Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Flipped Classroom

Numerous teachers are constantly looking for new ways to teach and engage their students in order to enhance their learning experience. One of the techniques that resulted from this search is a concept known as “the flipped classroom.” This concept came about when Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, chemistry teachers at Woodland Park High School at the time, were looking for a way to keep absent students up to date in class without having to reteach lessons. They decided to record their lessons, include annotations, and then post them online. This way, students who were absent in class on a particular day could see what they had missed online. Bergmann and Sams later noticed that even students who had attended class found the online material useful, and used this to discover a new way of teaching.

Several teachers around the world have since adopted the “flipped classroom” technique. While not all use an identical approach, the common principle is for students to learn what would previously have been taught in class at home through lesson videos the teacher creates. Then class time would be used to work through problems pertaining to the topic covered in the videos as well as concepts people had difficulty understanding. Students are able to work with the teacher or with their peers, creating a more active and engaging learning environment.

My experience with this form of learning came in the 10th grade when my chemistry teacher decided to test it out during the second semester. She, along with the other teachers in the chemistry department, created a work packet that had practice problems for all the topics we would cover that semester. Each night, we were assigned videos to watch and take notes on that her fellow teacher had created and uploaded to YouTube. These videos, similar to those found on Khan Academy, were of a black screen where the instructor would write down important points, formulas, or examples as she taught. The next day in class, the teacher would briefly go over any area there seemed to be general confusion in. Then each student would work on the section in their packet that correlated to the videos we had watched the night before, while asking each other or the teacher for help when needed.

I really enjoyed that semester of learning in the class. The “flipped classroom” method allowed me to have a deeper encoding of the material I was learning because it was almost like I was teaching myself the material. It did pose its challenges, such as when the lesson video was difficult to follow, but since I had access to the Internet while watching it, I was able to search the web for clarifications and take my own time until I understood. This method was not a success with all students, however. This is due to the fact that some students work better with the freedom and independence the flipped classroom offers, while some students are more successful under a more structured learning environment. It is also not appropriate for all subjects, suiting subjects like mathematics and science more. While the “flipped classroom” is not for everyone, there are students that can greatly benefit from it. If there can be a structured way to implement it into the learning environment of the students it is effective for, then their learning experience could be vastly improved.

Read more on the “flipped classroom” here:

To read more on the "flipped classroom" in our blog:

Monday, June 10, 2019

"Computers in the Classroom May Do More Harm Than Good-- If They Are Overused" by Tom Jacobs

New research finds that computers are most effective as teaching tools when used sparingly, and to teach kids at certain ages specific subjects.

Initiatives to provide every schoolchild with a laptop or tablet computer have, to date, been well-publicized failures. And perhaps they were bad ideas to begin with.
Computers can certainly be effective tools for teaching children of certain ages specific subjects. But a large new study suggests their presence in the classroom is far from universally positive.

"Students worldwide appear to perform best on tests when they report a low-to-moderate use of school computers," Helen Lee Bouygues, president of the Paris-based Reboot Foundation, argues in a just-released report.
"When students report having access to classroom computers and using these devices on an infrequent basis, they show better performance," Bouygues writes. "But when students report using these devices every day, and for several hours during the school day, performance lowers dramatically."
The Reboot Foundation is a non-profit devoted to "cultivating a capacity for critical thinking." Its new report suggests that, while computers can sometimes help children grasp certain concepts, their overuse is highly worrisome.
Bouygues analyzed data from two sources: the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which provided math and reading scores for American fourth- and eighth-graders, and the Program for International Student Assessment, which provided data from 30 nations.
After taking into account various factors that could affect student achievement, including household income, teacher training on the use of computers in education, and (for the international students) the size of the nation's economy, she identified several disturbing trends.
"Across most countries, a low to moderate use of school technology was generally associated with better performance, relative to students reporting no computer use at all," Bouygues writes. "But students who reported a high use of school technology trailed behind peers who reported moderate use."
For instance, students in France who reported using the Internet at school for a few minutes to a half-hour every day scored 13 points higher on the PISA reading assessment than students who reported spending no time on the Internet at school. Meanwhile, French students who were online in school for more than 30 minutes per day consistently scored lower than their peers on that same test.
A similar pattern was found for American youngsters. "Fourth-grade students who reported using laptops or desktop computers in more than half or all of their classes scored 10 points higher than students who reported never using those devices in class," the report states.
But the overuse of computers seems to have produced diminishing, and finally counterproductive, results.
"We found evidence of a learning-technology 'ceiling effect' in some areas, with low to moderate usage showing a positive relationship, while high usage showed a negative relationship [with student achievement]," Bouygues writes. "The results regarding tablet use in fourth-grade classes were particularly worrisome. Fourth-grade students who reported using tablets in all or almost all classes scored 14 points lower on the reading exam than students who reported never using classroom tablets. This difference in scores is equivalent to a full grade level, or a year's worth of teaching."
These results do not prove causation, but they're certainly cautionary.
"While there's clear evidence that technology can improve learning outcomes," the report concludes, "our data suggests that technology may not always be used in a way that prompts richer forms of learning. Our findings indicate schools and teachers should be more careful about when—and how—education technology is employed in classrooms."
So by all means bring an apple for the teacher. But that Apple for the student should spend the bulk of the school day switched off.
Shared by Michele Straube
Article by Tom Jacobs


Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Practical Experience Versus Textbook Learning

I recently stumbled across an interesting article, "Take STEM lessons outside of the box with these 3 approaches", by Lauren Barack of Education Dive, which talked about a few ways educators have become more creative in teaching practical skills to middle and high school students. Before I delve into some of my views and experiences of learning by "experience", here is a summary of the three approaches given in the article.

