Published in the February 2, 2021 edition.
WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield Educational Foundation is supporting teaching and learning within the Wakefield Public Schools in a different but impactful way this year. In anticipation that many enrichment programs typically supported by WEF would not be possible, the WEF Board of Directors worked closely with school leadership to pivot and modify the 2020-21 grant process to provide especially meaningful support for WPS teachers and students during a very different school year.
In August, 2020, the WEF Board voted to support the schools with a single grant of $25,000 to the district, for the purchase of technology to enhance the remote learning experience for teachers and students. This grant is the largest in WEF’s history and funds a pilot technology program across the seven schools in the district.
In consultation with WEF, Superintendent Doug Lyons and WPS Technology Director Jeff Weiner used the funds to purchase 40 combination audio-video units to assist teachers in remote instruction. These portable units include a camera with a 90-degree field of view, an omnidirectional microphone, a speaker that connects to a PC, and a remote control. Teachers can use these units for instruction from their home or from their classroom.
Teachers from preschool through high school expressed appreciation for the cameras and provided feedback on how the a-v units have enhanced the remote experience.
A member of the Doyle preschool staff stated, “I am so thrilled and thankful for the conference camera! I am teaching preschool remotely this year and the camera has opened up a whole new world! No more moving my laptop here and there hoping my kids can see me and my displays!! The camera can zoom in/out and rotate side to side!! Remote learning is a challenge, but having good quality hardware makes a tremendous difference!!”
At the high school, the equipment proved useful to keep students engaged with classmates during recent quarantines. A WHMS teacher shared, “I had students who were quarantined at home but wanted to join our in-person class. It was nice for them to be able to see our classroom, and their peers, instead of staring at the wall where my computer was pointed.”
“The camera allows me to present my material by projecting the image of my board. Since I need to write out chemical equations and draw molecules to teach my subject, this is much neater than what I was doing on the computer,” stated another WMHS teacher when expressing her thanks to WEF. She further added, “The camera also allows me to use tools I am familiar with, show models for visualizations, and get up close to demonstrations that I would have previously done during a regular school year. I am also able to highlight sections of what I want students to focus on by zooming in and out of specific areas and panning left and right to show the entire equation. The camera makes my student’s life easier because on the days students need to do work at home or cannot attend in person classes, they can clearly see exactly what the class is working on and allows them to get their questions answered.”
WEF president Elizabeth Russell is thrilled with the positive feedback from teachers and administrators. “I am so glad that WEF was able to think creatively about how we could have an impact during these difficult times. We appreciate the collaborative relationship we have with WPS and are pleased that together we arrived at this innovative way to make a difference for our school community.”
WEF receives generous funding from key local business partners, private donors, and a series of annual fundraisers. WEF has awarded over $400,000 across the Wakefield Public Schools district since 1989. Learn more by following WEF on Twitter or Facebook, or go to WEF01880.org. Donations can be made online at WEF01880.org/donate.