Digital Learning Day proved to be innovative, practical in Chatham County Schools

Siler City, NC – A panoramic panoply of the American suffrage movement could show up in a pair of Google glasses near you.

Digital Learning DayThis particular version would come from Chatham School of Science and Engineering students in Chris Codispoti’s civics class. They were studying voting rights on the same day educators and students in Chatham County Schools (CCS) were participating Feb. 22 in Digital Learning Day, a nationwide push placing priority on the power of digital teaching and learning.

In Codispoti’s class, the VR acronym carried a double meaning, because voting rights intersected virtual reality.

Ethan Luke is the innovative learning specialist at Science and Engineering, an early college high school. In other words, Digital Learning Day is not a once-a-year event for him. It’s a daily deal.

“That’s what he does best here,” Codispoti said. “We just say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. How can we make it happen?’

“What’s really nice about him, as well, is that he is realistic about what you need to do. Instead of saying, ‘Every single bit of this needs to be digital,’ it’s, ‘How can you use this to make the student’s side better and your side better, more organized, streamlined?’”

To hear Codispoti describe his students is to listen to an educator who understands that he’s working with whizzes. Like the young man who built a drone equipped with a camera. That student uses virtual-reality (VR) glasses with the drone.

So Codispoti knew it wouldn’t be a stretch for the young people in his classroom to combine voting rights with virtual reality.

“They’re automatically already knowledgeable of this and familiar with it,” Codispoti said.

This is where Luke came in. He nestled up to Codispoti’s computer and showed students how they’d create timelines including milestones about voting rights in the United States. The timelines would allow viewers to put on VR glasses and learn with every turn.

Chatham School of Science and Engineering sophomore Ruthie Reece (right) watches Science and Engineering sophomore Bella Ocampo explore virtual-reality glasses on campus Feb. 22, 2018.

“As you look around, you can listen to the student explain it,” Codispoti said.

Granted, the students just could use markers to draw timelines on posterboard.

But that’s so 2013.

“Having them make a poster is not nearly as involved or as interesting as this,” Codispoti said.

Luke let the students pull his VR glasses over their eyes.

“This is cool!” Science and Engineering sophomore Bella Ocampo said.

And so is digital learning.

“It’s giving them the opportunity to mess around with some of these tools for actually creating these experiences. Its getting bigger and bigger,” Luke said. “Learning the ins and outs of it so that they could use it later on to create something for their career that they’re interested in, or working on their own portfolio or project to show someone else.”

Delia DeCourcy is the district’s executive director for digital teaching and learning. She secured Flipgrid as a corporate sponsor for Digital Learning Day in CCS. Flipgrid is a social, video-based platform that supports collaboration between students, between teachers, between students and teachers, you name it.

In Flipgrid, students record brief videos on their classroom “grid” in response to a topic. Their classmates respond with videos. That generates greater student engagement, DeCourcy said.