In the Alamo Heights Independent School District, Heather Smith is teaching in the classroom of the future.
The Cambridge Elementary fourth grade teacher was chosen to be the first in the district's Engaged Classroom initiative, where technology plays an important part. Each child is issued an iPad with the day's lesson and assignments and can move at their own pace.
"They're moving through the tasks on their iPad. I'm able to record video so my kids that need to see it again, they don't have to come ask me, they can watch that video again. So my quick ones, they're off and running and moving along at a clip. They might be ahead on the list, my other kids are going to spend a little more time but everyone's learning the entire time all day long," Smith explained.
Students can post something and get feedback from each other. Smith can check in online and see how students are progressing as they work.
"Then we'll stop and do face to face conversations," Smith said.
Students get affirmations throughout the day as well.
"I like the way she does all the cheers. I really like when we all do the disco cheer," fourth-grader Isabelle Losack said.
The classroom is entirely mobile. Desks and chairs are on wheels and students can bounce and spin.
"Allowing that level of movement for my students has been phenomenal. Students who have a hard time sitting still can move a little in their chairs without disrupting anyone else," Smith said.
"She lets us spin a little when someone is talking as long as we pay attention," fourth-grader William Wittingstall said.
Students self-evaluate when they've finished their work.
"They're learning that learning is something they are actively involved in and it's them driving it, not just me pushing it towards them. I would never go back to teaching traditionally," Smith said.
Alamo Heights plans to have Engaged Classrooms throughout the entire district in four years. And Heather Smith is leading the way.
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