Mobile learning lab comes to Beaufort County

Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2016

PAUL HUGGINS TALK OF NUMBERS: A participant tests out some of the interactive technology to teach math skills.

TALK OF NUMBERS: A participant tests out some of the interactive technology to teach math skills.

Beaufort County elementary schools experienced cutting-edge mobile technology last week, thanks to learning sessions on PowerUpEDU’s Mobile Learning Lab.

Also called the Evie (educational vehicle) bus, the learning lab involves anything from touchscreen technology and virtual reality, to tablets and interactive screens — all within a classroom setup. Elementary educators were able to participate in one 30-minute learning session, from April 12-14, according to Paul Huggins, instructional technology coordinator for Beaufort County Schools.

Huggins said he arranged the opportunity with Evie driver Jerry Gallidard to help teachers think outside the box, learning about new technology and how it can be used in the classroom, especially with students growing up in the digital age.

“They already know a lot more technology than we do, and we need to be on top of things,” he said.

PowerUpEDU also elected to waive any fees for the trip to Beaufort County, due to a mix-up that prevented the visit from happening last year, according to Huggins.

Huggins said he wanted to showcase the technology as it relates to elementary-age students because of the interactive nature of it.

“Elementary kids love to get up and show the teacher what they’ve learned. … I thought the touch technology was more suited toward the elementary environment,” he said. “By the time you get to high school, they really want to sit in their seat.”

Jennifer Walker, a kindergarten teacher at Eastern Elementary School, said she enjoyed her 30-minute session, and seeing all of the technology sparked excitement among her co-workers.

“It was really neat,” she said. “I guess it was bittersweet, if that’s the right terminology, because it was so exciting, but at the same time we don’t have the money.”

Despite the high-priced items, Walker said Principal Melissa Dana encouraged teachers to think positive and look at it as a way to further their own education.

The school district is also looking into the possibility of purchasing a Swivl for each school. Swivl is a relatively low-cost, video-conferencing tool and rotates to follow the teacher as he or she moves about the classroom, according to Walker.

She said if the idea comes to fruition, Swivl could be used to send lessons to absent students or allow parents to see what their child is learning.

“We just thought of all the things it can do to connect … home and school,” Walker said.

She said one of her favorite parts of the learning session was the interactive math and language learning programs, which make the tasks of learning numbers or sight words come to life.

“We just sat there watching these amazing things, and our minds are just blowing with ideas,” Walker said. “It was a nice little getaway.”

Huggins said he plans to bring the learning lab back to Beaufort County in a few years, especially as technology continues to change rapidly.

“What’s good today will be antiquated five years from now. … It’s going to be completely different,” he said. “Eventually, we will repeat this.”