Remote learning has taught us that we need to provide more access to education – and technology is the solution that levels the playing field among districts. While most districts have certain elements in their classrooms that make them smart, the idea behind a smart classroom is that technology plays a significant role in the delivery of education – automating things, such as assessments, grading, and assignment tracking – so that educators have more time to work directly with students. What also makes classrooms smart is the way in which technology improves the learning environment by managing air temperature and lighting. The physical environment of the classroom plays a major role in learning.
Benefits of Smart Classrooms
Smart classrooms, at their most basic level, foster access to education. From students who can continue learning from home if they are unable to attend (think: lice outbreaks; colds; and other illnesses that would otherwise spread throughout the student population; students without access to transportation; and more) to those students who benefit most from a classroom environment, edtech enriches their education.
Exposure to Technology that Makes Students More Hirable
As we’ve seen during the last year, with the shift to online learning, students are capable of learning how to use the tools and technology required in today’s workplace. Most third graders are at least as adept at Zoom as the adults using it – and sometimes more so. But it’s about more than just the tools; it’s about having the ability to integrate technology, merging these tools with collaborative efforts, project management, learning, and communications, that makes these students even more prepared for the future.
With the internet at their fingertips and the ability to take advantage of supplemental audio-visual information alongside every lesson, today’s students in a smart classroom have the potential of learning more about any particular subject. As well, subjects can be integrated with each other. While learning math, you can incorporate a science lesson on astronomy, a history lesson about Copernicus, and a social studies lesson about the Renaissance. Multiple educators can collaborate to bring entire curriculums to life in a richer way than was ever before possible.
Better Individualized Learning
It’s not just students on IEPs and 504s whose learning should be individualized. Every student should have an individual education plan. But that’s difficult to execute when you have 30 students in a classroom. Technology in smart classrooms can help educators provide a more individualized experience to all students, freeing those who can do so to work deeper or further along while providing educators with more time to help those who are struggling.
The smart classroom is the classroom of the future. It’s not designed to replace educators but instead to allow them to use the skills they possess to truly impact the learning experience of every student.
For some students, online learning has lasted for a year or longer. Some teachers have likewise been making magic in front of a computer screen instead of a class full of students. So, the return to fulltime in-person instruction is an exciting moment, but we cannot for one minute think that it will be easy for anyone.
Isolation Makes Human Contact More Stressful
Have you seen the film Cast Away? After 4 years on an island, when the character portrayed by Tom Hanks was finally thrust back into society, it was an overwhelming experience. While the situations may not be comparable, it’s likely that both educators and students will struggle to adjust when being thrust back into the classroom. Districts should consider having supports in place for their employees as well as strong SEL systems for students. Ted Gennerman, director of student services, and Emilie Tregellas, school psychologist for the Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, wrote an exceptional guide for incorporating SEL to support students and improve student behavior.
Beware the Assessment Drive
We realize that there will be a push to complete a lot of assessments when students return to the classroom full time, in order to determine how far behind – or how far ahead – they are from the standard grade level. While we’d prefer to do away with grade levels altogether and simply teach students at their own pace and in ways that motivate them to learn more and love learning more, we urge districts to complete assessments not to hold students back from their grade level but to identify who needs the most support to catch up.
Forward Progress Must Continue
Even as we return to traditional classroom settings, we can bring what we’ve learned about accelerating and individualizing education into the classroom – and we can bring the technology that helped us achieve it, too. Just as corporations are recognizing the benefit of continuing to support a remote workforce, schools are recognizing the benefit of continuing to use the learning systems and technology they implemented during the height of the pandemic.
Technology Improves Education
Hybrid learning does not have to end when schools open. Consider all of the kids sent to school sick because of attendance requirements who could continue to participate in class from home in a hybrid learning environment. Extending this further, consider the capacity for schools in different areas of the country or world that could collaborate on learning through technology. A recent study, “Learning and instruction in the hybrid virtual classroom: An investigation of students’ engagement and the effect of quizzes,” revealed that the ability for students to relate to their peers, as well as their intrinsic motivation, improved when multiple screens and collaborative technology were in place.
