Classrooms have significantly advanced since the days of chalkboards and desks bolted to the floor.
While many teachers incorporate new technology like smart boards and use online resources such as Canvas and e-books, science teacher Kristofer Orre is among the educators who is on the cutting edge with his use of modern technologies such as vodcasts, Twitter and blogs.
Orre has been using a more technology-heavy curriculum for eight years now. Ever since changing his method of teaching he has noticed a significant upgrade in student performance on labs and assessments.
In Orre’s flipped classroom structure, both his Anatomy and Physiology and Biology students learn most of the information by taking notes on vodcasts at home. During class, they go over questions about the vodcasts and carry out labs to reinforce the information.
“The easy part is exposing students to information, the harder part is the application of it,” Orre said.
The idea behind Orre’s is to create exposure at home to allow time in class to apply and reinforce information.
Freshman Claire Smerdon, who is in Orre’s Biology class, said that his teaching methods are helpful because she is able to study more at home. While she prefers learning from classroom lectures, she appreciates other aspects of Orre’s curriculum.
“I really like all the labs we’ve been doing because it brings it to life more than vodcasts do,” she said.
The projects and assignments Orre assigns in his class also appeal to multiple learning styles. For example, Biology students have designed and created an infographic that covered topics from their genetics unit using a website or application of their choosing. This infographic project forced students to use graphic design, a subject that isn’t commonly seen in a science classroom, but a relevant and useful skill in today’s media age.
For Smerdon, researching these topics at the beginning of the unit turned out to be helpful in that she gained a better understanding of the contents earlier in the unit, “rather than learning it all and putting the pieces together in the end.”
“It was definitely a different learning technique than I’ve used before,” she said. “You get a lot of creative freedom to go in the direction you want, as long as you cover the topics. I really liked the project because I’m a very artistic person, and so it was a lot of fun to put something together.”
According to Smerdon, though, one possible downside to having more at-home studying is that it takes a lot of self-control to pay attention to vodcasts, as opposed to classroom lectures, where a teacher is physically in front of the classroom teaching.
In addition, students who have lots of questions while learning new concepts could have a harder time learning and find themselves with a buildup of information they don’t fully understand.
“I should say that no teaching method is perfect for 100 percent of students,” Orre said. “There are still students who do not like the flipped model.”
A big part of Orre’s class in the last two years is the integration of a blog, where students post chapter summaries and unit reflections on a public blog instead of turning assignments in on paper. By the end of the year, students have an “electronic portfolio” of their work, complete with embedded lab pictures from Twitter and a slew of other multimedia elements.
Orre received the idea to integrate a blog into his curriculum after attending a teacher conference and finding a network of teachers who use blogs to promote writing and digital citizenship.
Orre’s use of Twitter has become a large part of his curriculum since he started it last year. He uses it to document labs and class activities and share class curriculum with the larger world.
To Orre, social media is more than just a way to share his curricula to the public. It also serves as a learning tool for his students.
“I’m really trying to teach the kids how to be full-fledged citizens in the 21st century,” Orre said. “They need to be creative and independent thinkers.”