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Free Technology to Ignite Student Collaboration and Learning

A devoted teacher always aims to inspire students and academic achievement – to make learning authentic and relevant to the community and to stand for students’ best interest. It is important to follow their needs and to be innovative at times.

Michelle Spencer, Senior Manager of Professional Services for Vivitek USA, shares her experiences and observations:


And then there Lisa Anderson at Napa Junction Elementary School. She invites local doctors to help design a medical intern project, for which fifth-graders must use symptoms to diagnose the likely diseases affecting a patient. Afterward, those students present their findings to an audience of adults, including the doctor.

Projects like these challenge and delight students, creating specific content mastery that students can recall in highly technical terms years later. It’s common for students to find career inspiration from these school experiences. However, any teacher who has tried to design an authentic project can tell you that it takes significant time, energy and community outreach. It can be an extremely heavy lift for busy classroom teachers, many whom report that they would do more projects if they had help with the preparation and collaboration process.

There are community members in the audience on presentation day, so you need to get to every group. Teachers find that student presentation days can run longer than expected because precious time is lost in between presentations. If you’ve invited the mayor to your presentations, or you have a real doctor in the room giving students feedback, then you want to make sure that your timing is right. Let’s say that you are a Google Apps for Education school, and that every student has a Google account. Maybe on presentation day a team of students plans to share its Google slides and a few pictures. Although it’s very easy to have the teacher’s computer hooked up to the projector or flat panel – allowing students to log into their accounts on the teacher’s computer – that transition still costs about 90 seconds. Sometimes more. If your class period is 50 minutes long, you’ve now lost more than seven minutes to transitions if you have five groups presenting.

Sure, there are work-arounds, such as asking the students to share links to their documents to the teacher to eliminate the sign-in process. But we know how that goes: There are always a couple of last-minute add-ons to a student presentation when a file was not shared properly, or a question from the audience at the conclusion of the presentation necessitates the student needing to bring up additional information or evidence that he or she didn’t plan on sharing.

In light of these collaboration hurdles, I’ve seen great success with the NovoPro digital streaming device. This hardware allows up to 64 student devices, regardless of platform, to connect to the teacher’s device, regardless of platform. That means Chromebooks, iPads, Android and iOS smartphones, netbooks, and every type of computer can be connected. With the push of a button the teacher can put the student device onto the projector or flat panel screen. The teacher can even share four student devices on the screen at the same time. Guests in the audience can join in the collaboration and share information the same way. This device allows the teacher to share files, websites, videos, and more to every device in the room. It’s super easy to use and very affordable and easy to maintain for IT adminstrators in their school network.

About the author: Michelle Spencer was a teacher for seven years and an administrator for 14 years, including principal of New Technology High School in Napa, Calif. She is passionate about high quality PBL, and finding technology that fits teachers’ and students’ needs. She is the Senior Manager of Professional Services at Vivitek, a Google Education Trainer, and National Faculty with Buck Institute for Education. You can follow her on Twitter @RustyClover.