This past weekend I was lucky enough to be able to attend the NCSS Conference in Washington DC with this Middle School History Department. To the left you'll see a picture of Brian, Will and Chuck on the steps of the Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery. Why would a technology specialist go out to a social studies conference you might be wondering? My goal was to soak up as much information about educational technology applications in a different curriculum area. The conference was quite loaded with presentations and vendors dealing with educational technology. Below are a few thoughts and reflections on the experience.
Using Handhelds in the Social Studies Classroom
This was the first session that I attended at this year's NCSS in Washington DC. It also happens to be the best and most useful session. The presenter (I'm pictured here with the presenter-the photo was taken with the camera feature on a Zire Palm Pilot) is a technology specialist and researcher from Kent State University. He runs a technology lab where students from area schools attend for six week sessions. Upon completion of the six week sessions, they measure the impact of the technology on student achievement. His NCSS presentation focused exclusively on handheld computing devices, which he defines as a personal computing device that can be held in one hand easily. This includes devices such as PDAs, the new generation of iPods, mobile gaming devices (eg: Sony's PSP), wireless graphing calculators, multifunction cell phones, etc. All of these devices share the traits of having a small footprint and a high degree of mobility. To a certain extent, because they are so small they often times are barely noticed when in use with a classroom full of students.
The presenter made a strong case for the use of handhelds in the classroom environment. First and foremost, handhelds provide immediate access to a variety of tools in one small device at any place and at any time. They make it easier to achieve a 1:1 computing environment, offer excellent potential for collaboration, and easily allow for differentiated instruction to take place.
We also talked a little bit about how handhelds will affect the future of educational computing Because these devices are so affordable and many students have them, he suggested that schools in the future will provide fewer and fewer desktop/laptop computers for students to use. Instead, the schools will provide the connectivity for these devices. This is something that I completely agree with...why should schools continue to provide expensive desktop computers and network storage solutions when students can use an inexpensive handheld computing device to do the same kinds of tasks? This presentation actually ties in nicely to what we’re talking about doing with public WiFi here at USM in the future. Because student owned handheld personal computing devices will have an impact on future technology use here at USM, I think it is wise that we’re taking a look at the benefits of installing our own public WiFi system.
Presenter Information: Marck van ‘t Hooft, Ph. D.
Technology Specialist Researcher
Research Center for Educational Technology
firstname.lastname@example.org – http://www.rcet.org/
I spent a fair amount of time perusing the vendor booths in the exhibit halls. The online textbooks from Holt, Rinehart and Winston were extremely cool. The online version of the textbook is identical to the print version but has a host of cool features-interactive maps and images (the D-Day landing interactive map was super cool) and digital annotation and highlighting capabilities. Online texts have a nice advantage for students and teachers...they can't be lost and they don't add weight to a backpack. This kind of technology for textbooks will certainly become more prevalent in our classrooms in the not-too-distant future.
Will and I attended the National Geo Bee hosted by Alex Trebek. Several social studies teachers from around the country were called up to compete in the Geo Bee. This was something that was neat to see.
Brian and I attended a talk be Herman Viola and his good friend and brother, Chief Joseph Medicine Crow. A distinguished Crow historian, warrior, and World War II hero, Chief Joseph Medicine Crow spent the better part of an hour sharing stories from his life experiences. It was astounding to hear this talk-he is is a 93 year old man with a compelling life history full of anecdotes and life lessons.
Monuments and Museums:
We spent a little time working our way around the DC area to view some of the historical sites and museums. We did night tours of the WWII, Viet Nam, and Koren War Memorials and we also visited the Lincoln Monument. We had a chance to take some photos on the steps of the Capitol building at night as well. On Sunday prior to our flight we visited the Civil War battlefield at Fredericksburg, the new Marine Corps Museum in Quantico and ended our trip by touring Arlington National Cemetary. The photo you see above was taken in the Union cemetary where the battle at Fredericksburg took place.