This year, my district in Lawrence, Mass., has made a huge effort to supply our teachers with the tools that will not only make their lives easier but their teaching more dynamic. That’s right—we’ve finally purchased interactive whiteboard equipment. The equipment of choice for our large inner-city school district was offered by Mimio, which we chose for many reasons. Many schools within our district are old buildings as are the classrooms they house, so we had to find a solution that best fit our needs. Our goal was to give as many teachers as much equipment as possible with minimal retrofitting. Due to the high expense of rewiring classrooms and the mounting of equipment, we found it best to go with Mimio.
You see, Mimio allows you to attach the interactive equipment right to existing hardware. Most of our schools already had a lot of whiteboards, open wall space or places where inexpensive new whiteboards could be easily hung. Because we did not need to purchase expensive whiteboard equipment, Mimio allowed us to attach an interactive bar directly to existing whiteboards or wall space and project from a cart within the room. This cart acts as a storage space where all of the equipment can easily be packed up and stored each night. The equipment easily sets up every day and, thanks to the money we were able to save by going with Mimio, we were able to supply every teacher with a document camera from Mimio and a tablet that allows them to interact with their board from anywhere within their classroom.
Besides all of this equipment, we were also able to supply each school with a few student response systems as well. All of this hardware is Mimio-produced and integrates nicely with their studio software. The Teach Bar, View, Tablet and Vote system all interact or can be used separately.
But we didn’t stop there. Every teacher within the district has access to Power Teacher within their classroom. They’re able to access all data related to their students instantaneously, add in grades and share with other staff and parents simultaneously. Thanks to Power School and its Power Teacher App, teachers are now starting to bring in their own iPads and they are accessing Power Teacher through the new free iPad app.
The project-based lessons they are creating use resources provided through Discovery Education and the treasure trove of resources offered on that site. They are downloading video, audio, articles, lessons, activities and much more from the site. They are sharing the resources through online interactive websites where students can display their learning through sites such as Glogster EDU or Prezi. They are creating interactive stories through sites such as GoAnimate, Storybird, or even ZimmerTwins.
We are using websites such as Compass Learning’s Odyssey Math to help better address the needs of all of our students. We track how they are doing, what they know and what they still need to learn through the use of NWEA testing. That testing is then instantaneously within 24-48 hours aligned to the lessons they will see in their customized learning plan set up for them through Compass Learning. All lessons in Odyssey are aligned to their results on their MAP testing.
While they are in the lab setting, we are able to monitor, assist and teach all students all from the teacher work station thanks to the use of Faronic’s Insight Teacher. Teachers and students are surfing the Internet in safe, controlled searches thanks to Nettrekker, a search engine. Nettrekker is also supplying the teacher with a readability level of every website listed in a search in an effort to differentiate instruction for each and every student’s needs.
Thanks to the use of our new Student Response Systems supplied to us through the Mimio Vote system—teachers are performing on-the-spot formative assessments that they can later export from the Mimio Vote Grade Book and import into Pearson’s Power Teacher Grade Book. They are creating their own test questions, downloading others created by other teachers who have shared their lessons on Mimio Connect, or are testing directly on the Internet as they review past state tests posted on our Department of Elementary and Secondary Schools website.
Students are sharing work and collaborating together through the use of the document camera, but now they are doing so much more. They are video conferencing, and taking virtual field trips thanks to the built in webcam that the document camera now supplies.
The classrooms have come alive and students are engaged. The lessons are dynamic and the teaching and learning is real and authentic. Students are engaged, and this is making teaching all that much easier.
The situation is not the best. There are only a few computers per classroom and the computer lab is often booked, but the dynamic of learning in our schools is changing.
Resources such as Scholastic’s Read180, FastMath and System 44 are helping our students get over the hump. NWEAs Map Test allows us to have data to track student growth and use that data to inform us on how we can reach the individual needs of all of our students. The options are now endless and the learning is limitless.
I really can’t wait to see how all of this technology will change learning and teaching for the better in Lawrence, Mass. My students and their teacher will be that much more thankful for the technology that has made their day so much more engaging.
Greg Limperis, now Supervisor of Instructional Technology for his district, was recently the Middle School Technology Facilitator in Lawrence, Mass., and founded the very popular Technology Integration in Education professional learning network, reaching thousands of educators worldwide. He has shared with others what he knows and they have joined him in sharing their insights as well. Join them in bringing about change using your 21st century skills.