As the school makes a push to integrate more technology into the curriculum, some teachers are going beyond using tablets and other devices to using blogs and websites to create a 24-7 online learning space for their students.
Wes Gibson said he’s seen the advantages of the online classroom experience while visiting the website of his geometry teacher, Seth Taylor, “lots of times.”
Taylor uploads worksheets, notes, self-assessments, even videos of his classroom lectures for each of his classes and keeps a calendar to remind students of the class’s goings-on.
Wes, a 15-year-old freshman, missed school last week due to sickness, but he was able to follow along in Taylor’s geometry class as if he were in school.
“By 4:00,” he said, “I already knew what they did in class and could see the video.”
Taylor knows that he teaches a dreaded subject. “In math of all subjects, you do not want to fall behind,” he said. “If you miss a concept, it’s going to hurt you for everything after that.”
Wes’ father, David Gibson, said he and other parents love the website.
“If you want to take the time to see what’s going on with your kids,” he said, “it’s just a great way to keep in touch without pestering him personally.”
For parents who have been long absent from a math classroom, the videos and other materials can help them help their kids with homework.
“We can both go on the website, see what the lecture is, see what his question is, and the answer’s there,” he said. “It’s a wonderful advantage, it really is.”
Such online repositories of information are also beneficial for the teachers creating them. Keeping a regular blog for his classes helps science teacher David Kadle stay organized. “It keeps me on pace, it keeps me on task,” he said.
Many of the assignments he gives students in his physics and chemistry classes are submitted electronically, which means he can grade them much more quickly and easily than he can a big stack of papers. But more importantly, his afternoon posts are a way for him to reflect on his day, noting things that went well or could have been done better.
Some use the websites to go beyond reflection, scouting out future lessons to get familiar with the content before it comes up in class.
“I kind of like to be an overachiever,” said Maria Limberis, a 15-year-old freshman in Taylor’s class. “I like to know what’s going on, that way I can come to class prepared.”
For those students who have Internet access in the evening hours, it provides an opportunity to browse the content and learn from each other, Maria said.
“We can talk about it, and we do learn from that experience and apply that in the classroom,” she said.
Sophomore Caitlin Gilbert, 15, said she uses Taylor’s website for extra practice on geometry problems, printing out extra worksheets Taylor didn’t use in class to work out on her own.
“If you still have questions after school, even at 10 at night, you can email him, and he’ll get right back to you,” she said.
Caitlin said his system really lends itself to math but would also work well in other classrooms.
Principal Mike Newell thinks so, too.
“I envision in the future this is something we will all be doing,” he said.
While all the teachers at JHS have some sort of online presence through the school’s website, he added, only a few have gone so far as to create a blog or website.
But trailblazers such as Taylor and Kadle help incorporate these ideas into other classes. “They can see the success; they hear students talking about how much they like it,” Newell said. “They are encouraged to try and do more.”