Bridging the Gap and Connecting Classrooms

Bridging the Gap and Connecting Classrooms

After completing the Walt Disney World® Marathon in Florida, high school math teacher Josh Dorsey settles into his hotel room with his computer and an Internet connection to teach calculus III. Dorsey is more than 800 miles away from his high school students at South River High School in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County school district. But, since his students use conferencing software to connect to their calculus class, today is just like any other school day.

A few months later, it’s winter. The Anne Arundel County school district is blanketed with snow, forcing school closures. Dorsey’s calculus students e-mail him a request to conduct class anyway. One student, Benjamin Warner, says, “I really like Bridgit™ conferencing software because I can log on from home. Even if I have to be away from school, I can still log on and not miss a lecture.” Dorsey’s class is the only one that continues uninterrupted despite school closures.

Dorsey thinks back to a few years ago, when the Anne Arundel County school district was trying to find a way to offer advanced math classes to gifted students. With interested students scattered across the district, offering classes in a traditional setting was challenging. “I wanted to pursue other ways of offering instruction,” explains Dorsey. “We needed to find a way to make the content available and to maximize the resources we had.”

Bridgit software was created by SMART Technologies as a way for teachers and students to share real-time video and data over the Internet.Participants can connect with one another instantly through any Internet browser; the software also integrates with hardware products, including the SMART Board™ interactive whiteboard.

Now teaching from his South River classroom, Dorsey’s lectures and annotations are relayed on an interactive whiteboard, and broadcast to six other schools in the district using Bridgit software. “It helps to hear what other students are thinking, see other ways of approaching problems and explore different understandings. This can’t happen for a student in a class of one,” says Dorsey.

Anne Arundel County school district’s instructional technology manager, Val Emrich, calculates that in its first year of implementing Bridgit software and other products, the district realized a savings of more than $130,000 compared to the associated teaching and transportation costs of offering classes in traditional classrooms. Emrich believes the district will continue to save money as their initial investments in technology and software mature, and expects to expand technology offerings to students in the coming years.