School districts use new tech, apps to provide live classroom experience

Updated: Jul. 24, 2020 at 8:02 AM CDT
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SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - “Synchronous learning:” it’s the buzzword for distance teaching this year.

It means students watching classroom instructions live and being able to participate live.

The use of technology in the classroom has taken huge leaps over the summer. School districts have learned from the abrupt jump into distance learning they made at the end of last year.

Now, while the technology will vary from district to district, the goal is the same for all.

“It is hard to replace that in-classroom experience with being at home and being on a computer, and so that’s why we have really embraced this technology using Swivl,” said Jane Thompson, Gulfport School District’s Virtual Learning Coordinator.

Swivl, pronounced swivel, is a tool that lets a tablet camera follow the teacher around the room and allows remote students to interact with the classroom with microphones.

That live interaction is the core of synchronous learning. Last year, schools used printed packets and prepared lectures that didn’t necessarily hold the students’ attention.

“Our experience in the spring is that our students did not respond well to a learning platform that was asynchronous, and quite frankly, our staff didn’t do a great job of providing an asynchronous learning platform,” said Bay-Waveland School Superintendent Sandra Reed.

Bay-Waveland will be using Google Classroom and upgraded promethean boards to provide a live classroom experience.

“The installation of the new promethean boards at the distance learning center, that will enable teachers to have an instructional instrument available to them that’s live to students. They can share the screen with students at home and things like that. That will make the learning more synchronous,” Reed said.

Biloxi School District will also be using Google Classroom.

“The other neat thing is with our specialty courses, we will have kind of two things going on. We will have the Google Classroom piece along with the Google Suite apps that we can use for some of that live streaming to go on,” said Biloxi High Principal Teresa Martin.

All school districts have said that this explosion of technology will help them teach students better long after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.

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