Making students active learners through instructional delivery software

ClassFlow by Promethean facilitates engagement and inquiry-based learning in Maryland district
By: | Issue: October, 2015 | Case Study
September 1, 2015

Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) in Maryland was challenged to increase student engagement and to use technology to facilitate learning. The DigitalHARFORD initiative was established two years ago to help infuse the right digital tools and content into newly created active learning environments to inspire all students in the district’s 54 schools. To fulfill that mission, the appropriate solutions had to be chosen and implemented successfully.

Martha Barwick, Coordinator of Instructional Technology at HCPS, found that while the existing technology tools in place in every classroom increased interactivity and feedback, she felt that there was more that could be done to facilitate higher-level learning. “Technology, in itself, is not a magic fix. We needed a method to enhance learning and complement teachers’ skills,” says Barwick.

For Barwick, that meant finding a way to have students interact more with the technology. “If students are engaged, they pay attention, and the chances are higher they will remember more,” she says.

The notion of students learning with technology, and not just from technology, informed Barwick’s recommendation to implement ClassFlow from Promethean at HCPS. “ClassFlow takes what is on the whiteboard and puts it in the hands of the students,” she says.

ClassFlow is an instructional delivery system that allows for personalized learning, as well as interactivity and collaboration, by connecting classroom displays to student devices. Educators can easily and quickly push out their own content, a student’s content or even assessments for full-classroom engagement. In ClassFlow, existing lessons can be shared, or new interactive ones created from scratch. Specifically designed content can also be sent to different students, or groups of students, for differentiated personalized learning.

“DigitalHARFORD is about allowing students to create and participate in an active, dynamic environment. ClassFlow facilitates that type of learning,” says Drew Moore, HCPS Director of Technology.

With ClassFlow, students do not just passively listen to instruction. “Instead, students can create things like graphic organizersÑshare them with their classmatesÑand explain their reasoning. Students become producers instead of just consumers,” says Barwick.

A priority for HCPS was to move away from having the teacher at the front of the classroom all the time. “We wanted to go from several students engaged at once to all students engaged all the time,” says Moore.

Barwick recognizes the importance of integrating multiple types of learning in the classroom.

“There will always be a need for teachers to direct instruction, students to share work and collaborate. All of the Promethean tools come together to really create an active learning environment,” she says.

Barwick observed a second grade class using ClassFlow to work through a math lesson. “All students were engaged and involved because they had the opportunity to show and share their problem-solving strategies, and to justify their answers with others,” she says.

Educators at HCPS often use ClassFlow in centers, where students interact deeply with curriculum in self-paced learning activities. At HCPS, the role of the educator has switched from a deliverer of information to a facilitator of learning. “Tools like ClassFlow allow our teachers to prompt students with a question, and then teach the skills needed for students to find the answer to those questions,” says Barwick.

And to ensure educators understand how ClassFlow works, teachers attend professional development sessions. This PD has allowed them to understand how to use ClassFlow with their lessons to improve their daily teaching practice. “We walk teachers through a ClassFlow lesson as if they are the students, so they can dive in and see the different features and possibilities,” says Barwick.

The ClassFlow assessment feature allows educators to get a snapshot of what students are learning, too. Not only can this insight inform future instruction, but also teachers have tangible evidence of how students are doing to show parents during conferences, says Moore.

Stakeholder response to how ClassFlow fits in with the DigitalHARFORD plans for learning success has been positive. “In conversations with teachers, they just say ‘This has completely changed the way I teach,'” says Barwick.

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