This Cheshire High School classroom has been equipped with Extended Engagement technology that helps connect remote learners with their teacher and their peers who are in the classroom.

A $30,000 grant from the Cheshire Education Foundation will pay for audio and visual technology to help engage students who are spending a large portion of their class time each week learning from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is the largest contribution that our foundation has made to the Cheshire Public Schools in the past several years,” said CEF chair Jane Leukart. “At this time of need, when maintaining the quality of education for our children is so important, we are honored to provide this help,” she added.

The hybrid teaching model has divided classes between in-school and remote learning as a means to reduce the number of students in school buildings on any given day. During the summer and fall a total of 60 classrooms throughout the district have been equipped with cameras, microphones and speakers to bring the students at home closer to their teachers and classmates and make them feel more connected. The Cheshire Education Foundation grant will pay for the equipment and installation in an additional ten classrooms.

“The Cheshire Education Foundation has historically provided us with support to innovate and improve the learning experience for our students,” said Cheshire Schools Superintendent Jeff Solan.  “The addition of ten more of these Extended Engagement classrooms will allow our students in the room to hear both their teacher and their peers with greater clarity improving the experience for all.  Moreover, during this time when many learners are participating from home, the video quality provides equity among all learners,” he said.

The Extended Engagement systems each have a camera installed in the classroom ceiling to give students at home a clear view of their teacher and the Smartboard. The teacher wears a microphone and there are four speakers installed in the ceilings that enable the remote and in-person students to hear each other and their teacher.

Teachers say this technology has helped improve the quality of learning for the students in class and at home. “The camera and microphone system in my room really helps the in-person students and the remote students participate in discussions with me and with each other,” said Susan Chasen, a Cheshire High School Chemistry teacher. “I like that I am wearing a microphone so students at home can hear me well as I walk around the room and that the speakers and microphone in the ceiling help the students hear each other whether they are in the classroom or at home.”

In its 25 years, gifts from the Cheshire Education Foundation to enhance the educational opportunities for students in the local school district have now exceeded $1 million.

The CEF grant will buy cameras like this one, plus microphones and speakers for ten Cheshire High School classrooms.