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Teaching beyond the textbook

CCISD hosts Digital Learning Day

February 2, 2012
By GARRETT NEESE - DMG writer (gneese@mininggazette.com) , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - It's not just textbooks and blackboards anymore.

Local teachers learned about some ways to stay on top of a shifting landscape at the inaugural Digital Learning Day at the Copper Country Intermediate School District Wednesday.

The event, which was part of the nationwide Digital Learning Day, included seminars on digital videos, education websites and tools such as Twitter and listservs for staying informed.

Article Photos

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
40-50 teachers attended the inaugural Digital Learning Day at the Copper Country Intermediate School District Wednesday, which included seminars on digital videos, education websites and tools such as Twitter and listservs for staying informed.

"This seemed like a good fit for what we wanted to do, which was highlight things locally that teachers are doing in classrooms," said CCISD curriculum consultant Carla Strome, one of the organizers of the event.

The event was put on jointly by the CCISD and Regional Educational Media Center No. 1.

Between 40 and 50 teachers involved with K-12 education attended Wednesday's sessions.

Strome said even if there's not another national day, they'll consider holding it again locally.

At one session Wednesday morning, Michigan Technological University associate professor of communication Bill Kennedy talked about "inverted classrooms." Instead of devoting the classroom time to lectures, teachers prepare them ahead of time electronically for students to watch at home. The class time formerly used for lectures can be used for more discussion of the items, including smaller group talk about some of the concepts.

The idea started in 2004, when former hedge fund analyst Salman Khan began teaching his cousins through online lessons. They told him they preferred him on the web. So did other people; his lessons took off in popularity. Khan founded the Khan Academy, which includes lessons on a wide variety of topics. The site also has practice modules, which automatically recommend other related courses once the student has demonstrated a certain level of proficiency.

Kennedy has incorporated that strategy into his own classroom. After initially trying to replicate the hour-long lectures of his class sessions, he's broken them down into 10-minute lessons.

"I'm starting to feel like I'm actually doing what I'm paid to be doing, not reading the textbook," Kennedy said.

Such a changing in learning does have potential drawbacks - among them, a deepening of the "digital divide" between students who have technology at home and those who don't. Initiatives such as the Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw's recent move to give iPads to each student can address that, Kennedy said.

Lake Linden-Hubbell High School teacher Maureen Schick and Jeffers High School teacher Jennifer Pera talked about the use of "clickers." The devices, which let students answer questions by remote control, can be used for a variety of settings, such as true-false and multiple choice.

In the past, teachers judged whether to move on if one student raised his or her hand with the right answer. Instead, the real-time assessment of the class's knowledge tells the teachers what concepts they need to go back over.

"It allows me to go beyond the standard lecture," Schick said. "You're engaging kids. They like it."

Pera said she'd typically been rigid in following her plans, but the ability to tailor her teaching to fit the kids' needs has let her "go with the flow" more.

Jeffers High School teacher Cindy McCormick watched both the Kennedy and Schick-Pera presentations. She was also scheduled to deliver her own presentation later in the day on Prezi, a website that helps teachers prepare online presentations.

"This is a very positive experience," she said. "Technology is becoming a huge part of any classroom, and seeing what other teachers are doing gives us a direction we can take in our own classroom."

 
 

 

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