Warren on Back to School: Better Needs Evaluation, The Role of Struggle
Warren Barkley may have contributed to making WiFi a global standard and is leading our technology vision as SMART’s CTO, but his K-12 experience may surprise you. Thanks for sharing this personal reflection, Warren! I challenge our blog readers to share their own personal K-12 school reflections — how does your personal experience with school inform your role as an educator? We welcome you to share with us on Twitter or in the comments below. You can find @warrenbarkley on Twitter too.
If you asked my parents, they would have told you that the K-12 education system failed me. My Dad was a huge fan of public education, he was president of the local PTA and started his career as a high school teacher in Canada. As active as my family was with the education system of that time, one of my learning needs still somehow slipped through the cracks. During my first year of my first university degree, I got 3 Fs in the opening term. It turns out I could not write and after some testing, we figured out that I was dyslexic.
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Amping Up Chemistry Class at ACGC Public Schools
When students walk into my classroom each fall for the first time as juniors in a chemistry class, they know they are in for something unique just by looking up and seeing the gigantic periodic table painted on the ceiling tiles. I love that they enter my class with an expectation for the exceptional, because that is exactly what I strive to provide. I have a strong belief that science is best understood through interactive, engaging, hands-on learning activities. This being said, it can be very difficult to facilitate those kinds of learning experiences with the oftentimes abstract concepts of chemistry.
The addition of SMART amp collaborative learning software to my classroom has provided me with tools to turn what were once drab, boring topics into amazing collaborative experiences that extend beyond the bounds of our classroom walls. To make sure students have a solid foundation of data collection skills for future labs, we explore the International System of Units and metric prefixes. Using SMART amp, I was able to create rich, collaborative experiences for my students. Here is what we did:
- Students in each of my three chemistry sections used their text and online resources to investigate SI units, including labels, tools, and real life examples.
- Using SMART amp, students were grouped with 2-3 other students from different class periods to analyze, compare, and present their findings.
- After finalizing a workspace, each group created a template of their file and posted the link in our course Schoology page so that groups could open each template in SMART amp to experience how the same information could be organized and explained in various ways.
My students were very engaged in this activity using SMART amp, since they were able to collaborate with their peers. Students used high-level thinking skills to determine how best to organize their information and make sure it was understandable for the other groups who would eventually view their workspace.
I now have students asking, “Will we use SMART amp today?” as soon as the enter the room, and “Can I do this project in SMART amp?” when individual work is to be done. I have noticed that working in SMART amp has helped my students ask higher level questions of others and themselves, and they now collaborate together, instead of dividing up their group work.
Kristin Straumann is a SMART Exemplary Educator from ACGC Public Schools, in central Minnesota. For the past six years she has been a high school classroom science instructor and recently added District Technology Integration Specialist to her classroom duties. Kristin has presented on SMART products and integration into science content classes at several local conferences, including MnSTA, TIES, SWSC SMART Users Conference, and numerous other local events. Straumann continues to be a SMART advocate by incorporating technology into her classroom and sharing her passion for SMART with the hope of inspiring educators.
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