As school districts resume full-time, in-person classes, the last thing we want to see happen is that back-to-school means returning to educating students in the same way we did prior to the pandemic. We need to embrace everything we’ve learned during the pandemic, maintain all of the technology and innovation we’ve incorporated, and continue pushing forward.
The pandemic has been a tragedy of grand proportions, and we do not want to take lightly the impact it has had on people throughout the country and around the world. However, we believe strongly in finding the positive and the hope in any circumstance – and in celebrating the resiliency and the innovative nature of people under pressure. We want to celebrate the scientists who are guiding us through the pandemic with rapidly developed vaccines and treatments. And of course, because of the industry we are in, we are elated with the progress we’ve seen in edtech and the nearly overnight transformation it has had on education – which is why it is all the more important that going back to school does not mean falling back into pre-pandemic patterns of providing education.
Edtech Should Be Here to Stay
Edtech has often been haphazardly incorporated into curricula, almost as a forced segment instead of a method for enabling teachers to better engage and encourage students. Having been thrust into online education, edtech and tech solutions took a front seat for many schools for the first time. But that technology, which may have been hastily thrown together to meet an urgent need, can now be properly integrated into varied curricula permanently.
Moving Education Forward
Hybrid learning, exposing students to the technology in which they will need to be savvy for success in the work environment, and giving educators tools that make it easier for them to be effective and engaging without being bogged down in the minutiae of paperwork should be priorities. Learning systems that allow teachers to automate lessons and grading practices, so that they can focus on individualized attention to students, should be the norm, not just a pandemic response.
Back to School Does Not Have to Mean Back to What Was
We will be announcing some new collaborations and innovations throughout the year, but the main motivation will be to continue pushing education into the 21st century. As school districts begin discussing the resumption of full-time, in-person classes, the last thing we want to see happen is for back to school to become a euphemism for back to what many consider to be normal.
In an education system that literally has not been updated in over a century, the changes that have happened because we have had to adapt must be sustained. We need to embrace everything we’ve learned during the pandemic, maintain all of the technology and innovation we’ve incorporated, and continue pushing forward.
Built on the Lumen® Touch Bright SPED™ platform and packaged with CompuClaim’s Medicaid billing, CompuSped Powered by Lumen Touch is a comprehensive special education management system that will be delivered through the Greenbush and CompuClaim partner platform.
The joint effort between Lumen Touch, CompuClaim, and Greenbush will ensure that educators, schools, and students in special ed programs have access to the tools needed to deliver education – in person, online, and hybrid – with dramatically reduced paperwork and reporting. The solution incorporates Bright SPED’s data-driven reporting and tracking with CompuClaim’s automated Medicaid billing and Greenbush’s exceptional services to schools.
Since the spring of 2020, we have all come to know what online learning is. As a result of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and teaching organizations had to transfer their regular classes from traditional to virtual classrooms. To operate efficiently entirely online, the schools had to adjust all of their activities – not only the teaching and learning process, but also the handling of administrative activities, communication with parents, office hours, etc.
Before the pandemic, some of these activities had already been digitalized and automated due to SIS. Instruction, however, took place for the most part in traditional classrooms. The unexpected and immediate need to switch to online learning during the lockdown forced the teachers to use different and often incompatible tools to replicate their regular activities in an online format. After almost a year in this situation, the need for solutions that unite all face-to-face training elements in one online ecosystem has come to the fore.
Fortunately, such solutions already exist – for example, the integration of Lumen Touch (a comprehensive all-in-one school system) and VEDAMO (a virtual classroom for highly interactive real-time online teaching). The next step is to improve the methodology and practice of online instruction. The virtual classrooms’ students should not be passive receivers of information transmitted via video conferencing and shared screens. A productive and high-quality learning process requires students to be actively involved with their teacher and peers, albeit from a distance. A lesson in the virtual classroom lesson should not be like a TV show hosted by a teacher. Instead, it should provide an environment for teamwork, discussion, self-expression, sharing experiences, practicing new skills, etc. The personal contribution to the interaction is a prerequisite for increased motivation and engagement during online classes.
