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Modeling the Innovative Classroom

March 04, 2016

Here at Smarter Schools, we’re always looking for new ways to answer the question: what does it mean to innovate in the classroom? One thing we continue to learn, thanks to leaders like Ann Feldmann of Bellevue, Nebraska, is that successful schools do more than just bring in tech and hope for the best. “The transformation occurring in these classrooms is not because of the device,” she writes. “Rather, it’s a combination of a powerful professional development program, solid pedagogy and content knowledge by the teacher, and student access.”

As a district tech coordinator, Feldmann has helped schools develop successful 1:1 iPad programs from start to finish. She designs with the end in mind, using tech to give students the freedom to learn at their own speed. Tools like iTunes U and Google Classroom allow students to “have control over place, path, and pace,” and teachers to differentiate their instruction and give appropriate feedback to each student. The end result doesn’t look much like a traditional classroom – instead, it’s an environment where students can be more independent and creative, while still getting the help and attention they need to grow.

For teachers who have brought tech into their classrooms, but haven’t felt much of a change, Feldmann’s experience can serve as a guide. On a recent visit to an elementary school in her district, “there was a happy hum in the room; kids were working independently in soft spaces like couches and on the floor, and the vibe in the room was productive yet calm.” These are the kind of personalized, student-centered classrooms that Feldmann hopes to see throughout her district and beyond, and thanks to a thoughtful approach for implementing technology, her vision is coming to life.