As teachers across Gwinnett County use eCLASS C&I tool to assist in reaching the transformational level of teaching, they are seeing the benefit of offering students choice of the best strategies and tools to show their learning in their classrooms.
In innovative classrooms, Gwinnett teachers at all levels – elementary through high school campuses – leverage available technologies to facilitate collaboration. Students are encouraged to bring their own devices, and schools are investing in numerous digital resources.
In such transformed classrooms, technology tools are seamless. At Grayson Elementary, a 2-year investment in digital streaming media players and tablets for classroom teachers is helping to infuse technology to improve instruction.
Spencer, a kindergarten student in Christa Fernandez’s homeroom, checks his math problems alongside his classmates as his teacher stands to the right of the classroom holding an Apple iPad. Mrs. Fernandez has taken a photograph of a recording sheet and completed sample problems for her students using a notes application, which is projected on the whiteboard.
She hands the iPad to Spencer, who works a problem using the same notes app his teacher just used. Spencer’s classmates are listening to him explain his process, while looking at the projection on the whiteboard. The iPad that Spencer uses is mirrored on the board via Apple TV. By this time, Mrs. Fernandez has crossed the room to assist another student, who has raised her hand.
“With the Apple TV I am not tied to my desk and can walk around and hand the tablet to one of my students to demonstrate their learning,” explains Mrs. Fernandez. “It is a great way to introduce whole group what I want a student to do in a small group or independent technology center.”
This school year, Grayson Elementary’s PTA purchased a 3rd Generation Apple TV unit for every classroom. Teachers at Grayson received iPads in 2015, and the Apple TV provides opportunities to make the iPads even more useful in the classroom.
Teachers actively using media streaming devices say that having access to a mirroring application is incredibly helpful and allows students the flexibility of showing what they know and expressing their ideas with a touch of their finger.
“Anything you can pull up on your tablet can be projected onto your screen, so it frees you up from always using your teacher computer, and since the tablet is small, it allows students to pass the device around,” notes Sara Forrester, a 2nd Grade teacher. “The use of a whiteboard app allows students to draw, write, and solve equations from their tablet.”
Teachers and students have projected tablets in their classroom for demonstrations, to show examples, to explain concepts, and for simulations.
While Apple TV is a popular media streaming device choice for many schools, especially those with larger inventories of iPads, other mirroring device options exist in the marketplace. (One caveat, and definitely a reason to consult with county technology support staff when exploring options, is to insure that the WiFi networks – school system’s network and tablet – will be integrated. If the WiFi networks are segregated, the devices and/or streaming applications likely will not communicate. Test any options before investing).
For teachers who are OK with keeping their tablet in one location, then a VGA adapter (for a 30-pin Dock connector), or other adaptor for the type of tablet owned will permit them to display their tablet’s screen via the classroom projector. Even a document camera might work in some situations.
Robbie Dunn, a 5th Grade Special Education teacher, values the freedom from his computer that a streaming media device gives him.
“Since having the ability to mirror, I have been free to roam around the class during a mini-lesson or whole group dissemination of information,” Dunn said. “It also gives the opportunity for students to show their understanding to the class easily, without the transition time needed for students to get up from their seats to go to the board.”
The familiarity that most students have with tablets and finger operated apps makes mirroring devices a natural complement to the students’ way of learning.
“My students love when I use it for the student selection wheel (an app that randomly selects a student),” said Amanda Poole, a 1st Grade teacher. “Also, researching and streaming videos on the board is highly engaging for my students, especially since they are so familiar with technology.”
Teachers agree that a major advantage of mirroring devices in the classroom is that it is easy to use and quick to get started.
“Its main advantages in my opinion are accessibility and ease of use,” said Dunn. “If I’m sitting with a small group and see a need for a mid-workshop teaching, I can pull up whatever I need to project and students can view it from the center they are in. Plus, I never have to move!”
Such technology occasionally can become “finicky” with a school’s wireless internet connection, teachers note, such as when the connection between the streaming box and the tablet is lost. While this issue doesn’t happen often, it requires the user to reset the connection or reset the mirroring device all together.
The uses of media streaming devices can be many. This includes watching YouTube or Vimeo videos without having to use a separate device; seamless transition between video clips; annotating documents live with students; displaying pictures of student/teacher work; demonstrating apps; playing review games; using the tablet as an interactive whiteboard (whiteboard apps); using the Khan Academy app; using as a document camera; and creative project presentations. Content within eClass that generates on a tablet can be shown through the mirroring device.
“It’s been a great tool for modeling the use of student devices brought from home as well as applications for student selection and games,” says Poole.
Fernandez, for example, uses her streaming box with BookFlix and Epic to read non-fiction texts. Since her mirroring device pairs with her tablet via WiFi, she appreciates that she can walk around and navigate and check for understanding without being tied to her computer.
During mini-lessons, Grayson teachers say, it is preferable to bring their iPad down to the floor and project from their meeting area instead of having to get up to switch the computer every time they need to show something on the projector.
With younger learners, says Fernandez, “Apple TV and similar devices are a great way to introduce different technology activities that they will later work on independently.”
Adds Forrester, “I think the streaming device is a very beneficial tool and the more we use it and become more comfortable with it, the more ways we will find to implement it into the classroom.”