Here are five strategies that can make your virtual classroom teaching more engaging and effective:
Collaborative activities on the whiteboard:
Тhe virtual classroom session is not and should not be a video lecture. It happens in real time and affords opportunities for active participation and collaboration between the instructor and the participants. Advanced virtual classrooms are equipped with all of the tools needed to apply collaborative learning. This pedagogical approach involves a group of students who work together to achieve a common goal, exchange views, or solve problems. In this type of interaction, the instructor’s role changes significantly – the instructor is not a lecturer but, rather, a moderator and counselor. It is a great way to turn the interaction into a partnership and encourage cooperation in skills development.
The online whiteboard in the virtual classroom is the perfect tool to engage students in collaborative activities. By using the tools for drawing, writing, editing, and presenting content on the online whiteboard, students can work together on many joint activities, such as:
Creating mind maps
Playing or creating educational games
Working on a joint presentation
Discussing and analyzing case studies and much more.
Small-group activities in breakout rooms
Small-group activities are a great way to take students out of stressful large-group discussions, which often do not allow each student to participate, reflect on the learning material, and practice the new skills and knowledge. Working in smaller groups creates a more informal and relaxed atmosphere. The instructor’s role is to carefully plan and facilitate the interaction in the smaller group so that each student contributes equally towards achieving the learning outcomes.
The virtual classroom allows the instructor to separate students into breakout rooms and assign small-group activities. Breakout rooms are a separate workspace where students cannot hear or see those outside the group.
For example, suppose the virtual classroom instructor works with a large group of 20 students. In this case, the instructor can divide them into five groups of 4 students, distribute them into separate breakout rooms, and assign each group a specific task for a particular time limit. After completing their assignments, each small group can choose a presenter and report their results back to the whole class. This approach boosts student creativity, communication skills, and teamwork.
Flipped classroom approach
The typical scenario in the traditional classroom is that the teacher presents the lesson during class and assigns practical activities for homework. The flipped classroom has the exact opposite logic. The students prepare for the new lesson on their own by using different types of resources created or selected by the teacher – video lectures, presentations, articles, etc. During class, the focus is on practice and discussions under the teacher’s guidance. This approach stimulates more in-depth learning and skill building. This method’s practical application depends on the quality of the materials for self-preparation and the students’ motivation to work independently and prepare for the class. The instructor can trigger the students’ motivation by giving them a particular problem to solve that is related to the new study material.
The flipped classroom method can be successfully applied to online learning, especially when using a Learning Management System (LMS) with a video conferencing virtual classroom. The instructor can upload the materials for self-preparation on the LMS and assign a quick quiz for reading comprehension that students should complete before the virtual classroom session. During the real-time virtual classroom session, the instructor can engage the students in practical activities and discussions. In this way, the students will use the virtual classroom time to build on their skills by applying the new knowledge acquired independently.
When the focus in class is on the instructor and the presented content, students usually remain passive and have little opportunity for collaboration. Student-led activities place the student at the center of the interaction. They aim to engage students in the material by giving them a leading role in the learning process. The students become the teachers – thus, they take ownership of the classroom interaction. In this way, learning becomes more meaningful and collaborative.
The virtual classroom provides the perfect environment for student-led learning. The instructor can easily create opportunities for both independent and collaborative learning. For example, the teacher can assign some of the students to make a presentation, demonstration, or a project on a specific topic. Each student will prepare in advance using available resources and guidance. During the virtual classroom session, the students and the teacher will shift their roles. The students can present part of the new lesson and engage their classmates in games, exercises, or discussions. This approach promotes peer-to-peer learning, improves the students’ presentational skills, and supports the long-term acquisition of new knowledge.
Gamification is often confused with educational games or game-based learning. Gamification is an approach that applies gaming principles and techniques to the learning process; examples of gamification include collecting points, prizes, badges, etc. Usually, teachers use gamification to solve problems they encounter in their classrooms, such as issues with behavior, concentration, motivation, active participation, etc.
