North Branch Area Schools

North Branch Area Schools Partners Revolutionizes Elementary Teaching with Prysm

Technology impacts every aspect of our lives – it affects how we live, work, play, and most importantly learn. Schools are increasing use of e-learning tools in the classroom, however, for many, it can be difficult to implement new technologies and have them effectively integrated into existing curricula frameworks.

North Branch Area Schools – a small rural district of approximately 2,270 students and 130 teachers located 30 miles northeast of Flint, Michigan – launched an initiative to integrate new technology into its elementary schools via a partnership with Michigan State University.

A technology like Prysm facilitates cross-thinking and dynamic conversations that in turn lead to higher-level learning.

As part of that on-going relationship, a Prysm digital workplace platform was recently installed into the North Branch Elementary School to support kinesthetic learning; an approach to knowledge acquisition that takes place when students engage in physical activities, rather than simply listening to a lecture or passively watching demonstrations.

Teachers leverage the cutting-edge, giant touch-enabled Prysm wall to provide opportunities for students to construct knowledge using spatial and physical engagement with new information. By doing so, North Branch is on the forefront of a new wave of thinking that has the potential to revolutionize teaching methods within the classroom. 

Big Gains for Both Teachers and Students

The Prysm platform is set up in a laboratory-style classroom and made available to groups from grades two through four. The digital workplace integrates seamlessly with existing classroom technologies such as Google Cast and Apple AirPlay. Prysm’s easy-to-use, cloud-based software enables teachers to access classroom activities and supporting content from any smartphone, tablet, or laptop to spontaneously create and innovate. The medium encourages proactive capture of ideas and supports the real-time development of lesson materials, even ahead of being needed in the classroom.

During class, teachers and students can make onscreen annotations and preserve artifacts for future analysis and research. As participants work side-by-side on the display, screen-recording capabilities capture live snippets, which can easily be shared with other staff as well as the partners at Michigan State University (MSU). Amber White, North Branch Area Schools’ director of curriculum and instruction, explained, “Being able to share our results so seamlessly with MSU has been extraordinary. The partnership with Prysm and MSU has been an incredible opportunity to grow, to think, and to really understand how we can help our students learn more effectively.”

Those involved in leveraging the Prysm platform have demonstrated significant growth in their skills and facility with the technology. In one of the set pieces, groups of students utilize the touch-enabled display to measure their abilities to work cooperatively through puzzle challenges. Students working with Prysm on a daily basis have shown discernable improvements in their cognitive, emotional, physical, communication, and social skills.

White elaborated, “A technology like Prysm facilitates cross-thinking and dynamic conversations that in turn lead to higher-level learning. The conversations – accompanied by the wonderful sight of having students collaborate so enthusiastically – put the children in the driver’s seat: They are producing and physically translating stories at their fingertips.”

Creativity and Active Engagement

Prysm’s ability to simultaneously showcase diverse media types gives students the context needed to fully appreciate the big picture, inspiring creativity and innovation. “Gone are the days of viewing or accessing content through the cumbersome mode of “tabs” or switching windows,” reflected White. “Having video, audio, documents, and whiteboard space available simultaneously on one surface accelerates learning processes while keeping students actively engaged.”

From day one, the elementary students intuitively understand how to navigate the touch display without direction; children as young as seven need no guidance on how to move objects, zoom in and out, add notes and annotate files. “Prysm’s visualization tools give us the dimensions that 2-D tools cannot,” observed White. “Teachers can put up sources and have students work across multiple media types; handling the complexity, choices and decisions that must be made in the space they create, fosters advanced thinking.”

Prysm-supported applications and digital tools such as YouTubeMonkey and TodaysMeet, further expand traditional classroom capabilities and encourage students to think outside the box. “We want students to be the creators. We want them to use Prysm to collaborate in a way that’s never before been possible. That’s what learning is all about,” enthused White.


Setting Up for Success

“Accessible information is growing exponentially every year, so the notion of using a traditional classroom setting for rote learning is rapidly becoming obsolete. We are now in a knowledge-based economy,” stated White. “Before, there was a straight ladder up for success, but we now need to train our students to be ‘rock climbers’ where they can navigate, traverse, and really build some of these very critical soft skills. Working collaboratively with the Prysm display also really helps to foster teamwork and leadership, great skills to have no matter what career path they choose.”

Collaborative Spaces and Endless Learning Opportunities

Prysm makes our classroom a collaborative space. It’s thrilling to be able to use technology to work together on projects and achieve such promising results,” exclaimed White.

She concluded, “To be successful in today’s collaborative world, the ability to constructively work together is a critical skill, even at a very young age. Prysm is creating the opportunity to change the traditional pedagogy: We’re hugely excited about the potential for breakthroughs and learning enhancements that we have at our fingertips.”

Institution: North Branch Area Schools                                                                                                                                                              Industry: Education                                                                                                                                                                                          Headquarters: North Branch, Michigan