Even though she was in the middle of cataloging about 900 student iPads, this was the kind of interruption that Elizabeth Thompson could tolerate – the surprise presentation Monday of a grant award of nearly $4,900 through CenturyLink’s Teachers and Technology Program.
The grant to Thompson, the digital learning specialist at North Lenoir High School, was one of only 18 awarded in the state.
Grants were selected based on the impact they will have on students in the classroom and the overall innovation of the project, according to Derek T. Kelly, state and local government legislative affairs manager for CenturyLink, who led the group that surprised Thompson in North Lenoir’s media center.
Thompson’s grant – for $4,879 – will be used to purchase laptops and projectors that will enable small group instruction, or the creation of what she calls “mini-classrooms.”
“The grant is designed to place children into learning pods for small groups and each group will have its own laptop and its own projector,” she said. “In each mini-classroom, you can facilitate a different learning task. Each group can be accommodated down to specific student levels, so you’re teaching the content but on their level. As they progress they can move to different pods. You can also teach different topics at the same time in different pods.”
Because the teaching strategy has broad application and the equipment “is going to be 100 percent mobile,” Thompson feels it has the potential of touching all students in the schools.
“These will be travel sets,” she said. “As long as we keep everything together, it can be used by all.”
She plans to conduct professional development sessions with North Lenoir faculty the first days of the next school year to familiarize teachers with the mini-classroom concept and the equipment.
“This would give kids who are really shy about talking a chance to present to a smaller group,” CenturyLink’s Kelly said. “It’s helping them get into those uncomfortable situations and be able to talk more and more to a group. I know that’s something I struggled with as a kid.”
The Teachers and Technology Program, begun in 2008 and funded by the Charles M. Williams Foundation, supports projects that advance student success through innovative use of technology. Pre-K through 12th-grade teachers in public or private schools in CenturyLink’s local service areas are eligible to apply.
Thompson came to North Lenoir as digital learning specialist at the beginning of this school year after teaching third grade for 10 years at Moss Hill Elementary.
Bringing Thompson the good news with Kelly and North Lenoir principal Gil Respess were state Sen. Don Davis, state Rep. John Bell and Tommy Rogers, region operations manager for CenturyLink.