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Brave new world; technology moving instruction

By Brandon Evans | Published Saturday, November 16, 2013

Typically, electronic devices make a person stationary. It’s easy to imagine kids sitting in one place for hours texting or simply sliding their fingers across a touch screen all day while playing games.

But the introduction of iPads and laptops at Bridgeport schools has actually made the students more active.

Scanning the Platypus

SCANNING THE PLATYPUS – Nyree Shawn and Jared Laaser, instructional coach and assistant principal, respectively, at Bridgeport Intermediate School, demonstrate how students can showcase their digital projects by way of QR code that can be read with an iPhone or iPad. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

QR codes line the walls near the classroom of middle school math teacher Stacey Wardrup. During class, kids take turns scanning the codes with their iPads, and the codes take students to instructional videos on specific math problems.

It’s what Wardrup calls “flipping the classroom.”

The students learn how to learn on their own, giving Wardrup more one-on-one time with her students around the classroom. Rather than standing in front of the class at a chalkboard, she’s moving from desk to desk. Meanwhile, the students are active themselves – moving up, down and around the room to scan the QR codes as they learn how to solve math problems and become independent learners.

“The kids have 24-hour access to the videos,” Wardrup said. “They answer the problems and send them to me by email. I usually go to bed by 9:30, but I’m still receiving emails from kids almost at midnight as they are solving the problems on their own time.”

“Anytime you have students getting up and moving around to learn it improves student engagement,” said middle school principal Travis Whisenant. “We try to add movement to lessons.”

Make Way

MAKE WAY – Bridgeport school board members and administrators visiting campuses Thursday make way for students at the Bridgeport Intermediate School. School board President James Bost gives one passing student a high five. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Considering Wardrup is a medal-winning tri-athlete, an active classroom makes perfect sense for her.

Only one year after Bridgeport ISD has implemented its one-to-one technology program, the change is evident in every classroom on every campus. It’s ironic that devices normally known for slowing people down have led to a more active form of learning.

Once you pass through the main entrance at the middle school, a flat-screen television flashes not only daily announcements, but also a stream of video projects students have made on their iPads in class. Doors to the right of the television open into the library.

“This is our 21st-century digital library,” said Mary Howard, campus instructional specialist.

A pair of televisions in the library can link directly to student-issued iPads, allowing student projects to be beamed directly to the screen so several students can better work on digital group projects together.

Nyree Shawn is an instructional coach at the intermediate school. Thursday morning she was overseeing a lab where third graders were simultaneously using both laptops and iPads.

“These kids are already very good with their iPads, but this gives them a chance to get better using the Macbooks,” Shawn said.

Along the walls of the school, more QR codes can be found. Some of them link teachers and students directly to video projects done by students. Others link students with teacher videos describing their favorite books.

And on one wall is a picture of intermediate school assistant principal Jared Laaser with a beard so bushy it could make the cast of “Duck Dynasty” jealous.

Students can use an app on their iPad to scan the image.

“It’s a trigger image,” Shawn said.

After doing so, a video pops up explaining the story behind Laaser’s mountain man look. It’s part of a fundraising campaign called “save it or shave it.” People donate money each week to save the beard or for Laaser to shave the beard. All proceeds are going toward building a cover for an outdoor learning classroom.

Once again, technology is being used to create active, engaged students.

“The iPads on campus have allowed us to take learning even further,” Laaser said.

So far, the “save the beard” side is winning, but Laaser said his wife will do whatever it takes to ensure the “shave it” side wins in the end.

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