RSS feed of this blog

Spotsy students flip over digital tools

Grant Hobbs rarely talks around others, but was the first student to raise his hand during a recent class discussion in Kelly Creed’s sixth-grade science class.

Hobbs was excited that his homework was to simply watch a video of Sesame Street’s Grover explaining the scientific process. In class, students played an interactive online simulation game to practice.

Creed, a science teacher at Chancellor Middle School, is one of four teachers in Spotsylvania County to implement a “flipped classroom” model.

A flipped classroom allows for the lecture to be done as homework—via digital devices—leaving more time for practice and hands-on activities in the classroom, according to teacher Natalie Lytle. She is the first to pilot this model with her Chancellor Middle School eighth-grade science class during the 2012–13 academic year.

“I like it a lot better,” said Amanda Escobar, a student of Lytle’s 2012–13 flipped classroom. “You don’t get lost when trying to listen to a lecture and take notes during class, as it’s a video that you can watch at your own pace. We have a lot more time for fun labs in class now.”

This school year, Spotsylvania expanded flipped classrooms to Creed’s class as well as one other at Chancellor Middle School and one at Riverbend High School.

The digital learning tools in such flipped classrooms were part of this year’s Digital Learning Day in early February. The day highlighted the technology being used in local schools and nationwide to individualize learning, engage students and prepare them for the real world. Chancellor Middle School and Chancellor High School were two of 10 Spotsylvania schools to participate.

“Using technology in the classrooms is a much better way of learning,” said Fred Pinney, a Chancellor High School student. Technology can be “more interactive, and we are using something students are used to.”

Pinney was stationed at a table presenting QR, or quick-response codes, which are a type of barcode. When scanned by an iPod Touch, the QR codes are converted to questions and can be answered via an application on the Touch. Teacher Nicole Hagerman used the codes in a geography class.

Taking advantage of a Digital Learning Day event in the high school’s library, students could check out 14 stations that presented the different digital products of students as well as the technologies being used in the school and in the classrooms.

“I am not that tech savvy and didn’t know about all of these things before,” said Aleta Carter, a student demonstrating the use of Google Earth in driver’s education. “I have enjoyed learning about helpful new technology at school.”

Student Quinton Tardie displayed his pixel art, which he based off the game Minecraft. Using a computer and Photoshop, Tardie has been creating his pixel masterpieces for fun, but also for class, as art teacher Carlos Moore encourages this unique art form.

“I have already been accepted to the Virginia Tech computer engineering program, and I hope to combine that with computer science and continue my pixel art to one day use in game production,” Tardie said.

The day included such activities as The Readers’ Theater at the Chancellor High School library, allowing students to watch video book trailers as well as create and present their own. Other highlighted technologies included a robotic arm using a microprocessor and computer programming, ways to collaborate online to give presentations, digital art and e-books.

Digital Learning Day was founded by the Alliance for Excellent Education and hosted its first celebration in 2012 with 36 states participating. This year, Digital Learning Day grew to all 50 states participating as well as 20 other countries. More than 3,000 events were held nationally, with Virginia hosting more than 120.

“Digital Learning Day is a chance to celebrate the kinds of learning with digital technologies that are already going on in the classrooms and show how teachers and students are using these technologies in relevant and effectives ways as learning tools,” said Karen Richardson, executive director of the Virginia Society of Technology in Education.

Some students said the interactive, hands-on aspect of digital learning tools really improved their school day.

“Using technology in education is great,” said Laura Wood, a student at Chancellor High School. “We use technology all the time at home, and it is helpful to use things we are used to and interested in at school.”



Katelyn Leboff: 540/374-5417