In early 2020 Carissa, a Colorado alternative high school student, was powering through classes and looking forward to her senior year.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.
Schools closed their doors and Carissa, along with students and teachers around the world, were forced to continue their classes remotely.
Some students were OK tuning into classes via Google Meet, Zoom and other video conferencing platforms.
Carissa’s grades sunk.
Geometry, one of her strongest subjects, became a concern.
“I’m a visual learner,” Carissa told us. “I really need to see what my teacher is trying to show us. I have to see it for it to make sense.
“Geometry just didn’t make any sense at all." she continued, “I was failing because I couldn’t follow along. It made it hard to pay attention.”
Carissa’s fortunes changed when her geometry teacher introduced a SideVia to her virtual classroom.
SideVias are an inexpensive, easy-to-use, document camera stand that adds an extra viewing window to video conferences.
Teachers and students simply place their smartphone, iPad or tablet on the SideVias and focus the device’s camera on their desk.
Using the SideVia's prism, the phone or tablet provides a live camera shot on a teacher’s desk, allowing students to watch as their teacher demonstrates with pencil and paper or whiteboard how to solve a problem.
If students have SideVias their teachers can also watch their workbooks live, ensuring that communication and comprehension are two-way streets.
Carissa’s grades immediately improved after her geometry teacher utilized the SideVia.
She is set to graduate with great grades.
Carissa is not alone. Her classmates’ grades also improved.
“After SideVia, I passed,” Clarissa said. “YAY! We were all happy about the change. Many of the other students said how grateful they were for it.”
Carissa said her school’s “alternative” status offers some advantages, although it does lack the online support other nearby high schools received.
SideVia was an affordable way to give students and teachers a boost.
“The school district doesn’t assist with many resources for us,” Carissa said, “Sometimes we feel forgotten and less important than the traditional schools.
“A lot of the students are just like me. Most of us work already. Some of us have hard lives, and for some of us traditional school just didn’t work for us. At our school, we’re a family. We look after each other.
“So, the switch to online was really hard, because it wasn’t just about learning. It was about losing our connection to each other. For me, it was a huge part of my support system, gone. If it was not for my school, I don’t think I’d be graduating.”
Carissa's future is now filled with hopes and dreams rather than worry and despair. On top of going to school, she works at a high-end nail salon and is pursuing an apprenticeship and certification as a nail technician, another area where SideVia has helped her in her life.
Congratulations on your upcoming graduation, Carissa! All of us at SideVia are cheering you on!
California inventor Brandon Kennington created the SideVia in March 2020 to help teachers connect with students remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was an instant success.
NBC’s Today Show proclaimed SideVia a “Must-Have” and “Fall Favorite”.
Brandon, a Purdue University mechanical engineering graduate, was inspired to make SideVia after volunteering to teach a math class via Google Meet at his kids’ Los Angeles elementary school. Brandon could see the students’ faces. They could see his. Brandon realized an extra camera focused on his pencil and paper on his desk would show students how he worked through math problems.