Exception to the Rule

Posted by James Scoolis on February 28, 2010

How does technology get adopted in the classroom?  Typically, of course, it doesn’t.

What usually occurs is  some early adopters take on the newest ideas while the bulk of teachers continue to do what they mostly have always done.  It took many years for simple email even to become a common daily tool for educators.

Yet, I am here to tell you I’ve seen this pattern broken; document cameras are an exception to the rule.

In a focused two-year effort, we provided every upper grade classroom at my school with a document camera, ceiling-mounted LCD projector, and a networked computer.  With the document camera leading the charge, this techno-trinity instantly transformed teaching in just about every subject area.

Every teacher has  integrated these tools into daily teaching.  I have seen a cow’s heart dissected on screen, student writing edited interactively by large and small groups, interactive read aloud made easy with text posted for all to see, highlighting to model thinking out loud, note taking modeled in content areas, whole group brainstorming, predictive thinking with graphic organizers, and real-time completion of a cloze reading passage with students working in cooperative groups.

Basically, all of this came about with the addition of three new tools and a forty minute in-service for teachers on how to use their new cameras and projectors.

Why has this happened?  Primarily, I think it’s because the combination of the document camera and projector simply represents a big improvement on what has been a mainstay in our classrooms for five decades—the stalwart overhead projector.   In that sense, these tools represent what Tom Carroll has called “transitional” technology; they afford teachers a way to do the “same thing” in a different and better way.

Money came from three basic sources: our parent teacher association, the federal EETT grant and our own school budget.  The installation took place in waves.  Finally, like the U.S. Army who introduced them to us, we’ve retired our World War II projectors.  And there are cost savings as well.  We’ve seen a reduction in the sheer number of paper copies being made and, perhaps best of all, no more calling the photocopy repair person to extract yet another mangled transparency from the bowels of the copy machine!

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James Scoolis

James Scoolis, Ed.D., is principal of Monarch Grove Elementary School
in Los Osos, California and a member of the TICAL cadre.

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