stored so they can
deliver it anytime. We
use Google Docs for
documentation transmission, syllabuses,
Continued from page 10
You can write a
paper on a phone
now, you can use
on a phone now. . . . It’s an
interesting and exciting time
to be doing what we’re doing.
how do you ensure
that these traveling
students get the
experience? I think
video and teleconferencing makes all the
say] 80% to 90% of a
message is conveyed
through facial expression, and the LifeSize
that — much more
than just audio. And
all our teachers use
whiteboards to transfer complex concepts
using drawings, and
that’s something that
an audio or an email
may not deliver as
well as a video.
does the work you do
to support students
on the road influence
the types of tech-
nologies you deploy
at your school’s
main campus? Absolutely. We’re at the end of our life
cycles with pretty much all our technology, but my
current plan is to host the website here and host all of
our documentation. We’re currently using software
as a service for our school management, but it’s a
failed experiment as far as I’m concerned — it’s just
not working out. So I’m bringing everything here but
making everything available on the Internet. My plan
is to make this accessible from anywhere in the world.
how will you achieve that? A few different ways.
We’ll have a server here, most likely Microsoft. We’re
looking into SharePoint, and we’re experimenting
with Moodle, free Web-based software, where the
entire curriculum is laid out and all documentation
and assignments are run through there. So it’s kind
of a curriculum manager, and since it’s a Web-based
product, kids could be anywhere and use it. One of my
other ideas is to use smartphones for more educational
purposes. You can write a paper on a phone now, you
can use a spreadsheet on a phone now or create a
presentation on a phone. It changes whether we need a
computer lab or students need a laptop. It’s an interesting and exciting time to be doing what we’re doing.
There are ways to get the phone to interact with software to answer surveys, so teachers can get students
to answer questions and then the teachers can see the
results on a graph. My thought is that there are ways to
compress LifeSize videos so they could watch them on
the phone, and that wouldn’t even require an Internet
connection. And the phones could access Moodle,
which would have all their documentation and lecture
notes. That’s the direction I want to go.
how do students respond to the technology you use
to support their learning? Some of them think it’s
really cool, and some of them think it’s expected.
They grew up in an age when this stuff is normal,
and using this sort of technology to get whatever they
want when they want is very common. It’s a far cry
from trying to tell a teacher who has been here for
30 years to embrace this new technology. It’s scary to
them, but it’s not scary to a teenager.
what advice do you have for the companies that
will hire today’s students in the next decade or so?
Because they are exposed to this technology so early
and so consistently in their lives, they’re going to be
quite prepared for the future. But my main concern
is that [students] know the process that came to
create some of these software solutions. I think what
can happen in today’s world is not knowing why
something is — what’s the guts behind something, or
knowing basic math without having to use a calculator, knowing the rules of grammar not because Word
corrected it for you but because you just know it.
You have a dual title of director of technology and
director of music. does your work in one field influence your work in the other? Certainly, the technology background makes it so I’m savvy with a lot of
digital recording, which I do share with the students.
And [music] is a brand-new program, which is part
of why they hired me. The music does influence the
technology part, because reading music is an abstract
skill. Taking written notes and making a physical
animation of sound — it’s a language of its own. It
coincides with abstract ideas in technology.
which student demands most influence your i T
operations and choices? That comes down to social
networking primarily. They’re mostly concerned
with You Tube and Facebook. Should our connection
go down, that would get them fired up a little bit.
But thank goodness I know what I’m doing, so that
doesn’t happen too often.
— Interview by Computerworld contributing writer
mary K. pratt ( firstname.lastname@example.org)