Math teacher Rachel Hendrickson has the capability to teach every algebra class in Cumberland County, N.C., high schools at the same time: All it takes is a SMART Board, laptop, webcam, and a computer program that allows teachers to interact with students anywhere in the district.
SMART Bridgit, a conferencing software program, connects students with the class using a real-time video stream. The computer software is one way the school system is meeting the federal requirement to have a certified teacher in every classroom.
Superintendent Frank Till Jr. said the challenge to meet the federal requirements led to discussions about expanding the use of Bridgit in schools.
“We are in an era where just the use of the standard textbook is not meeting the students’ needs,” he said. “We do not want to limit our students. Technology allows us to do more.”
The school system paid $6,000 for the software. The initiative began as a pilot program last year at South View Middle School.
“It is dynamic instruction,” said Ruben Reyes, executive director of exceptional children services. “It allows you to interact.”
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He added: “Most of the programs on the market, you see the teacher, you hear the teacher, but you are missing the content. This enables you to have the best of both worlds. Some of the programs, you have to have a physical lab set up. Anyone who is in our network can access this. This is something that can touch more kids.”
Reyes said the purpose of the program is not to replace teachers.
“This is really a tool to enable teachers to share their expertise,” he said. “Without the teacher, this tool doesn’t do anything.”
The initiative started as a way to ensure that all students have access to a highly qualified teacher. Because of federal requirements, special-education teachers must be certified to teach the content like any other teacher.
“What we wanted to do was use Bridgit as a means to ensure that the students had access and that they still had the level of special-education support that they needed,” Reyes said.
The certified teachers and exceptional children’s teachers meet weekly to discuss lessons that will be streamed. The exceptional children’s teacher is in the classroom during the live stream to aid students.