeMac MicroMemo voice recorder, students can createpresentations in any subject area.
Vantage’s artificial intelligence
Our district is using Vantage Learning’s My Access! software. The product provides anartificial-intelligence grading system that responds to students’prompt-writing.
A side order of grades, please!
With Easy Grade Pro (, a standard computergrading program, and the Basmati filtering system(, we are able to post grades onthe Internet and import the grades directly into the studentinformation system for report cards.

To submit your own Wishlist/Shortlist, email [email protected].

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.