Students bounce ideas off new classroom collaboration system

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Thanks to a new classroom collaboration system, students are able to “throw” their ideas onto the wall.

Using the Span classroom collaboration system, 7th and 8th graders at Loyalsock Township School District in Pennsylvania made a timeline of what happened during the South African apartheid. They were able to do this using students’ iPads and a panoramic projector system that casts the students’ work on the walls, according to an assistant principal.

The Span classroom collaboration system, just a few months old, is from Nureva Inc., a startup founded in 2014 by David Martin and Nancy Knowlton. The cloud-based tool breaks boundaries between devices, and lets students work collaboratively from their own devices.

The product was showcased during a webinar held by the State Educational Technology Directors’ Association on Wednesday. EdScoop caught up with Brooke Beiter, assistant principal at Loyalsock Township High School, to go into more detail about how the school district actually puts the system into play.

To start the timeline for this particular history assignment, teachers created a project in the content management system. Students logged into the same project can mark important dates with texts and pictures on their devices. Meanwhile, the projector in the classroom cast images onto a digital canvas, creating a 6-meter-long workplace on the wall.

While students edited their projects, their notes popped up on the canvas. Some students organized the elements by dragging and editing the images and texts on the canvas.

Teachers could observe the work and give advice. Finally, the polished timeline was saved as a PDF file and a spreadsheet, and each student received a copy via email.

“The best part is that teachers were able to actually take a step back, and allow the students to drive the lesson, and decide where they were going to go,” Beiter said. “[The teachers] were able to take the back seat.”

Using their work, students were able to generate about 400 questions for a guest speaker from South Africa about the systemic racial segregation that was finally repealed in the ’90s.

In the past three years, Loyalsock has installed Apple TV in every classroom. The school also provides an iPad for each of the roughly 800 students, which they can take home for assignments. Lessons are disseminated on Moodle, an open source software.

Before applying the Span system in October, technologies like Apple TV and interactive whiteboards were mainly used to enhance presentation. For the school, Span is “a different platform with students’ interaction and engagement,” Beiter said.

“When you have this big 20-foot-long wall, this is for the student. This is not the teachers’ tool. It’s actually having students create and bring their ideas in,” said Kimberleigh Doyle, Nureva’s education market development manager, during the webinar.

For teachers at Loyalsock, they are able to use the students’ work as a metric of their progress and understanding of the lesson material, and it provides thoughtful fodder for faculty meetings.

Loyalsock is a loyal customer of Nureva’s – the school district also uses the company’s portfolio software, Troove, to manage students’ documents and records.

Reach the reporter at yizhu.wang@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @yizhuevy.

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