We put aside some money in our budget to fund innovation grants that teachers could apply for. Walking around money. Seed money. It was a nice sum and we should be able to make most of the people who applied pretty happy. There were two things in the nature of the applications that surprised us.
First, we came to the realization that using technology in the classroom seems a lot less innovative than it used to. Just as we have become accustomed to the relentless acceleration described in Moore's Law, we have also become accustomed to changing out the hardware and software we use at a predictable pace. Change is the new Same.
Smartboards, clickers, projectors, and tablets have been around for a while now. One-to-one laptop programs have come and gone with some successes and some expensive failures. And don't forget the prehistoric days of PalmPilots.
Second, there was not a single request for iPads or Kindles even though we maintain a stable of Kindles in the library, have piloted the use of Kindles in 11th grade English class, and have seeded the faculty with a dozen or so iPads.
So what did they request? Big bright visuals: wireless projectors and smartboards along with their accessories for the most part. Our teachers wanted large, reliable display devices connected to input devices that they could hand over to students. Not the worst impulse to have when you want to be innovative in the classroom.
Is there a general principal at work here? Perhaps this: avoid the bleeding edge of technology. Reliability and flexibility are prized by innovative teachers. They want something familiar, something already accepted into the educational community, something that will not distract them from creative teaching. New but not too new in a world where change is the new same.