Tag Archives: Hardware

Rethinking Touchscreens


Bacterial colonies on a computer keyboard.

The local school district does not include any touchscreen PC’s on its approved technology list.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been considering the possibility of including them due to the habits of incoming kindergarteners.

After seeing how well the students have done with creating regular polygons with a mouse, I’m not sure at this point that it’s necessary.  If anything, I think that they just need more real estate on the monitors, or dual monitors.

I’ve been wanting my math students to be able to use a stylus with Khan Academy, but the old tech whiteboards and dry erase markers work just fine.

Besides that, I’ve always believed that the hardware and software are not the point of technology education. It’s the thinking.

I recently substituted for a teacher at another school who was using their Dell wireless projector to involve the students in the daily calendar activities.  The technology was slow and tricky, so I scrapped the tech and used the whiteboard for a fast and easy mini-lesson on skip counting.  The technology is not the point. It’s the thinking.

Banish the Bane of Bulletin Boards

BB’s: one of my least favorite teacher responsibilities.

I just never kept up with them, they get ripped and faded, and at the end of the year there’s a million staples that have to be pulled out.

So the wish list now includes four large panel LCD displays that would replace the bb’s with revolving or static images of lesson examples, instructions, student work, messages, etc.

New School / Old School Tech

An interesting development in Math 7 yesterday:

During the individual conference portion of daily class procedures, I had been showing students how to correctly solve problems they missed on paper.  I realized it would be more effective to have a white board back there in my mini-office area for demonstrations, but didn’t want to bring one of my own from home.

I asked the AA if the school had any not being used, and she directed me to a stack of mini-white boards in the workroom.

This is where the Aha! kicked in. I grabbed a stack of white boards, and gave them out to the students to demonstrate their answers to practice problems. Definitely Old School, and effective.

Interestingly, the white boards became communication tools for other things, which was welcome to me as this particular group has not been very engaged verbally during lessons.

Yesterday I remembered that there was a whole stack of white board paddles in the tech storage locker. They are small and reminded me of comment bubbles or chat room bubbles. I made them available to the students, and they quickly became useful for short Q’s and A’s that didn’t need to interrupt the whole class. The drawback became obvious that the conversations needed faster responses than I could write/erase/write.

Today, I’m going to give the students three paddles, so they can have a Y for Yes, an N for No, and a third one for other communication.

In addition, I’ve made an Old School desktop with PowerPoint, with sounds assigned to different objects. I’ll figure out what the sounds represent, and further enliven the New School/Old School environment.

New School/Old School Desktop Communication System. Sound assigned to objects and displayed on secondary monitor.

Time to Upgrade the Computer Lab


This is the first year I’ve had kindergarten students coming to the computer lab who are touching the monitor, trying to follow my directions.  We don’t have touch-screen monitors in the lab, so I’m assuming that they are bringing this behavior from their experience with the technology they have at home.

Modifications I’d like to see to the concepts shown above:

  • Computer lab tables would have a hollow, single center-pedestal leg to house electrical/network wiring and allow free movement around the table without tripping on wires and corner legs.
  • Screen surface skin customizable to create different tactile conditions, such as paper, so user can experience the friction of a pen or pencil on the surface when using a stylus.
  • Screen surface skin able to produce an elevated keyboard with clear differentiation between the keys, and keyboards of different sizes to match the size of the user’s hands. This last feature would be especially appreciated by my kindergarten students.
  • Screen can be split into sections, and the sections can be rotated.
  • Configurable key labels, whether upper/lowercase, or language.  My kindergarten students are initially confused by seeing all uppercase letters, then lowercase letters on the login screen as they enter their username.
  • Connection between adjacent desktops, so a document on one can be cloned and swooshed over to the next, with the option of sharing the file with anybody/everybody in the lab
  • Instructor’s workstation would be able to see the entire lab at once as well as zooming into any combination of the individual desktops.
  • Instructor’s workstation can display on all workstations at once
  • Workstations can run multiple operating systems simultaneously.
Computer lab table: tactile surface, divisible.
Computer lab table: tactile surface, divisible. Click for larger image.