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General Chat Thread, An embarrassment of riches: Help me design the ideal classroom in General; I apologize if this is improperly located. I did not really know where to post this as it is somewhat ...
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    Blind's Avatar
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    An embarrassment of riches: Help me design the ideal classroom

    I apologize if this is improperly located. I did not really know where to post this as it is somewhat all encompassing and too broad to shoehorn into the more specific forum categories.

    I'm at a private school that was just given a large donation, but it must be spent in our world languages (read Spanish and Chinese) department. Our school president has asked me to dream up an ideal classroom chockfull of technological nirvana so they can decide how to modernize the rooms. I'm used to putting things together with shoestrings and duct tape and my foreign language skills are non existent.

    I've already hit on the usual smartboard and document camera type stuff, but I was looking for more diverse ideas. Hardware, software, doodads, and thingamabobs. Specific to schools, language or not. I'm just looking for more ideas than my pea sized brain can dream up.

    I'm in the wrong side of the pond, so if you have links to the North American version of the products it would be beneficial.

    Please share your dreams and link the toys.

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blind View Post
    Our school president has asked me to dream up an ideal classroom chockfull of technological nirvana so they can decide how to modernize the rooms.
    There are several companies that'll cheerfully flog you a whole "language lab" for a price. I've heard good things about the Rosetta Stone software, that might be worth a look.

    It might be an idea to design the layout so there's room to teach a class (or two) plus have a "drop-in" section for any pupils with free periods (don't know what your school timetable is like, obviously) or for use at lunchtimes and so on. Make sure the machines can only run whatever language software you choose, mind, or the children will be in playing games the whole time.

    It's always worth spending money on decent headphones - ones with coiled cables might last longer than ones with straight cables. If money really isn't an object then you could look at products that produce a sound "cocoon" or "envelope", where the user sat at the machine can hear a sound but those further away can't.

    You could also look at hooking up a wide-angle webcam to a large-screen display (a front-of-class projector or large LCD screen) and a decent array microphone, then video conferencing with a school in the country that you're aiming to speak the language of. Depending on how the money can be spent, it might be worth picking a school in said country and setting them up with a similar webcam, screen and microphone (actually very doable for probably around $3,000 for equipment, then you just need to sort out an Internet connection).

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    Second the decent headphones - it's probably worth paying more especially if you have the cash to do it with! I find myself frequently replacing ours, which are pretty flimsy. Presumably also decent microphones - though whether they'd be better integrated with the headphones I'm not sure.

    Depending on the usage of the room, it may be a good idea to arrange it so the whiteboard/smartboard is visible from each workstation. One of the criticisms of some of our rooms is that in order for the class as a whole to get a good view of the board, they need to leave the computers and come and sit around at the front.

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    I'll come back later when I'm back at work. My main area of work IS a language lab. Look at Sanako; over here they do provide fairly robust headphones that are totally repairable (if you have the time!).

    The two things I wouldn't allow anyone to deny me next time are air-con (in the 'States that may be a given); and a separate power circuit for the student monitors. I'd have two switches at the teacher's desk, one for the PCs and a separate one for the monitors.
    Kids in, tell them to log-on, kill the monitors until teacher is ready for them to start using them.

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew_C View Post
    a separate power circuit for the student monitors.
    Excellent idea, that. I did once work in a school where the power tripped out if all the pupils turned their monitors back on the same time (old CRTs, mind), so check your power supply can handle a bit of a sudden surge.

    I find that our children will cheerfully sit and chew headphone microphones to bits. Might be worth getting decent desk stand mounted microphones, probably USB ones for decent sound quality.

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    These desks are really neat

    Multi-Purpose ICT Desks, School IT Desks, Classroom Educational Furniture, ICT Furniture

    Altho there are some issues with how the mice and keyboards are wires, so that you basicly have to dismantle the whole back to replace one.

    however they are good in that they remotely lock and open, so if PC's are not needed the screens stay down and are locked, when they are needed the teacher presses a button and the screens rise up.

    Pretty neat

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew_C View Post
    I'd have two switches at the teacher's desk, one for the PCs and a separate one for the monitors.
    Kids in, tell them to log-on, kill the monitors until teacher is ready for them to start using them.
    Wouldn't a software solution like Tutor's attention screen be better? You just know someone will swap the plugs over and you'll end up turning off computers.

    As for gadgets if you are getting a smartboard how about an AirLiner? Basically a bluetooth graphics tablet so students can interact without having to come up to the front.

    A set of those handheld voting devices for interactive quizzes and polls?

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    I always find schools I go to have those interactive quiz things, use them for a week, the novelty wears off and oops there they are at the back of the cupboard. Perhaps somehow mounting them to a desk or something might be more appealing but they are a hell of a faff to setup if a teacher does decide to use them for a lesson. Perhaps somehow marrying them up with a PC via USB and then having them sat in a 'mouse holder' type affair might provide a more immediate incentive to use the technology. (via USB to the PC purely so they're not easily stolen)

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    Quote Originally Posted by TechMonkey View Post
    Wouldn't a software solution like Tutor's attention screen be better? You just know someone will swap the plugs over and you'll end up turning off computers.
    Nah; we've got similar. The teachers don't want to learn how to use it.

    Our sockets are in boxes built into the desks to hide the cables, they can't get at them.

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    We are looking into using Podcasting and streaming media to support our MFL teaching, with kids/staff producing resources; so might be worth looking at a decent camera/video capture hardware and software combo to support this ?

    Also getting increasingly media rich applications appearing and a box with decent storage to act as a media server - we are playing with Windows Media Server, a free add on for Windows Server to do media streaming on our network and it seems to do a good job although I'm sure there are equivalents for *nix just as good or better. Just a thought.

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    Get some decent video conferencing equipment. Via Video kit is exceptionally good.

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    Quote Originally Posted by apoth0r View Post
    I always find schools I go to have those interactive quiz things, use them for a week, the novelty wears off and oops there they are at the back of the cupboard. Perhaps somehow mounting them to a desk or something might be more appealing but they are a hell of a faff to setup if a teacher does decide to use them for a lesson. Perhaps somehow marrying them up with a PC via USB and then having them sat in a 'mouse holder' type affair might provide a more immediate incentive to use the technology. (via USB to the PC purely so they're not easily stolen)
    The voting systems are worth persevering with. We use Qwizdoms which work through Powerpoint. Initially they were bought for the information provided in the mark sheets on Excel, but the children's response is terrific, when they come into a class and see the Qwizdom bag out - they are really enthused. Another plus is the way that they require precision from the children, when the 'change answer' option is switched off,children have to check what is on their screen is what they want to send. The systems with text input give a much greater range for testing what children have learnt. They are also good for start and end of unit testing, to see what has been learnt. Finally, no marking at the end of a test, its all on the computer!

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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    It's always worth spending money on decent headphones - ones with coiled cables might last longer than ones with straight cables. If money really isn't an object then you could look at products that produce a sound "cocoon" or "envelope", where the user sat at the machine can hear a sound but those further away can't.
    We've had the kids buy thier own headphones.. my understanding was that its not good pratice for people to share them with each other.

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kylewilliamson View Post
    We've had the kids buy thier own headphones.. my understanding was that its not good pratice for people to share them with each other.
    Yes, I've tried to convince people several times that children buying their own headphones is the best solution, but it's never really taken off for some reason. You do need to remember to provide nice easy-to-access front-mounted headphone ports, too.

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