Bloomington Public Schools - District #271

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NTL Teacher Features

Teachers, students thrive with new tech tools

The initial phase of our Next Technologies for Learning plan is now complete. Since voter approval of the 2013 referendum, the district has equipped students in grades 3-12 with Chromebooks and Internet access at school and home. Students in early childhood through grade 2 have access to a classroom set of iPads during class. This new toolset has led to expanded learning opportunities for students.

Stephanie MacPhail and the Jefferson High School Algebra 2 team are two of many examples of outstanding teachers who continue to blend their teaching skills with technology to help students grow.  

Stephanie MacPhail
Stephanie MacPhail, a fifth grade teacher at Washburn Elementary School, joined a Flexible Learning Cohort with 16 other fifth grade math teachers last year. With her colleagues, she worked over the summer to design a blended learning program to allow students to control the path and pace of their learning in math. The teacher team created learning materials that are aligned with math standards, including videos, projects and practice materials. Implemented this year, students are guided through the materials they created, which offers flexibility to move faster or slower, with more or less support from the teacher as needed.

On a typical day in MacPhail’s classroom, one might see students viewing or re-watching a math video on their Chromebooks while others practice math concepts with each other through games or hands-on activities. MacPhail and her colleagues use technology to give students control over their learning while also ensuring all students learn. Most students have responded positively; some have commented that they enjoy having choice in their learning and that this model has helped them feel successful at math.

Jefferson math teachers Scott Cater, Jon Anderson and Ryan Meyering collaborated to improve their use of technology in the classroom. They’ve built a library of digital content for Algebra 2 courses, including self-grading practice problem sets, videos, quizzes that provide instant feedback and more.

Scott Cater
Last year, they tried a new approach by allowing students who were successfully learning to have some choice in the place they worked. Some students elected to work in the classroom while others opted to work independently or in small groups in the school’s media center. Students needing more support worked in the classroom, which allowed them to receive face-to-face instruction with the teacher.

In praising this new approach, Cater said, “I knew I was working with the 10-12 kids every day that had extra questions or needed extra processing time to really solidify their understanding.” This year, the team expanded this instructional strategy. The three agree that their success is due to the collaboration and drive to improve, and students continue to benefit from their innovation.