Digital Learning Showcase
Featured Educator: Brittainy Simmons
Simmons' students explore new ways of learning
"Students expect to read, code, create, and understand the impact of technology on their everyday lives. Mrs. Simmons helps students feel there is a place for them and their various talents."
- Dr. Yolanda Holloway
Federalsburg Elementary Principal
Federalsburg, Md. — One Caroline County elementary school has its students getting creative with a new space in its library that encourages youth to think outside of the box. The highly engaging learning space is known as a Makerspace and is being facilitated by school librarian Brittainy Simmons, who is thee January 2020 Digital Learning Showcase Recipient sponsored by the Maryland Society for Educational Technology.
Simmons’ library at Federalsburg Elementary has more than just books these days. The library is home to tools like Bloxels and Spheros which allow students to make their own creations, requiring a high level of taxonomy. Students are also active in computer coding projects with Dash robots; one example is having students coding robots to throw orange balls the greatest distance to mimic the popular ‘Pumpkin Chunkin’ event held on Delmarva.
“Brittainy wholeheartedly believes all students deserve to be surrounded by people that care about them and opportunities to grow both socially and academically,” Amy Shepler, Supervisor of Instruction, shared about the passion behind Simmons’ work and willingness to encourage creative problem-solving and teamwork skills within her Makerspace. “She will do anything, including dressing up like famous authors and learning new technologies, to show her students that she truly cares about her work and them.”
In addition to employing technology tools, Simmons takes the time to teach valuable digital citizenship skills that are imperative in today's society. She views digital citizenship lessons as opportunities to build relationships with students.
Simmons’ technology tools are often models of creating formative assessments with technology tools for her colleagues. Shepler characterizes Simmons as the guinea pig when it comes to using new technology tools and is not afraid to let her students be the experts when using tools; she is not afraid of allowing students teach her how to use tools either.
While the students love the Makerspace, Principal Dr. Yolanda Holloway indicated the space has such a deeper meaning and effect than ever expected.
“Mrs. Simmons has the students using technology, working together collaboratively, and yes, developing an appreciation and love for reading. The media center is a true learning center,” Holloway explained as the media center continues to expand beyond only reading; she indicated it is so much more to her students. “Students expect to read, code, create, and understand the impact of technology on their everyday lives. Mrs. Simmons helps students feel there is a place for them and their various talents.”
As students continue to thrive in the Makerspace, it’s imperative to have the space current and make ongoing changes and updates to always meet the needs of students in a rapidly changing technological world. Simmons’ efforts and ideas are not hers alone as she actively collaborates with district level instructional technology coaches and is a state level member of #MDMakes, an initiative sponsored by the Maryland State Department of Education to support Makerspaces. Simmons believes actively working with other maker-minded individuals is only going to enhance her work, but more importantly the opportunities she can offer to her students.
“Mrs. Simmons biggest win for our school is creating a media center that is busy and energetic. She's integrated traditional reading, and 21st century technology to create a space that's really cool and fun,” Dr. Hollaway indicated as the students of Caroline County are lucky to participate in Simmons’ learning activities in the library.
About Digital Learning Showcase
MSET is taking the opportunity to highlight best practices in classroom teaching, leading, and learning with educational technology from around the state of Maryland. The goal is to spotlight innovations of members and nonmembers throughout different public and private school settings. Each month teachers, school leaders, and community members are asked to nominate individuals who support innovation and educational technology in a school setting.
MSET is a non-profit organization with the purpose of promoting the improvement of the teaching-learning process through effective technology integration into all curricular areas as well as fostering and promoting excellence technology in education. MSET is an affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), a leading international network for technology professionals