Several years ago, the Sioux City Community School District in Iowa set out on an initiative to change the way learning takes place in the classroom. "We didn't want to just buy technology for the sake of having it," said Layne Henn, technology and curriculum facilitator for the nearly 14,000 student district, "but rather use it as a way to support our focus on differentiated instruction."
Two years into a trial of technology by an in-house focus group of teachers, the school district narrowed its search to eInstruction, an educational technology company based in Denton, Tex., and another vendor.
Both were invited to make a presentation to a panel of Sioux City School educators. "From the shoot-out, it was clear that eInstuction's Mobi interactive whiteboard and its student response system were the way to go," said Henn.
Mobi combines the utility of an interactive whiteboard with the portability of a handheld device and the capabilities of a computer. Teachers can write, draw, insert images and highlight instructional content projected onto any surface with Mobi Workspace? software.
The CPS student response system's ability to interact with the school's student information system also weighed heavily in the Sioux City decision. "Teachers can seamlessly give formative assessment and see how students are doing with the responders," added Henn. "That information can then go directly into teachers' grade book system."
The school system decided to pilot its technology platform in its 19 elementary schools. "We wanted our implementation model to initially focus on the suite of technology that could be used in the classroom rather than on issues related to specific content," explained Henn.
Teacher-coaches provided technology training to K-5 teachers in June 2010. When the school year began, teachers were encouraged to work with the technology with which they most felt comfortable.
They also had access to the support of the district's technology coaches who were available for on-site visits to assist teachers with implementing less familiar technology. "We selected coaches who were also teachers because they could create a buy-in among teachers," said Henn.
"Teachers quickly became excited about using the Mobi because it gave them the freedom to move around the classroom, but they still had interactivity with the front of the room as a focal point," continued Henn. "Teachers weren't locked into standing in front of the room."
"Our students also feel more engaged in learning," said Henn, who attended a site visit that was held to demonstrate the use of technology to educators from another district. What was especially impressive was the classroom teacher's ability to easily incorporate content on the spur of the moment, according to Henn. She explained that a student had brought a magazine with material related to a school mascot in that morning. "adjustment boiled down to simply taking an image of the content she wanted to use with a document camera and then using her interactive board to make a few notes about the points she wanted to cover in the lesson. change was no big deal," explained Henn. "She didn't have to tell the student, 'Sorry, I have something else planned.' "
"Teachers feel more connected to their students, and the feedback from students allows teachers to level instruction to the students needs and abilities," added Henn.
The school system finished implementation of its technology suite in its three middle schools in March and plans to complete the process in its three high schools by the end of the year.
Testing was just recently completed, but even without scores, there is a strong sense that instruction has moved to a new level, said Henn.
See Mobi mobile interactive whiteboards and CPS student response systems in action at www.einstruction.com/media/mobi/.