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The True Cost of the Modern Classroom

In the vast EdTech landscape, you will find many definitions for what a ‘Modern Classroom’ should be. Some are focused around a specific technology, some are focused around the actual space and furniture, while the good ones recognize a combination of space, technology, and teaching methods. Do our education institutions know what to expect from a Modern Classroom? Sure! Many have already defined their own interpretation of a modern classroom through success plans or visions for instructional excellence that include: driving better learning outcomes, fostering 21st Century learning skills, increasing graduation rates and employability, and encouraging collaboration and creativity.

But really, when we use the term ‘modern’ most of us are considering ‘present-day.’ So let’s review the technology of today’s classroom that would be the envy of any school administrator:

Can this be your classroom? Wow, that would be great! However, what are the approximate costs of a setup like this?

Is that all?

Initially, $5900 doesn’t seem that bad. However, that figure does not account for significant but necessary costs involved in cabling, wiring and infrastructure, programming for controllers, professional development for specialized software, dongles and power cords that inevitably get lost every year, and maintenance and support for all these devices year over year. Factor in those costs and the true cost can jump to double or even more of the original cost of the equipment.

The Star Trek Model

Gene Roddenberry envisioned a single device that accomplished everything the Enterprise crew needed. When the doctor walked into the sick bay, he had one tricorder that scanned patients, gathered data, and then displayed results at the push of a button. A single device that served multiple purposes. Today we carry devices that have more computing power than it took to launch the first Space Shuttle, yet we still walk into a classroom equipped with multiple devices, all connected by cables and wires, and manned by a battle-station at the front of the room that prohibits teachers from reaching students where they are. How do we create a thoughtfully designed and modern classroom that includes pedagogy, technology, and space – without the expense?

Here’s what it might look like:

By building a modern classroom with a single, powerful teacher device that utilizes app-free, enterprise-level wireless display, plus pen, wireless inking, touch displays, powerful dual cameras, and more, teachers can utilize 100% of their classroom and 100% of their mobile device. Their mobile device cameras morph into wireless document/video cameras, the active stylus becomes a walking digital whiteboard utilizing free tools like Microsoft Whiteboard and OneNote. Add a docking station, a keyboard, mouse and monitor and the teacher gets the comfort of a desktop, no media switcher needed – everything is accessed from one device. So now you’ve spent nearly half of what most people see as model modern classroom and get more functionality than all the other devices combined.

What about the other miscellaneous costs? Cable, wiring and infrastructure costs are slashed with wireless. ScreenBeam receivers include remote management software for cost effective deployment and management of receivers across classrooms and buildings. Never again have to replace lost dongles and cables after every summer break. No extra licenses or professional development for software on the IWB because the tools are included with your teacher’s Surface. Maintenance costs are slashed because you have narrowed each room down to three tools (two if you already have a projector or display).

Is this real?

Consider the dollars saved per each classroom and multiply that figure to account for all your classrooms and it’s easy to see the potential for savings six figures per school, and even millions on a district wide implementation plan. Additionally, some of these are fixed costs savings so a minor shift in your vision for a modern classroom (or school or district) can change the entire landscape. I purposely did not include student devices in this model because for most schools it’s not a budget viable option. However, by saving just $2000 per classroom (a low number in this model) within a 100 classroom high school, that’s easy math to show  $200,000 is now available to work towards a 1:1 implementation.

What is the true cost of the modern classroom?

The true costs are a loss of functionality, and a loss of instructional time by having to switch between multiple devices. Students get lost in the back of the classroom because the teacher is tethered to the front of the room. Losing the ability to use 100% of the classroom and even 100% of your computer.

School leaders are guiding this vision, but the real work happens at the classroom level. This elegant model for a modern classroom setup lets teachers teach, reach students where they are, and be a guide on the side instead of a sage on the stage when using technology. Wouldn’t you want more functionality with less upfront and long-term costs? Can you afford not to talk about it?

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