Gamification in the virtual classroom boosts the students’ motivation and helps them identify their strengths and weaknesses. How can the virtual classroom instructor apply it? Here are some ideas:
You can use the online whiteboard for weekly rankings. First, identify criteria and indicators to assess the students’ achievements during the week. Then, assign points to each indicator. Present the weekly ranking as a table on a separate whiteboard sheet. Finally, discuss the students’ progress at the end of the last virtual classroom session of the week.
When assigning individual work in breakout rooms, you can use an imaginary scenario and determine challenges for the students to overcome while completing their tasks.
You can award virtual badges for completing given tasks during the virtual classroom session. You can put images or graphic objects on the whiteboard next to the students’ work.
Gamification makes learning a fun and exciting process. It stimulates the students’ interest in mastering the new knowledge and developing skills.
With the right tools and functionalities, advanced virtual classrooms allow instructors to easily apply these strategies. They can provide significant added value to online learning by addressing student needs, individual characteristics, and preferences. Making students active and responsible participants in their own learning is one of the main factors that is taking virtual classroom instruction to the next level.
About the author:
Dr. Veronica Racheva is an education programme director at the VEDAMO company.
She is also managing various educational and social project at “Proznanie Foundation” Veronica has a PhD in Theory of Education from Sofia University. She also graduated from the Doctoral School at the Institute of Education, University of London and has a specialisation for a Virtual Teacher from the University of California, Irvine. Currently, Veronica is also a lecturer in E-learning at the Sofia University, trainer of teachers, researcher and author of scientific reports.
Do you remember what you were doing a year ago today? You might have been sending the kids off to school, driving to work, or shopping for Christmas presents. You most likely weren’t running back in to grab your mask, transforming your dining room into a work-study area for your kids, or angling your laptop just right for the light and background in your bedroom to hop on yet another zoom call. A lot can change in a year. And from our perspective, it’s a year that points to the endurance of spirit, the kindness of strangers, and the ability to transform challenge into progress.
We Will Endure
We’ve worked through challenges to overcome everything from zoom bombs to Wi-Fi inequity. Along the way, we’ve learned that teachers are wonderfully committed beyond all expectation to caring for their students – and that they can get pretty creative in finding ways to do just that – like the teacher laying on the side of the road recording an ant hill for his students using a GoPro. Or the teacher who used his stimulus check to pay his students’ utility bills. Or all of the teachers who showed up this fall – in person, online, and both – still ready to give their students 100% every day.
We Are All Innovators
The saying necessity is the mother of invention has never been more accurate. From parking buses in neighborhoods to deliver WiFi to rolling out new technology to make it easier for schools to safely track and monitor student heatlh, innovative solutions have been in abundance to help students, teachers, parents, and schools have a successful year. Nowhere has that innovation been more apparent than from the scientists who have rapidly developed multiple viable vaccines.
Hope Is Eternal
Throughout this year, amidst the tears, frustration, and loss, there has been an underlying feeling of hope. From a renewed appreciation for the essential workers in our communities to empty pet shelters across the country, good things happened in 2020. Here are some of the highlights:
There is no doubt that 2020 has been the test of our resilience and the fight is not over. As leaders in our communities, we set the example by our mere presence and our resilience becomes the resilience of others in our circles. We often have to pinch ourselves to remind us where we are and what we are aiming for and more importantly what we are grateful for. Here are some considerations that may prod us to stay the course and allow others to follow.
For our personal wellbeing: Be mindful of our health and social welfare with considerations
Wash our hands as often as possible – it is good practice.
Consider a small bottle of sanitizer for instant access.
Wear a mask in front of others to show respect for them and our loved ones.
Keep a distance
Take extra precautions for those in the “at risk” groups
Be prepared to listen as we all have our own concerns. This will foster the community trust.
Keep our eyes and ears tuned for trends, information, sage input that hovers above the fray and allows us to stay ahead of the game.
Gather and use data to make informed decisions.
Share our leadership with our constituents to give them confidence and courage.
