Technology in the Classroom
Ipads were initially introduced into the curriculum in 2013 after parents and other members of the community generously approved the override budget targeting technology in the classroom. Since then, a blended learning environment has evolved and all students at Skyline will now have their own personal devices on campus. The technology is meant to enrich the educational experience for students and improve academic performance. It challenges students. It holds them accountable to a higher level and it provides individualized feedback much more consistently than previously encountered in a traditional Biology class. The technology is not meant to replace the teacher, but it does allow the teacher the ability to realize a much more interactive experience with students in a one-on-one, often self-paced learning environment. It compliments the traditional learning model, offering a blended learning experience. It also prepares students for the technology and resources they'll encounter in college and the challenges of the workplace.
What is blended learning? The district offers a resource page with more information on how the classroom transition will effect students through a blended learning approach. http://www.mpsaz.org/edtech/resources/bestpractices/blended
Students will experience both live lectures and video lectures regularly during the week. Becoming proficient as a discerning listener, extracting what's considered important from a body of information and learning how to organize that information is a critical skill for success in school and in the real world. Cornell notes are often guided by main questions already embedded within the template to model the format and encourage students to grow into their own questions.
Feedback occurs much more often during the week than in a traditional class as students interact with their personal devices and a course management system known as Canvas. Questions are often found immediately after a lecture, a lab or an activity. This helps students assess their level of understanding and also allows them an opportunity to revisit content or seek additional help from me as a teacher. Again, this does not replace the teacher, but compliments classroom discussions in which students have an opportunity to ask questions, and also respond directly to teacher driven questions that require both individual responses and group responses.
A very powerful piece to this equation emerges as students learn at a pace that accommodates their individual needs. Students with IEPs can take the time they need without the pressure of keeping up with peers while other, more advanced students can progress at a pace that continues to challenge them and keep them engaged.
Virtual labs compliment physical labs and dramatically increases the number of hands on experiences that would otherwise be restrictive to the traditional classroom. In addition, each and every student is fully immersed in the lab experience to meet the learning objective of the activity. The days of an odd man out in lab is no longer an issue. The method in which labs are delivered may be different, but so is the quality of the experience and end result where all team members are held equally accountable. Group or team discussions are often used after a lab to share findings, note issues with data and discuss the outcome of their hypotheses.
Another bonus to the technology driven classroom is that I, as a teacher now have the opportunity to visit with teams and personalize instruction during the course of the period. This occurs in addition to class lectures, wet labs and team activities.
And finally, students have access to curriculum, instruction and feedback regardless of whether they are at school or at home. Keeping in mind that not all activities can be achieved through Canvas, a student who finds themselves missing class does not have to worry about falling behind because of missed lectures or labs. Downloads are abundant in the form of worksheets, labs, tutorials and practice quizzes. Many of the practice quizzes can be taken at home as well.
As you can see, this truly does become a blended experience for students where technology offers numerous advantages that encompass a more individualized approach and helps assure a higher level of accountability for students. Yet, students continue to interact with each other and their teacher in a personalized, somewhat self-paced environment.