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Building an All-in-One Hybrid Classroom

 Byram Hills School District classroom
(Image credit: Byram Hills School District)

At the Byram Hills School District in North Castle, N.Y., a K-12 district of 2,300 students, educators decided to take a different approach to teaching during the pandemic. 

“We realized that we could not recreate the face-to-face experience online, but we could reimagine teaching and learning with technology,” says Andrew Taylor, Director of Technology and Professional Learning. “Instead of putting cameras in the classroom that simply streamed the teacher at the whiteboard, we created a teacher ‘command center’ in each classroom.” 

The command center allows the teacher to simultaneously teach students in the classroom and at home. 

“Our goal was to have teachers model in the classroom how learning will happen if we are remote,” says Taylor. “Unfortunately, we have students and teachers quarantined daily. The command centers have made the transition from in the classroom to fully remote learning more seamless.” 

The command center includes a document camera (IPEVO 4K), a laptop (Dell), and an interactive monitor (Viewsonic TD 2455). The district piloted the Nureva HDL300, an audio system designed for classrooms that captures the audio of everything happening in the classroom, to support this initiative. All of this technology can be brought home, or accessed from home, if the teacher needs to work remotely. 

“In a hybrid learning environment, it is important that everyone can hear each other and be heard,” says Taylor. “Although we are new in the pilot, it was immediately apparent Nureva is helping to make sure everyone in the classroom can be part of the conversation and hear the content clearly. Our teachers spent the spring struggling to present content while working remotely. Today, teachers tell me all the time how this setup has been a game changer.” 

“The Nureva system has been a fantastic addition to my classroom,” says Dawn Selnes, Technology Teacher and Building Technology Coordinator at HCC. “The sound system has dramatically improved my students ability to hear each other and be heard--especially while masked!”

Byram Hills School District classroom

(Image credit: Byram Hills School District)

Challenges and Solutions

“The fluid nature of learning during the pandemic is a challenge,” says Taylor. “Teachers and students move in and out of the classroom.” The hybrid learning environment allows teaching and learning to continue, no matter the location of the teacher or students. 

“It is not unusual to have a class that has students face-to-face in the classroom, down the hall due to social distancing, and at home,” Taylor continues. “Students may be at home due to personal choice, quarantine, or due to the redesign of the learning environment. We must be ready to address the teacher and student needs no matter what the location or needs may be.” 

“Tools you choose should have a lifespan beyond the pandemic,” says Taylor. “If we are going to invest time/resources now in learning/implementing, then it should last beyond the current crisis. Do not let short term needs outweigh long-term goals.” 

Taylor says that he is continuously amazed by the capacity of the students and teacher to rise to the challenge and overcome obstacles. 

“Success can only be achieved if we are all working together,” he says. “Many of the tools we have adapted are quickly becoming part of the teachers toolbox and I believe will last far beyond the pandemic.”

Sascha Zuger

Sascha has nearly two decades of experience as a freelance journalist writing for national magazines, including The Washington Post, LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic Traveler, and others. She writes about education, travel and culinary topics.