I participated in a webinar yesterday about Transforming Spaces to Transform Learning from the Alliance For Excellent Education. The webinar featured the Assistant Superintendent of the Elizabeth Forward School District, Dr. Todd Keruskin. This small rural school district in Southwestern Pennsylvania is at the forefront of effective technology integration. I could go on and on about the fascinating resources that they have embedded into their schools, but I was really struck by how they use one of these learning spaces. During the webinar, Dr. Keruskin was sitting in the SMALLab inside one of the schools in the district. This room was outfitted with an interactive mat on the floor! It was amazing to see how it worked with a projector up above, and motion capture technology cameras all around the room. But, what was even more amazing was how the room was used. It really struck me when Dr. Keruskin explained how the staff have created games for the students to play, even games for remediation purposes. This was such a fascinating concept to me, because when I think of remediation, it typically involves more worksheets and teacher lectures/demonstrations. But, at this school, they have turned the concept of remediation on its head by instantly engaging the students by incorporating this revolutionary gaming floor. For example, if a student is struggling with the vocabulary acquisition, instead of filling out more low-level worksheets, the students actively engaged in game playing that directly relates to their area of struggle.
This idea makes so much sense to me! For one, they are meeting the students in their comfort zone- engaging with technology. As Eric Sheninger wrote in Digital Leadership, this generation of students is very comfortable using multi-modal resources. Also, it is commonplace for students to have a negative attitude towards work that involves areas in which they struggle. By altering the remediation model to include active interactions with the content using the interactive floor, this results in the removal of the angst the student feels about working with material that challenges them.
As I mentioned previously, this school district is a very forward thinking district, and I have included a video from YouTube below that highlights many of their digital learning spaces, including the SMALLab. More important than the shiny tech tools though, is the instruction that is occurring in this district. As shown with their ideas on remediation practices, this district has the shiny tools and the innovative instructional practices!