Kelloggsville – Ashley McKeeby stood at the front of her second-grade Kelloggsville Southeast Elementary classroom and called a parade of students up for a punctuation exercise as part of an English and writing class.
As their name was called, each student practically jumped from their seat and strode with purpose to a large screen at the front of the room where a hands-on grammatical challenge awaited.
First Giselle, then Suzana, Khalil, Stephen, Janessa, Daquan, Dylan, Hope, Antonio, Florence and on and on until all 24 students had a chance to touch the 7-foot-diagonal screen. They dragged question and quote marks, commas and more into the right place in a variety of sentences, sometimes with a little coaching from McKeeby and other times all on their own.
‘I get to learn how to do things. It’s kind of easy, but I am learning where the punctuation marks go, so it’s good.’– second-grader Florence Tuyisenge
As students returned to their seats their eyes shone with smiles, both from having shown off their knowledge for their classmates and from the positive feedback and affirmation received from McKeeby and the screen.
Yes, the screen.
The technology behind the screen is called Boxlight, a suite of products designed for education. McKeeby was using something called simply “Second Grade Learning Games,” an app she downloaded from the Kelloggsville Boxlight options.
In addition to allowing students to drag and drop punctuation, it also includes on-screen fireworks and stars and even applause after success, something McKeeby’s second-graders can’t get enough of.
Helping Students Be in Charge of Their Learning
McKeeby is in her 10th year of teaching and fourth year at Kelloggsville, and she said the new technology is fun but also serves important pedagogical purposes. On a recent day she used it to build students’ writing skills by teaching proper use of punctuation and capitalization.
“What I like about Boxlight is that it is great to be able to be up in front of the students instead of stuck behind my computer and that it allows for more interactive learning for the students,” she said. “And I like that the students are able to manipulate the items on the screen to help them be in charge of their learning.”
Students, she added, have a sense of play when they’re at the screen, and they like getting to be in front of the class and move things around on the screen.
“I think they also like the variety it gives to our lessons and the extra practice they get on different things we have learned in class,” she said.
Florence Tuyisenge agreed.
Back at her seat, a shy smile shining beneath her mask, she told a classroom visitor that it was fun to be up front.
“And,” she said, “I get to learn how to do things. It’s kind of easy, but I am learning where the punctuation marks go, so it’s good.”
‘That’s How We Get Better’
A couple of desks over, Khalil Hernandez eavesdropped a little on Florence’s conversation and added his own perspective.
“We get to learn about all the punctuation marks, yeah,” he said. “That’s why I like it. That’s how we get better.”
Such comments are music to McKeeby’s ears; she said the observations of Florence and Khalil are spot-on.
“I definitely can better engage my students in lessons that previously were not as engaging,” she said. “The technology helps my students and gives me more opportunities to teach them new things.”
Kelloggsville’s Cassie Groters has helped install Boxlight in the district’s classrooms and worked with teachers on implementing the technology.
She said the Boxlight technology is going into K-12 classrooms across the district, some 130 in all, mostly on walls but a few on carts and other creative uses in open spaces. Three schools have been completed with the rest expected to be done in the coming months, with training for teachers provided by district technology staff.
Stand-alone Devices or Extensions of Chromebooks
Boxlight, Groters added, can be used as a stand-alone or as an extension of the Chromebooks provided to all students in the district.
For her part, McKeeby is grateful for the technology and eager to utilize it even further.
“I am so thankful to Kelloggsville for getting us this technology to use in our classrooms,” she said. “And, yes, I am excited to learn even more ways I can use the Boxlight to enhance my teaching and my students’ learning.”