Gene Osborn, Assistant Director for Technology Integration, Albemarle County Public Schools
“We want all teachers to be able to walk into all learning spaces and deliver instruction with high-quality displays, high-quality speakers and advanced functionality,” he says.
While some students still lack connectivity at home, once they are in classrooms with a variety of modern audiovisual devices, they get a chance to use technology that expands their learning.
Childress Independent School District has made a big commitment to providing effective learning tools for its 1,000 students. Every teacher in the Texas district’s three schools can opt to have a Promethean ActivPanel in his or her classroom, and most of them do, says Sarah Mills, the district’s curriculum and federal programs director. While they don’t have formal metrics for student engagement, classroom reports support their value.
Mills says the digital whiteboards promote equity by enhancing the learning experience of all students, regardless of ability or special needs.
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“Anytime you have a student able to interact with whatever they’re working on, it’s going to improve that student’s success incrementally,” she says. “When a special education student, for example, is able to manipulate the materials in a lesson, it’s going to be a more concrete learning experience, and they will retain it better. For any population of students, being able to engage with material in a concrete way solidifies the learning.”
Mills adds that the boards also boost student involvement at every grade level. “In biology, for example, the students get a chance to manipulate a cell, not just see a picture,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what age they are; whenever students are allowed to come up and mess with technology, it gets their attention.”
Modern Technology Supports Good Instruction
For all the misery and learning disruption it caused, the pandemic succeeded in pushing New Bedford Public Schools toward greater use of educational technology, says Robert Tetreault, the Massachusetts district’s CTO.
Last summer, NBPS made a $1.2 million investment in upgraded networks and devices, including new interactive flat panels for its three middle schools.
“Good instruction is what matters most, but we’re doing all we can at the district level to provide the latest technology to help improve engagement and enhance the achievement levels of our kids,” says Tetreault, whose district serves approximately 13,000 students in 25 schools.
NBPS plans to roll out interactive panels to its elementary schools as well. The high schools are equipped with relatively new short-throw projectors, but those will be upgraded to interactive panels when they reach end of life.
Key considerations in selecting modern audiovisual tools, besides their presentation and interactive capabilities, are ease of use and maintenance, connectivity options and technology life span, Tetreault says. Modern AV tools should be chosen to meet teachers’ needs, so it’s important to consult with them on purchases and provide them with training and support, he says.
“PD for teachers is really important so that they feel comfortable with the technologies and get all they can from the tools,” he says. “If the teachers can’t engage with the technology, they can’t engage the students.”
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