These technologies can enable educators to improve communications, enhance student learning, controls costs, manage Internet access in the classroom, and more.
There are many systems and tools available in today's marketplace that can help administrators and faculty to succeed with some of the many things they need to do in their roles. Some of the technologies I've listed below are “back office” tech (not really visible to the end user), and some directly impact teachers, students, and/or parents, but both administrators and teachers alike will recognize the potential for these technologies to help them be more efficient and more effective in their day to day operations.
1. Classroom Management applications: If you don't already have this type of software for your computer labs, then you're either hearing frequent requests like “we want to be able to shut off Internet access, how can we do it?” or you've probably limited Internet access so much that you're hearing a lot of griping about it. You can provide instructors with extensive control over classroom Internet access, and a wide range of additional functionality (at a pretty affordable price) with tools like NetSupport School. Classroom Management applications also let the instructors see what each student is doing on their computers, share their desktops with everyone, and much more. (Note that these applications are primarily intended for managing computers on hard-wired connections – applications for managing wireless connections may be limited, based on how the wireless connectivity is managed).
2. Lecture Capture: This is one technology that I think has really only just begun (oops – sorry if you get that corny song stuck in your head now!) to be leveraged. Teachers can record their lectures with very little effort, and those lectures can then be available to students to replay to review complex concepts, or for students who couldn't attend class. If the first thought you have is that this will increase absences, there is a growing body of evidence that this is simply not the case. The only thing holding many institutions back from leveraging this technology is lack of awareness, and costs, but awareness is growing and costs are coming down, so the use of Lecture Capture will continue to expand. Click here to learn more about Lecture Capture applications like Tegrity, Panopto, and others.
3. Parent Portals: This is a favorite of mine. The school district I live in rolled out a SchoolTool parent portal this year. We can now see our all of our kid's schedules, teacher contacts, end of term grades, state assessment results from previous years, and more, and this information will remain accessible for the life of the Portal. The quality and quantity of information being provided to parents here will continue to expand as teachers and administrators become more familiar with the available functionality. Parent Portals should be requisite for K-12 school districts everywhere, and I have no doubt that it won't be too long before it is the norm, rather than the exception, for schools to have them. Click here to learn more.
4. SaaS (Software-as-a-Service): The number of applications that are available in a web-based, hosted environment continues to explode, and this technology is becoming more mature every day. Business is continuously moving more and more functionality “to the cloud”, and education is following suit. This is not just a buzz word or the latest fad, it is a proven way to ease the support burden on your IT staff, improve availability and scalability, control costs, and enhance business continuity preparedness.
When SaaS is done right, it offers a wide range of benefits. Just be sure you understand a vendor's Service Level Agreements, and their track record at meeting them, before signing on (that is if you are looking at an enterprise app or other costly tool – for freebies like Google Docs, just dive in and check 'em out!). This is a subject worthy of a feature post, and I'll be writing more about it soon.
5. Skype: This free application makes it easy to connect (using webcams, or just audio) over the Internet. Free video conferencing capability can really extend the reach of administrators, teachers, and students. Skype is one of the most popular Web 2.0 tools being requested and used in the school where I work. We’ve used Skype to enable home-bound students to offer presentations, to bring guest lecturers and other guests into the classroom, and we’re considering using it for online application interviews, remote advising and counseling, and to let people on campus connect when they can’t abandon their posts. Other schools have used it many different ways – one of the most common ways cited is to establish a connection between their students and students across the country or across the world, classroom to classroom. The potential applications for Skype are limited only by your imagination!
Well, that's my list of 5 essential technologies for education administrators to be aware of and informed about. I'm sure you may have some others to add to this list, so feel free to comment with your suggestions, or observations about the above tools. We'd love to hear what you have to add to the conversation! Thanks.