When all else fails, break out of our silos and reach out to our community for mutual support
If we are struggling, call a friend or perhaps make a new friend
Carry a little gift bag in your car or purse in case someone on the street can savor a small pleasure
For our organization’s wellbeing: Be mindful of our leadership and our team
Stay communicating – more than ever
Meet regularly with our teams
Focus on our vision, mission, goals and values
Recreate our plan/s and ensure they infiltrate through out
Revisit our plan weekly with our team as the dynamics are in flux
Re-recruit our team and thank them more than often
Pay special attention to leadership and technology
Be more creative and entrepreneurial than ever
Brake down our silos and reach out aggressively that makes us uncomfortable
Be the example of supporting local on all fronts
APPRECIATE THE HEROES OF THE MOMENT -> YOU ARE PART OF THE PARADE
DROP ME A LINE and let me know what 2021 is bringing for you.
Helen Keller said, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road… Unless you fail to make the turn.”
This has been a trying year for everyone, but we at Lumen Touch can’t help but end the year with a very brightoutlook. Hats off to our partnering school districts – and educators everywhere – as they continue to make Herculean efforts to ensure that their students are taken care of and receive instruction, while we’ve simultaneously watched the edtech industry pull together to support teachers and schools in ways that were unexpected but most welcome. We all have embraced the bend in the road.
Lumen Touch has been fortunate to partner with several innovative companies, rising to the demands and extending the reach of our platform to provide urgent solutions to new challenges, using our Bright SUITE™ product line. This has dramatically reduced some of the constraints and frustrations that teachers and IT teams were unexpectedly confronted with. Two of these very valuable partnerships have helped us significantly impact schooling as we navigate unchartered waters.
The GG4L Digital Stimulus Package – a must for all school districts
Lumen Touch is proud to be one of the solutions offered in the GG4L Digital Stimulus Package, which gives GG4L member schools immediate deployment of a free, fully integrated digital transformation bundle, valued at over $2,500 per school. In addition to a district-branded portal and 60 days of access to Lumen Touch’s Bright CARE™, schools receive:
Reliable single sign-on School Passport across all apps
Safe online SchoolTube video sharing for all courses
Academic achievement self-diagnostic tools through Gooru’s Navigator
Secure GG4L Virtual Classrooms for all courses (60-day trial)
Actionable family engagement with native iOS/Android mobile app (60-day trial)
Hundreds of free online learning resources available from GG4L’s Catalyst catalog
Bright CARE for management of COVID-19
Better Health and Health Monitoring with Lumen Touch and Tesseract Ventures
Lumen Touch partnered with Tesseract Ventures, a fellow Kansas City-based technology company. Using Tesseract’s PRISM™ technology, Lumen Touch can issue badges for students, allowing the necessary tracking and tracing information to be collected while prioritizing student safety and privacy by shielding individual data from anyone without proper authorization.
Bright CARE’s tools include:
Temperature tracking and contact tracing
Tracking of COVID-19 testing
Monitoring of and alerting on social distancing
Summary of medical conditions and injuries
District-wide summary of immunization error dates
Immunization summary report by type and exemption (to include COVID-19 vaccination)
Kansas City is being recognized as a hot spot for education technology prowess. We are all better together to build an education platform that fills jobs with market-value assets – that is, students succeeding in a new learning environment. Lumen Touch and Tesseract are happy together and want to invite others to the table to develop the future in education.
– Dr. John Vandewalle
As 2021 draws near, we are grateful to have partners like these to help us better serve our schools and communities. All of us at Lumen Touch wish you a happy and safe holiday season and a prosperous 2021.
Last March, could any of us have foreseen how rapidly schools would be forced to adjust in the months to follow? The pandemic has been a wild roller-coaster ride for every school administrator, teacher, IT director, parent, and student. And just as everyone started to get a handle on distance learning, many states began bringing students back to school. And because schools were under pressure to meet government mandates for data collection, COVID-19 screening, contact tracing, and daily temperature screening checks, providing a safe learning environment for students became harder, not easier. Lumen Touch™ heeded the call from our partner schools to help implement a solution that would work.
