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New high-tech camera allows for more interactive distance-learning

Camera being used at Charter Schools USA
Posted at 10:17 AM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 10:53:48-04

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — In less than two weeks, thousands of students will being a new school year at nearly a dozen charter schools in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. For many kids, that means learning remotely, but Charter Schools USA is unveiling new technology to keep students engaged.

As you step inside Jeanne Alonso's classroom, the algebra and geometry teacher at Renaissance Charter School at Cooper City in Hollywood now has a new solution to solve the problem of students forced to learn from home.

"It allows for them to stay engaged, it allows for them to want to stay logged on and complete assignments because they're also doing them with their friends," Alonso said.

Charter Schools USA, which operates seven charter schools in Palm Beach County and two in Saint Lucie County, has created a mobile classroom with state-of-the art technology. A 360-degree camera, called The Owl, connects to a smart board and allows teachers to instruct students in the classroom and virtually at the same time.

"The students being able to log in from home," said Jackson Shelf, principal at Renaissance Charter School at Cooper City. "Seeing their teachers inside the classroom and being able to connect with the classroom, that's huge for us."

The Owl will follow the sound of the teacher's voice around the classroom as he or she teaches a lesson. Once students return to the classroom, the Owl will hear their questions and show their pictures on the screen. Kids at home learning remotely will be able to see inside the classroom, see their classmates and teacher and follow along in real time.

"This just allows for the student to be excited about coming online to class because they're coming to class," Alonso said.

The two Renaissance Charter Schools in St. Lucie County are offering options, which include students returning to the classroom and the mobile classroom experience, but in Palm Beach County, the year will begin online. The first day for both counties will be Aug. 24.

Teachers will also be wearing a headset to hear a student asking a question from home in their ear.

"For a teacher to have those options is invaluable," Alonso said.

The technology is breaking down the walls of a classroom for students beginning an unprecedented new school year.