Once Kristi Miller’s Algebra 2 students at Ottawa High School put down their iPads, they went to the front of the classroom and moved a sticker by their names to indicate which math problem they were working that Thursday afternoon.

The stickers not only showed Miller how much progress students had made on their lessons, it let the students’ peers know what assignment would be occupying their time that last hour of the school day.

“It’s helpful, because students who are working on the same assignment can get together and talk about it,” Miller said.

What? Students helping each other?

What a refreshing concept.

When I was in school, students weren’t allowed to talk in class, much less exchange information about the math problems they were working on.

We sat at our desks, organized in neat rows, listening to the teacher drone on as she worked out the problems on a conventional chalkboard. She would call upon a student every now and then to see if he or she was paying attention.

And if a student gave a really bone-headed answer, she didn’t hesitate to hurl a piece of chalk at them. I got beaned a couple of times.

My, how education has changed — for the better.

Mark Brigman, who is in the midst of obtaining a doctorate degree and has years of higher education under his belt, has a self-professed passion for learning.

“It has always baffled me how instructors or professors will stand at the front of a classroom and lecture in a monotone voice for the entire class period and then expect the students to care,” Brigman, executive vice president of partner development for Kansas City, Mo.-based Lumen Touch, said. 

OHS is serving as a pilot school for Lumen Touch’s Students Achievement Management Curriculum, a centralized software product that organizes, manages and maintains curriculum, learning activities and grades in one integrated solid solution, he said.

Miller’s Algebra 2 class is one of two math classes using the program, which allows students to watch videos of Miller’s lessons on YouTube and then use the SAM software on their iPads to complete the course work.

The paperless system allows the students to access their homework assignments anywhere they can find wifi Internet access.

Since the semester began in mid-August, Miller said each student has generated three pieces of paper — or 42 sheets — in two months.

Brigman said the one-to-one, student-to-mobile-learning-device ratio is the future of education.

Decidedly, Brigman — who calls the SAM software a “game-changer” — has a vested interest in seeing schools gravitate to this system because of the SAM software his company markets. But it seems to go deeper for him, personally.

“Kids are used to computers and game stations,” Brigman said. “You put an iPad or laptop in front of them, and suddenly they are in the position to play — they’re not just sitting on the bench listening to the coach.”

Brigman said students want to be engaged, not just lectured to for hours on end.

Students and OHS teacher Keith Lane, whose first-hour geometry class is serving as the other pilot class for the SAM software, expressed the same sentiments.

If you listen to students, Brigman and his company are on the right track.

“I wish all our classes were like this [iPad initiative],” Katie Wooge said as she sat in Miller’s algebra class Thursday. “I think this is the future.”

Doug Carder is senior writer for The Herald. Email him at dcarder@ottawaherald.com