These technologies can enable educators to improve communications, enhance student learning, controls costs, manage Internet access in the classroom, and more.
There areÂ many systems and toolsÂ available in today's marketplace that can help administrators and faculty to succeed withÂ some of the many things they need to do in their roles. Some of the technologies I've listed below are “back office” tech (notÂ reallyÂ visible to the end user), and some directly impact teachers, students, and/or parents, but both administrators and teachers alike will recognizeÂ the potential for these technologies to help them beÂ 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 forÂ your computer labs, then you're either hearing frequent requests like “we want to be able to shut off Internet access, how can weÂ do it?” orÂ you'veÂ probablyÂ limited Internet access so much thatÂ 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 likeÂ NetSupport School. Classroom ManagementÂ applications also let the instructorsÂ see what each student is doing on theirÂ computers, share theirÂ desktops with everyone,Â andÂ 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 getÂ that corny song stuck in your headÂ 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, andÂ others.
3. Parent Portals: This is a favorite of mine. The school district I live inÂ rolled out aÂ SchoolToolÂ parent portal this year.Â 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. TheÂ quality and quantity of informationÂ being provided to parentsÂ here will continue to expand as teachers and administrators become more familiar with the available functionality. Parent PortalsÂ should be requisite forÂ 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 aÂ web-based, hosted environment continues to explode, and this technology is becoming more mature every day. Business isÂ 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 provenÂ way to ease the support burden on your IT staff, improve availability and scalability, control costs,Â and enhance business continuityÂ preparedness.
When SaaS is done right, it offers a wide range of benefits. Just be sure you understand a vendor's Service Level Agreements, andÂ their track record atÂ meeting them, before signing on (that is if you are looking at an enterprise app or other costly toolÂ – 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:Â This free application makes it easy to connectÂ (using webcams, or just audio) over the Internet.Â Free video conferencing capability can really extend the reach ofÂ administrators, teachers, and students.Â Skype is one of the most popularÂ Web 2.0 tools being requested and used in the school where I work.Â Weâ€™ve used Skype to enable home-bound students to offer presentations,Â to bring guest lecturers and other guestsÂ into the classroom, and weâ€™re considering using it for online application interviews, remote advising and counseling, and to let people on campus connect when they canâ€™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 andÂ 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.