Educational technology and software are essential to the modern classroom. The rapid adoption of intelligent, streamlined software has been a boon to educators and administrators – and students have welcomed it as well. In short, there are no losers with educational technology, which is why there’s never been more software options to choose from. There’s so many, in fact, that it’s tough for educators and their IT personnel to get started piecing together an effective software and technology suite. Fortunately, there are experts out there that can provide insight into different parts of the educational technology market.
A/V Integrators Can Help Determine the Best Option
Teachers are expected to do more than ever. Classrooms that keeps growing and rigorous testing standards mean educators need every bit of aid they can get. Technology to the rescue, as it can engage students like nothing else. Today’s students, after all, have never known a world without the ubiquitous glow of technology, and they welcome all forms of it. And not only that, but students are also quick to understand and fully utilize it, so an investment in educational software can have long-term and immediate benefits.
But what educational technology and software is out there, and is free or paid for software the better choice? Let’s start with the first question because there is a lot of software out there. It’s impossible to classify it all, but this is what a high level view of the educational software industry looks like:
1. Courseware – A portmanteau of coursework and software, courseware is, by far, the most common type of educational software available. Courseware has been around as long as computer labs have been set aside for student use. They include any software that is designed to instruct the student, and can come in the form of a teacher kit or a tutorial for students. So, both kindergarten art programs and companion software linked to a physics lab course are considered courseware, by this definition.
Courseware has been improved and expanded upon profoundly in just a couple decades, and some courseware can teach entire subjects with excellent precision. The idea of what courseware could be has also been stretched, as it now includes software delivered online.
But when software development companies refer to courseware, they are often describing a single course (of any subject) bundled with assessment materials and supplemental lessons.
No matter the definition, though, courseware is the backbone of any educator’s software suite.
2. Assessment software – In an effort to reduce paper waste and the logistical nightmares that come with printing out reams of tests, assessment software has become a focus for school districts. Assessment software is simple, as it is only designed to deliver tests or quizzes, record answers and score the result. Assessment software is also in widespread use among teachers, as it is a low effort way to track student grades over the course of a school year.
Because assessment software is simple in principle, there are many open-source and free options available to educators, so this isn’t an area where heavy investment is usually needed.
3. Reference software – Reference software has gone completely online, and there are few examples of school districts still using proprietary pieces of software for reference purposes. This marks an extremely rapid change, as school computers were loaded up with dictionary and encyclopedia software as recent as the early 2000s. That’s no longer the case, as sites like Wikipedia have made such software obsolete. And in addition to general research sites like Wikipedia, Google Scholar and Lexis, most medical and science journals now publish online. The web offers a far greater compendium of knowledge than any one piece of reference software could match.
4. Classroom aids – The market for classroom aid technology and software has exploded in recent years, and represents one of the most promising approaches to the classroom of the future.
Classroom aids include impressive audio and visual technology, blending the best of A/V and courseware to create a much more engaging sum. Classroom aids started with well-worn and increasingly archaic technology like the overhead projector, and soon developed into improved digital displays and eventually interactive projectors and whiteboards.
Interactive whiteboards are the current standard in classroom aid technology, and have enjoyed enormously high adoption rates in Europe. The U.S. is quickly catching up, though, and the trend is only accelerating. There are a few interactive whiteboard models on the market, but only the SMARTBoard and Clevertouch are ideal for educational purposes.
The Clevertouch is a fine example of what interactive whiteboards can do in the classroom. Each one comes with an intuitive interface (called LUX) that is modeled after the interface found on Android devices. Students, therefore, are quick studies when it comes to the Clevertouch. With the Clevertouch, teachers can build lessons using graphic and media assets, reducing lesson creation time greatly. Teachers can also model math and physics principles using Clevermaths and turn the Clevertouch into a multi-zone lesson delivery device with Snowflake. This, along with the Clevertouch’s extensive device connectivity capabilities, allows for true multi-user collaboration between students.
And classroom aid technology comes with proprietary software designed to improve the technology’s function. Again, the Clevertouch is a strong example of how this merge of hardware and software can pay massive dividends for educators. Through the Clevertouch, educators can access the Cleverstore, which isn’t so much a store as it is a massive bank of educational applications. All in-app purchases have been removed and all content unlocked, so the Clevertouch can be augmented in a major way with smart use of the Cleverstore.
Clearly, technology plays a major role in the modern classroom, and the educational software industry has opened up so much that there are low cost, even free, software options that can provide a lot of lesson horsepower. One of the best software releases in recent years is Duolingo, an online language teaching site, complete with extensive gamification to keep students interested. And it’s completely free.
Of course, software like Duolingo is usually the exception, and if a school district doesn’t have the time or people in-house to find free alternatives to quality paid software, then paying may be the only option. However, the use of classroom aids like the Clevertouch can take care of many software needs at once, making it a happy middle ground, and highly cost-effective solution.
There is a technology solution out there for every educational institution, from elementary schools to top tier universities. And with the help of an A/V integrator, every educational institution can find their ideal solution, whether paid or free.
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