The Oak Leaf
NCS teachers use new technology to enhance students' studiesWednesday, December 14, 2011 By Jewell Porter
All across the United States, teachers are leaving behind the traditional ways of teaching and are picking up a new method: reverse teaching. Ms. Shannon Parker, dean of the upper school and college algebra teacher, has joined the reverse teaching revolution. She said the idea behind reverse teaching is to put the lesson into a video, have the students watch the video for homework and then practice the problems the next day in class. She believes because this generation has grown up with the use of the Internet and computers, teaching through these devices will enhance their learning. “It’s important to adapt to the way students have been brought up,” she said. “How I was taught isn’t the same way [the generation in school now] should be taught.” She said her students are required to do more in order to learn the information. Students who are used to sitting back and listening to lectures are now pushed to do more during the day in class. She said her students have “become active participants in their own learning.” Ms. Parker creates her videos using her iPad and posts them on YouTube. She then puts a link on Edline, and students go on and watch the video for homework. She believes reverse teaching has benefits traditional teaching methods don’t possess. “Students can re-listen to videos and not feel like they are annoying the teacher with questions,” she said. While Ms. Parker was away on the Freshman Retreat, for example, she still was able to assist her students. Students sent her questions, and she was able to quickly make a video explaining the problem and send it back to them. Reverse teaching has also given her more time in class to work with her students. Rather than giving a lengthy lecture during class, she is able to reinforce the information given to students in the short lecture given for the previous night’s homework. Last year when Ms. Parker introduced reverse teaching to her college algebra class, the students were quicker to pick up the information in class because they had already had the lesson for homework the night before. Senior Ryan Klavan was in Ms. Parker’s college algebra class. He said reverse teaching was “good sometimes, but not good other times.” Ryan believes that although it was often helpful to learn the lesson first on his own at home, other times it was better to just do the work in class. Ms. Parker and Ryan both agree that reverse teaching can only be done with the right teacher. At one of Ms. Parker’s former schools, she taught calculus. Her class was successful on AP exams and other tests, so she feared using reverse teaching because she wasn’t sure if her students would still do as well. But in her college algebra class, she said she “refuses not to let it work.” She said, “It has to be part of you, and you have to be willing to say ‘I don’t know if what I’m doing is what I thought it would be.’” Although Ms. Parker does want her students to learn the information she is teaching, she said, “The content is not the end goal. Skills are the end goal. I don’t want students to memorize the problem; I want them to be able to figure out how to do it.” Unlike some teachers, Mrs. Parker relies heavily on group work rather than students working on their own because she wants students to be able to work in a group and develop skills that will help them later on in their lives. Although Ms. Parker is the first teacher at Collegiate to jump on the reverse teaching bandwagon, other teachers here also are using innovative technology to further enhance students’ studies. Mrs. Katherine LeMay, who teaches art history and art foundations, has begun using blogs, the Bright Link board, laptops and e-books in order to teach her students. “As soon as the school went wireless, I went paperless,” Mrs. LeMay said. “I don’t accept anything from my students on paper.” Before Mrs. LeMay made the switch from conventional teaching methods to using laptops and the Bright Link board, she printed the 60 to 70 slides in her PowerPoint presentations to give to her art history class, but now that she has gone paperless, she can just put the notes up on her Bright Link board and then put the notes on Edline for the students to study for their tests. “This helps the students out a lot, too, because they don’t have to worry about losing their notes,” she said. Her original reasoning for having her students order the e-book rather than the actual textbook was because the textbook was $100 more expensive than the e-book. But the e-book also has more advantages than disadvantages. “The textbook was really heavy, so [now] the students don’t have to worry about carrying it to class,” she said. “It’s also helpful because the students can connect to the book from anywhere.” Mrs. LeMay also believes that this prepares the students for a college setting more because “professors in college use the textbook as a reference.” Rather than assigning students exactly what she wants them to read, she just tells them to refer to the textbook in order to help them study. Mrs. LeMay also gives her tests, quizzes and assignments via the Internet. Students appreciate this because they don’t have to wait a few days for her to return their grades. “I usually have the assignments graded by about ten o’clock at night,” she said. While some might think this would open up the possibility of cheating, Mrs. LeMay said this is not the case. Just like on all other assignments, students are still held to the Honor Code. She said there seems to be a “mutual respect situation” between her and her students. Although the students are allowed to sit wherever they want, they tend to automatically separate themselves when they are taking a quiz or test. Senior Sunny Leinbach, who is currently in Mrs. LeMay’s art history class, said she likes having the tests online because Mrs. LeMay gets the tests back so fast, and students can save the returned grade to their laptops and not have to worry about keeping up with the actual papers. Sunny’s favorite part of Mrs. LeMay’s teaching with technology? “She trusts us,” she said. Mrs. LeMay’s writes on her blog, “Where the Art Historians Meet,” about three times a week. The purpose of her blog is to answer a question related to art history and have her students read her response and formulate responses of their own. “It’s an interaction among students,” she said. She plans to put her blog on her Facebook page so Collegiate alumni and friends of hers who have taken or are currently taking art history classes can get involved, as well. Ms. Parker and Mrs. LeMay are only two of the many teachers across the world who are changing their teaching methods in order to suit the needs of the students they are teaching. This is becoming more and more common as teaching itself evolves, and paper and pens give way to computers and blogs.