Page 13 - THE Journal, June/July 2017
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Lewis: Generally cellphones aren’t an issue because all the kids have iPads and use
it every day and in every class. iPads do everything a cellphone would do.
We have a really good solution for that — that’s our learning environment; respect it. We have an acceptable use policy — you will not text in the classroom. Teachers have the right to inspect your device.
THE Journal: What are the advantages of Redcat and Flexcat audio devices?
Lewis: When you have an active learning environment, it can get kind of noisy. You can use the volume control on the microphone and be the voice of God, and be really loud. Or you can put it on normal, which is almost unnoticeable [amplification]. When teachers are facing a wall or not facing an audience, [students] are still able to hear.
I had parents of a student a couple years ago come to me and say, “My child, my son came to me and said, ‘For the first time I’ve been in school, I’m able to hear the teacher.’” It was not identified as a medical issue. He was not at the back of the class. He just couldn’t really hear.
The really neat part, too, is for music and chorus teachers — vocal and music — we put [out] the Flexcat pods and let the kids take those to the practice rooms. The teacher can listen in, see if the kids are on task and in tune. The student can buzz the teacher — it keeps them monitored and engaged.
It’s a huge change. It’s experiential, and students say, “I’m more engaged in learning than I’ve ever been.” It’s like learning in an IMAX theater. We’re preparing students to be lifelong learners and to take ownership of their learning. We have so many resources available for students curricularly — engineering, aeronautics, virtual reality, everything.
THE Journal: With every student using a separate device, how does the teacher control what they’re looking at in class?
Lewis: We started using Apple Classroom — it’s an app for the teacher, with just a turn-on function. There are times when you do want to take over the classroom. It works in a BYOD [bring your own device] environment — you can create a class with the app. The teacher can say, “Everybody connect to my class.” When they connect to it, they type in the code that the teacher has given them.
Teachers see the displays on their iPads
— if you have 20 kids in class, you’ll see 20 icons. You can push them all to one URL, or lock them in to a certain application.
We also have different classroom management controls. The teacher can lock their screen. You can lock them in whatever you want, wherever you want.
THE Journal: There are so many new ed tech products out there. How do you keep up with what’s going on without breaking the bank?
Lewis: I try to keep involved. It does change
a lot. But it’s an exciting job. There’s always something new. There’s the whole flash in the pan — just because something’s new, that doesn’t mean we have to buy it. We always look at pedagogy first. Our technology budget isn’t that large.
But the benefit we do have is experience. I have to deal with a completely different culture at school than in the IT world.
THE Journal: Are there teachers or students who resist all the technology that’s being implemented in the classroom?
Lewis: Kids easily adapt to new things,
but it’s not that kids are inherently so
much more brilliant with technology. We have a teacher who is older than I am who absolutely rocks technology. It has to do with lifelong learning and a willingness to learn new things.
We don’t have a problem with kids being off-task. Most of the teachers have really embraced all the new technology.
THE Journal: What about the argument
that physical textbooks are better for learning than e-books?
Lewis: Digital books are great for transporting, and you are not having kids with 80 pounds of books in their backpacks. We’re transforming what a textbook is. With a digital text, you can have interactive quizzes and videos and adaptive quizzes that you can’t get from a textbook. I don’t buy into the [notion] that a physical book has any more value than a screen has.
THE Journal: What are some other products, devices or platforms that you’re using at
your school?
Lewis: We use a myriad of different apps and things. Teachers have Ergotron sit-stand desks, which allows them to sit or stand behind them. What I am excited about now is virtual reality and we’re piloting that a
lot. We’ve had a large number of Google Expeditions and that kind of immersion. It’s interesting and cool to see the difference between watching a video and watching a Google Expedition.
If I’m watching a [flat screen] video, I
can still be distracted. But with immersion through virtual reality, you can’t be distracted. And with Google Expeditions, it’s not kids solely wandering around through VR. The teacher is still guiding the class around.
There’s also student-created VR — virtual reality environments and apps created through Unity, which is a coding-free app. That’s pretty amazing to me, the student- created aspect. We’re working on VR applications that will teach chemistry. Virtual reality is so good at helping explain things that are difficult to explain in the 2D space.
Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. Contact him
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