July 9, 2018

By Sonja Parks

Times have changed, and so has the way schools teach.

Because of technology, schools have been able to improve how a student learns. In a recent study, 64% of high school seniors said tablets allow them to study more efficiently, and 81% of teachers think tablets can enrich classroom learning.

Due to the onset of digital learning at Rockingham County Schools, we have completely revolutionized the way we teach. By taking a step back and looking at how we can change the learning environment, we have greatly impacted student achievement. Children are using new equipment and moving around during classes, talking to teachers, sharing their ideas, and ultimately, learning at a higher level than ever before.

Redesign and Redefine

A study we did in 2015–2016 found that 63% of the classrooms at Rockingham Schools were arranged in rows, 39% of teachers utilized technology to display information, and less than 16% of students used technology for problem-solving. While best practices in the classroom continue to evolve over time, we started shifting away from the one-size-fits-all instruction model based on lecture-style teaching.

Over the past few years, we created a handful of “Rockin’ Classrooms of the Future,” which include floor-to-ceiling whiteboard walls, mobile furniture, 1:1 mobile devices, and Lightspeed’s new Activate classroom audio system. The audio system includes two-way pods the size of a glasses case that student groups can take with them anywhere in the classroom. The teachers use a mobile app to connect to the pods, listen in to the student groups, and gain insights into the learning process so they can deliver the right support at the right moment.

In our Rockin’ Classrooms, there is little to no group instruction, and no 45-minute lectures. Classes start with a small, 8- to 10-minute mini-lesson, then students set off into small groups for most of the class to work on activities that align with state standards. Students need to process information in their own way, and by providing different ways to digest the material, everyone can learn at their own pace. When working in groups, students take the Activate pods with them so the teacher can listen in on organic student conversations and provide feedback at any given moment.

The Rockin’ classrooms have a different look every day, and students love using the new technology. Children can easily talk with the teacher and share out loud with their group on a microphone, giving them the confidence to share their input.

Rockin’ Classrooms Increase Student Achievement

Because of the implementation of the Activate System and other mobile technology, our teachers have become better teachers. If someone were to walk into one of the classrooms, they would see students owning their learning. Teachers are now facilitators, moving at a brisk pace. Transition time between lessons has dramatically decreased and classroom management is stronger now that we have moved away from the lecture-style model. In a short time after the Rockin’ Classroom implementation, teachers in both high- and low-poverty groups saw math and reading assessment scores improve.

Rockingham Cty Stats

Looking to the Future

Although we are seeing stellar results, the transition to Rockin’ Classrooms is still in the early stages. We have discovered what works and what doesn’t. In the future, we aim to create this environment in all the schools in Rockingham County. We want to spread and provide this successful opportunity to every student. Classrooms are changing, and we need resources and support to make that happen.

Investing in technology has proven to be well worth the time and money for our district. It provides a new way to support learning by allowing students to find their own voice and have a chance to be heard.

Sonja Parks

Sonja Parks

Sonja Parks is the assistant superintendent at Rockingham County Schools. Follow her on Twitter @parkss12

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