When district staff began exploring ways to invest in modern technology for classrooms, they weren’t anticipating needing to prepare for a global pandemic. Yet the 2016 Gresham-Barlow School District’s investments in digital classroom technology has been instrumental in easing the difficult transition to distant learning.
Thanks to bond funding, staff have installed these new Interactive Flat Panels (IFP) in most classrooms across the district, with plans to add IFPs in classrooms in four more schools across the district this summer. Many teachers have been using this brand new technology to assist their lesson planning and engagement with students learning along at home.
“These new interactive flat panels change what is possible in the classroom,” says Jeff Gibbs, Gresham-Bar-low’s Director of Technology Services. “It’s visual and interactive. With this technology you can engage the curriculum differently.”
The new technology is similar to a flat screen tv, except that it functions as an extension of a computer so it can navigate software that allows students at home to follow along.
Jennifer Lopez is a kindergarten teacher in the dual language program at Highland Elementary. She’s been commuting to Highland to use the IFP to assist with her teaching roughly four out of five days a week. To Lopez, the technology seems to be encouraging student participation.
“Students are participating more,” says Ms. Lopez. “When they see me use it, they are more likely to raise their hands in class, share their ideas. It’s more attractive for them; it keeps them way more engaged than just teaching them on my own.” She notes that the technology seems most helpful in teaching mathematics, with students able to more proactively show their work and collaborate with teachers despite the distance.
While the Interactive Flat Panels are useful during the pandemic and distance learning, the technology will also enhance in-person learning when students return to the buildings. “You can do things in the classrooms using the technology that you couldn’t do with just paper and pencil,” says Lopez.