As an experienced technology coach at Pelion Middle School in Pelion, South Carolina, Laura Beckham is passionate about using digital tools to help her students extend their horizons. After spending seven years as a history teacher and six as a digital coach, Laura maintains that the best way to transform students’ learning is through their relationships with teachers. “As teachers, we are still the most influential and most important component to help our students learn,” Laura says.
Before the Dynamic Learning Project (DLP) arrived at her school, the teachers at Pelion Middle School were familiar with digital concepts like blended learning. They would also regularly drop by her office for help, whether it was troubleshooting a tool or asking for pedagogical support. But like any innovative coach, Laura was determined to take her school to the next level of digital learning practices. Laura credits the Dynamic Learning Project’s coaching model, teaching resources, and wider teaching community for completely transforming her coaching.
“I'm excited that with the tools and support provided through DLP, I am pushed to stretch myself and continue to grow as an educator.”Laura Beckham, DLP Coach
Before the Dynamic Learning Project, Laura would focus the majority of her coaching on new teachers, using a generic approach. Now, using the DLP model, Laura sits down with individual teachers, talks through the challenges they face in their classrooms, and collaboratively brainstorms strategies to overcome those challenges. Her new process is anything but standard—instead, it's customized to the unique needs of each teacher.
This year, Laura was approached by Cathy Bouabre, a world language teacher, who wanted to see how she could use technology to connect her students with communities beyond the 570 students at Pelion. Cathy wasn’t new to teaching, but she was ready to try something different for her students.
Before she began working with Laura through DLP, Cathy had already reached out to Generation Global, an organization that engages students in dialogue around global citizenship through digital video tools. Over the course of the year, Pelion Middle School students connected with classrooms in California and as far away as England. Students shared their perspective on issues like civic participation and gender equality (in honor of International Women’s Day).
“It was such a great opportunity, and seeing our students take ownership of the conversations and get so excited to talk to a classroom across the country was thrilling. Both schools’ students did such a good job interacting and questioning one another during the dialogue!” Laura recalls.
Orchestra teacher Genny Nelson also collaborated closely with Laura; Genny wanted to create an engaging unit for her music appreciation students. During her coaching cycle, she worked with Laura and a 6th grade science teacher, Shelly Martin, to co-write and co-teach a Science of Sound mini-unit. The unit incorporated digital formative assessments, Flocabulary, Brainpop, and lessons from the OkGoSandbox in which students were able to explore how everyday objects can be used to create music. Unlike the traditional music appreciation curriculum approach, which Genny says only gives students "a very surface-level interaction with music, how it is made, and in terms of analyzing it," thanks to the DLP coaching, her students were "able to create (music) without formal training and analyze it in a thoughtful way with academic content standards at, and even above, their grade level."
For Laura, no matter how busy or crazy the days may be, she remains inspired by seeing the joy and excitement on students' faces and encouraging teachers to step out of their comfort zones and try something new. As she has learned with the Dynamic Learning Project, any teacher, at any stage of their educator journey, can learn new ways to use technology in their classrooms.