Enhancements to Bright CARE
Bright CARE™ is Lumen Touch’s comprehensive student health and medical record management system. While it can be used as a standalone application, it is also included as part of our student and district management system, Bright STUDENT™. Bright CARE is the only total electronic medical record platform that tracks medical, dental, and behavioral health for students from early childhood through graduation, giving administrators and health staff immediate and historical data in a safe and secure manner. Features include:
Comprehensive student medical records management
Ability to schedule and track office visits
Full immunization tracking, including COVID-19, with state compliance requirements and expirations
Medication inventory tracking with automatic expiration notification
Medical condition tracking with health alert system
Medical insurance (health, dental, etc.), demographic, and emergency contact information
Automated Medicaid billing
Tracing, Tracking, and Managing COVID-19 with Lumen Touch Bright CARE
Lumen Touch developers have enhanced Bright CARE to create a system that will monitor students and staff and carry out contact tracing. Compatible with a variety of different thermometers, including GoSafe, schools are better able to meet district and state reporting requirements. Bright CARE’s tools include:
Temperature tracking and contact tracing
Tracking of COVID-19 testing
Monitoring of and alerting on social distancing
Summary of medical conditions and injuries
District-wide summary of immunization error dates
Immunization summary report by type and exemption (to include COVID-19 vaccination)
Partnering with Tesseract
In order to meet the needs of schools as students began returning to their classrooms for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, Lumen Touch partnered with Tesseract Ventures, a fellow Kansas City-based technology company. Using Tesseract’s PRISM™ technology, Lumen Touch can issue badges for students that allow the necessary tracking and tracing information to be collected while prioritizing student safety and privacy by shielding individual data from anyone without proper authorization.
The strategic partnership between Lumen Touch and Tesseract Ventures will continue to provide opportunities for schools to enhance their support of students well beyond the pandemic. Academic progress, medical history, extracurricular achievements, and more, can all be securely tracked and recorded. Students and parents will have access to their secure portfolios to use for future academic and professional goals. Districts will be able to aggregate anonymized group data to make informed decisions regarding curriculum and operations management.
Lumen Touch is excited for what this partnership will bring to schools around the country, both in the short term and as we move beyond the pandemic. To learn more, read our full press release here.
Lumen™ Touch has been in the thick of things with our partner schools since the first hint of the pandemic. The administrators, teachers, and especially, the IT directors at our schools began doing everything they could to prepare for distance learning and mitigate risk as early as last March. They’ve continued that work each day with determination. They make sure students have laptops, arranging for contactless pickup for students who didn’t go home with one. They come up with creative ways to provide access to the internet, enabling mobile hotspots in parking lots and on buses, for instance. But our industry remains in constant flux, and with the changes being thrust upon us, we must adapt accordingly.
New for the 2020-2021 School Year from Lumen Touch
You already know how we strive to protect student data and provide the kind of IT support that makes a measurable difference to every school’s data security. But we haven’t stopped there. We have been listening to the schools we work with about what really hinders their ability to keep their students safe, and our developers have been working tirelessly in response to their feedback to meet the needs of schools across the country.
Bright Care™ Rapid Screening Entry: Though health and wellness has always been at the core of our values and technology, we understand that the well-being of our students is now more important than ever. Bright Care Rapid Screening Entry allows any staff member to quickly screen student temperatures as they enter the building. This systematic and data-driven application easily allows you to monitor students and staff and carry out contact tracing. Using data coming from temperature sensors of different kinds (e.g. GoSafe), you will have another level of contactless control to manage the safety of your students and staff.
Bright Learning™ Secure Video Conferencing: We know that students learn through a variety of media and that learning ‘online’ doesn’t just mean watching videos and completing multiple-choice assessments. In a time when we cannot always be face-to-face for instruction and discussions, it is critical to be able to provide a safe, secure, interactive, and measured video software solution. For these reasons, we have worked to include not only the virtual learning video, but also, the ability to capture the engagement of students during the interactive sessions. Our secure video conferencing is an integrated video platform that can be used within the Bright Learning system to manage virtual and distance learning. By incorporating this onto our platform, we are able to better manage cybersecurity while providing features to make the new way of virtual engagement seamless and less stressful.
Lumen Touch is committed to providing the safest and most comprehensive learning solutions to meet your school’s needs – without compromising student security or education integrity. We’d love to have the opportunity to talk about how our platform can help your school. Get in touch.