Tracy Williams, K-6 Technology Coach, Bobtown Elementary in Pennsylvania
With SMALLab, Tracy Williams transforms learning and finds new ways to connect and engage with the students more effectively. In Bobtown’s SMALLab, student success goes beyond education subjects by helping them to develop their social skills of collaboration and leadership as 21st century learners.
Bobtown Elementary School is a K-6 public school in the Southeastern Greene School District, located 70 miles south of Pittsburgh. Approximately 350 students attend the rural school, where Computer Lab/Core Support teacher Tracy Williams uses technology to reinforce topics students learn in the traditional classroom.
As an instructor with more than 13 years of teaching experience, Tracy Williams had long understood the shortcomings of the “traditional” classroom experience. Said Williams, “The traditional classroom asks all students, regardless of skill level, to learn in the same way and at the same pace. This may be efficient from the standpoint of the educator, but it’s not effective for the student.”
The data also supported Williams’ conclusion. Like many schools, the adoption of the Common Core State Standards Initiative resulted in a drop in Bobtown Elementary School’s math performance on the annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) Exam.
The math wasn’t more difficult, Williams believed. Rather, students needed new tools for acquiring, understanding, and retaining the concepts covered in their classrooms. As an advocate for technology in the learning experience, Williams began to investigate solutions that would:
Better train students for proficiency in mathematics and language arts
Reinforce and improve retention of topics taught in the classroom
Make the learning environment fun, interactive, and collaborative
To address the different ways that students learn, Williams implemented SMALLab’s embodied learning technology at Bobtown Elementary School. Take a look how Bobtown transforms learning in their SMALLab classroom!
Today, Williams collaborates with Bobtown Elementary School’s teachers to select and administer activities using the SMALLab. These activities, called “scenarios,” complement the topics discussed in the students’ traditional classrooms. Three of her favorites include:
Memory: In the Memory scenario, students pair off into two teams and compete for points by trying to match identical images or knowledge pairs. For example, students might match an equation with its solution.
OrderLine: The OrderLine scenario challenges teams of students to create ordered sequences from a randomized group of elements. For example, one scenario tasks students with ordering fractions from smallest to largest, with the winner achieving the right order in the shortest length of time.
Venn Diagrammer: In Venn Diagrammer, students collaborate to categorize items into sets, and each student is responsible for his or her own category. When an item appears, students claim or reject it based on their individual category.
Although Williams sets up the scenarios, what she likes most is that they are student-run and student-centered. “In addition to giving students more time⎼and a new means⎼to master a topic, students also develop social skills by working collaboratively with their classmates to work through the scenarios,” said Williams. “By using the SMALLab, the instructor becomes more of a facilitator.”
As an educator, Williams is accountable not only to Bobtown’s students, but also to parents, administrators, and the students’ teachers. And by all accounts, the value and success of SMALLab’s embodied learning experience is clear.
Students love the collaboration that the SMALLab makes possible. “They’re paying attention more and asking for new scenarios and games,” says Williams. “The SMALLab makes them really like learning.”
Williams also notes how the SMALLab helps develop student leaders who are able to guide their classmates through the scenarios. “Leadership behaviors emerge in ways that can’t come out in the traditional classroom setting.” Through Williams’, some parents even learned that their children⎼who had not been engaged in the traditional classroom⎼were displaying leadership qualities in SMALLab.
The success of the SMALLab has Williams most excited about forthcoming scenarios designed for Pre-K students. “The earlier that educators can bring students into the SMALLab, the better prepared they’ll be to tackle the most difficult topics they’ll face in primary and secondary education.”