“In my 30 years of teaching, I’ve seen a lot of ideas come and go. I don’t adopt all of them,” explained Patricia Embry, the Associate Director of Middle School and Mathematics Department chair at Tampa Preparatory School in Tampa, Florida. “But this one—it really has made a huge difference in how I teach in the classroom.”
How does she know? Because even with her impressive position, Mrs. Embry still teaches algebra on a daily basis. And last summer, Tampa Preparatory was remodeled to become an Active Learning Environment, which included moveable furniture, multiple monitors, new software and Epson’s BrightLink 595Wi interactive projectors.
“The teacher isn’t the ‘sage on the stage’ anymore. The class doesn’t just revolve around the teacher,” Mrs. Embry continued. “We don’t have the students sit in rows and, due to the Epson’s Moderator software, I can roam around the classroom with my tablet, rather than being tethered to a laptop.”
Not only does that mean that every student now has a front row seat, it also means that no one can hide in the back. But the great thing is that none of them want to hide anymore. They want to show off their work, which is a phenomenon that most teachers are unfamiliar with.
Students never minded showing their work in front of the class when it was correct. But in math, said Mrs. Embry wisely, it truly is about learning from your mistakes. “They’ve realized that everyone else is making mistakes, and that makes it safe to admit their errors,” she stated. “After that, they learned that it’s fun to uncover the mistakes and find the answer as a team.”
The Moderator software allows Mrs. Embry to project four students’ work at a time. She keeps track of which students have had a chance to show their work, and rotates through the class roster to make sure that everyone’s work is displayed. “Students know their work will be on the monitor in front of the class, and I noticed that they’ve become much neater, and are doing a better job on their homework. They have pride in their work.”
Even when their work is not projected, up to 50 students can be connected to a session, allowing teachers to see who is participating, and who isn’t. Mrs. Embry can visit those students having problems and, using her tablet and a stylus, walk through the problem on the classroom screens.
You might wonder if it was challenging for teachers, especially those unfamiliar with technology, to learn to use the BrightLink interactive projector and Moderator device-management software. With the help of a great IT department and some training, the teachers had little difficulty adapting to their new classroom equipment. Plus, they all have a secret weapon in case they forget. “After the Christmas break, I was a bit rusty turning on the projector,” she explained. “When I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working, they politely said ‘Oh, Mrs. Embry, you just have to push that button!’ They have become the experts!”