Laura Barry is helping revolutionize the classroom at Absegami High School and the COMPACT School in Cape May Court House.
Barry, an English as a Second Language teacher at Absegami, recently won a PolyVision contest that asked the question: “What’s your dream for the classroom of the future?”
Her answer involved a virtual field trip powered by PolyVision technology solutions that ‘transported’ her students alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.
Barry beat out 140 other entries.
As a result of her victory, Barry’s classroom will be outfitted with an eno one mobile classroom board with ultra short throw projector, a Mediascape interactive learning center and training for the use of all the new equipment. She also won $250,000.
She was able to choose a classroom in another school to be awarded this technology, and she chose the COMPACT School, where her husband Tommy is a Science teacher. Both will receive iPads as a result of Laura Barry’s win.
Remodeling for both classrooms began the second week of September and will conclude in mid-October. Laura Barry will undergo training Oct. 15. The training is conducted by former teachers who now work for Polyvision.
“Her particular story thought outside the box,” Polyvision General Manager Robert Heitmeier said. “She has a clear understanding of what needs to take place.”
Heitmeier said part of the aim of the contest was to get the learning community to think differently.
“The space in which learning needs to take place is critically important,” Heitmeier said.
He said Polyvision feels students can benefit from learning in small groups and circles. The virtual field trip may not have been exactly what they had in mind, but it showed Barry was thinking outside the box.
Absegami installed eno boards in the spring, so Barry was familiar with Polyvision when she saw the email come across her inbox with details about the contest. She took the time to fill out the application.
“I thought about what would be important to kids,” Barry said. “I tried to think of something that would be moving and emotional. … I thought it was pretty good, but I was surprised when they told me I won.”
Barry, 33, graduated from Absegami in 1997. She then graduated from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, and currently lives in Absecon with her husband and her daughter. When she was in school, she was just as tuned in to the use of technology as anyone else her age.
Polyvision was impressed with Barry’s grasp of students’ abilities to communicate with iPads before class, and her ability to wave her hand to get them to stop. They were impressed with the concept of students being able to throw images from their specific iPads on to the screen in front of class for all students to see.
Barry appreciates the use of technology, but understands the need to regulate devices.
She began teaching at Absegami six years ago, and she said the impact of technology in the classroom has changed greatly.
“Cell phones have been a big issue,” Barry said, adding that there is an educational benefit to having them in the classroom. “If their use is regulated, you can keep them on task, but you can never have every student on task (with or without technology). If someone learned one thing, you reached your goal for the day.”
She said education is always changing, and as a teacher, she is always performing.
“You need to keep it fun and interesting and technology helps with that because kids are drawn to that,” said Barry, noting that it’s important to keep pace with the changing student and the changing world. “If that’s where society is headed as a whole, kids need to be Internet and iPad savvy.
“We have a system in our library that allows teachers to see what websites students are using. We need something like that in real time so we know what our students are doing during class.”
She said it would also be helpful for the iPads to block any site not specific to the curriculum.
Barry is embracing the future, and Polyvision embraces being a driving force in getting education there.
“The key element to being successful is not just the technology,” Heitmeier said. “It’s not about how much memory you have, it’s about your ability to communicate and collaborate. Students need to be able to get into circles and groups. Space is effective for learning to take place and enable students to be leaders for the future.”
For more information on the technology associated with this contest, visit the following websites: