Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Listen To Your Students Shine With Flexcat!

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As you come into a school library, there are lots of different things going on these days.

In one section of the library, the teacher librarian is reading and singing with a young group of children.  Toward the back, the first- and third-grade teachers have combined their classes for a collaborative digital storytelling project. As you walk in the door, the fifth-graders are getting ready to learn with three guest speakers in their PBL project on world cultures.  

Oh…and don’t forget the students and teachers waiting to check out different technology and resources from the library.    

This is a common scene in school libraries. It is an active, noisy, collaborative community with constant creativity and learning filling the spaces around us. We create these learning environments within our school libraries and classrooms to give our students a place to be heard while connecting to their passions, knowledge and, most importantly….to their voice.
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At the ISTE Conference in June, I looked for digital tools, resources and technology that will enrich our environment and these experiences for our children, teachers and schools.  Ones that will enhance the voices that we all want to celebrate and hear within our libraries and classrooms.  

I found one of these  when I was introduced to Flexcat from Lightspeed!  

As described in this article,
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Flexcat is the only classroom audio system designed for small-group learning. It consists of a wearable microphone for the teacher, a speaker for whole-group instruction, and a set of two-way audio pods that allow teachers to listen and speak to small groups from anywhere in the classroom so they can reinforce, respond, and challenge students in their moment of need.

This technology caught my attention from the moment I saw it.  Flexcat brings a very important aspect to these new learning environments that we create for our students.
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It also lets us listen for those moments that our students shine.  

As I was reading more about Flexcat, I came across this post from Douglas Steward Edu that supported these ideas I had after learning about it at ISTE.  

The level of conversation I hear is astounding.  I’m able to catch my kids shining.”  —Secondary Teacher

This is what we all want to do as teacher librarians and educators.  We want to listen and hear our students shine.  

With Flexcat, we can make this possible with any classroom or library, and with all of the children we work with everyday and throughout the year.  
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Flexcat lets you instruct, monitor and assess at the touch of the button. I love how teachers can redirect groups and individual students while fostering a wonderful community of collaboration through in the whole group or in small groups.  

It gives children the confidence they need to feel independent and productive by providing a connection to their teachers from a distance.  

Flexcat allows teachers to be up to 6 places at once, assessing learning, asking questions and redirecting as needed.  With all of the different learning situations and configurations that can take place, this is a meaningful way to stay connected to each student and group.  

I love that we can “check in” when needed without stopping the flow of the collaboration and communication between students.
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I have been thinking of all the ways we can use Flexcat to let our students and teachers shine within the library and throughout the school community.  

Being a teacher librarian, it is our role to bring new tools, ideas and resources into spaces to use with students and even with teachers through professional development.  

Here are a few ideas….

Flexcat will be perfect for the library I described in the beginning of this post.  You can use it when there are multiple groups within the space.  Perhaps you can use it with a group of students when there is a lot of other activity and noise around you.  It will bring focus to your conversation and to the work of the students.  Flexcat will also allow you to hear the students in this busy, collaborative space.  

It can be used with larger or smaller groups.  

It can be used with mixed grade levels and cross-curriculum projects to make sure everyone has an equal voice in these conversations.  

With project-based learning where students are working within groups, you can focus on individualized instruction and support.   

Flexcat is perfect for children with hearing or learning disabilities.  

It is awesome for keeping students on task.  Flexcat make them more accountable to their contribution to group conversations and to their own learning.

With libraries and learning commons becoming more and more flexible according to the needs of the learners, the Flexcat audio pods can also become flexible.  They don’t have to be placed on a table or group of desks.  Perhaps you place them around the room on the floor, too, to create a combination of work environments.  

When small groups of students are in the library working, it will be a real asset for being able to help them while working on a project or with other students.  You will be able to hear them as they work through problems and solutions, assisting them when needed or when they request your help.

Teacher librarians are always looking for tools and resources to WOW teachers with.  Flexcat is definitely one of those tools.  When you are collaborating on a project with teachers, tell them about Flexcat and plan to bring it when you work with the students.  You can show them the power of using Flexcat while making this collaborative project even better through the use of this technology.  

You can catalog Flexcat in your library system and check it out to teachers and groups within the school community.  

Flexcat is also a wonderful tool to use during professional development.  You will be able to check in with groups of teachers, just like you would with students.  This will take your professional development to a whole new level as engagement and collaboration increases.  

Oftentimes as the teacher librarian it was my task to keep teachers on task as I taught them about new resources.  Flexcat would make this job easier.

It can be used with parent groups as well.  Flexcat will make every voice important to the conversations.
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I have to share one more very special announcement that happened during ISTE.  
Lightspeed launced their new mobile app in July.  This app turns a teacher's device into a Flexcat remote control which allows them to switch among the two-way audio pods directly from their device, making the Flexcat an even simpler and more seamless tool for gathering critical learning insights.  With the app, the new Flexcat includes expanded coverage for up to 12 audio pods, making it a powerful tool for large classrooms, small-group instruction, team teaching, and professional development events.  
You can read the entire press release here.
As teacher librarians and educators, as people who care about young people, we want to listen and hear our students shine every single day.  

With Flexcat, we can make this possible with any classroom, with any library and with all of the children we work with today and throughout the year.  
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Learn more about Flexcat by following Lightspeed Technologies, Inc. on Facebook.
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You can follow Lightspeed on Twitter for the more ideas from others using Flexcat in their classrooms and libraries too.  
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And of course, follow all of the amazing things Lightspeed are doing for education, educators and children on their website.  

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