The first example asks for fourth graders to work in groups of eight to build a vertical freestanding ring with Pringles. During the class, some students finished before other students and ended up going around the classrooms helping other students. By the end of the class, all students were able to finish the project in the end but all with different methods. According to a teacher, a key lesson that students learn from this is that there are multiple ways of solving a problem in STEM. 

In the second example, an elementary school in Georgia asked their students to build a replica of Berlin, Germany, with a focus on the Cold War Era which included the Berlin Wall. Students were asked to incorporate mathematics in this replica by finding the volume of buildings. This project reinforces the lessons the students learned from both mathematics and the Cold War era.

In the final example, a K-8 public school in Ontario started a rock curling competition and a halfpipe competition. Students in the rock curling competition coded robots to throw rocks at a target. Their main goal was to get the rock closest to the center of the target. In the halfpipe competition, students applied their engineering skills to build ramps for robots to launch.

In my opinion, all these examples are fabulous ways educators have revolutionized learning because students simply remember experiences much better than words in a book. In the future, they will remember the cool project they made a few years ago that included the Berlin Wall and be able to recall what happened during the Cold War. Another way these projects are great is because it demonstrates that innovative and effective learning absolutely does not have to be expensive. The two examples with the Pringles and the replica of Berlin were certainly low-budget projects.

In addition, these projects evoke practical skills and experiences students will eventually need one day for a job. Problem-solving skills or the ability to communicate effectively with other group members are required skills in many jobs. Like training any muscle for a sport, these things also requires constant practice to improve.

The sad truth is that many schools nowadays are too focused on test results and hound their students with textbook after textbook. Even though having the textbook knowledge to any subject is essential, not having the practical skills such as problem-solving, leads to the inability to apply the material to real-world usages. Instead of chasing for the best school ranks, schools should attempt to prepare their students to be the most effective workers in the labor force. To do this, schools need to make the three examples listed above to be a norm, where we don't need to be reporting on these "special cases" because every school does it frequently. With this, I encourage educators to take their classes to the next level with more hands-on experiences and less lecturing. Even though this will be more work, I am quite certain your students will reap the benefits of more effective learning while at the same time enjoy school better. Remember, interactive and effective does not mean expensive!

Link to the article:

Monday, May 20, 2019

Preparing for the GED Online

The General Educational Development (GED), also known as the Graduate Equivalency Degree, is a series of tests from which one can earn a high school equivalency diploma. It is an alternative to taking four years of high school classes and legally carries about the same weight as a high school diploma. The GED tests are comprised of four subject tests: Maths, Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts, and people 16 years of age and above not currently enrolled in high school are eligible to take it with some eligibility regulations varying by location.

There are several resources available to prepare for the GED, including online courses. If it is difficult to attend scheduled classes in person due to other daily commitments such as a job, the online route can be the most convenient means of preparation. A great example of one of these resources is This website grants you access to classes, study materials, and tips for free. With digital materials or textbooks, you can study for the test at your own pace. It also provides information about the test itself and a means to schedule a test date. Additionally, there is a component of this site called GED live, if you would prefer a method that holds you more accountable. For $129, you can have a 90-day avenue to live online 60-90 minute GED classes taught by top-rated Kaplan instructors for all 4 subjects of the GED. These courses are recorded and available for review at any time, and you would have access to experts who can answer any additional questions you might have through email.

Although appealing to convenience, be cautious of offers to take the actual GED online. There is currently no accredited way to take this examination online, and any certificate you receive from doing so is not legitimate. You can complete all your preparation for the GED tests online, but the exam must be taken at a certified testing centre.

You can find official GED centres here:

Contribution by Chizbel Oham

Friday, May 10, 2019

Edmodo-Educator's Social Media

Often, teachers need help as well when it comes to finding educational material for their students and recently, I stumbled across an interesting free online educational tool called Edmodo that could potentially help with this. It's quite innovative because it meshes a classroom with social media for teachers. What Edmodo does that is special is that it connects educators with an easy to use social media platform. For example, if an English teacher was looking for material about Shakespeare, he/she could simply post a question regarding suggestions/advice needed.

Since Edmodo is already well-established among educators, there is a chance that similar questions may have already been previously asked and teachers are allowed to search through the questions of past posts and use useful feedback.

In addition to the feedback from other educators, there is also a dedicated "resources" tab in the search tool.

A scenario in which Edmodo can be very useful is if a teacher is new to the position and looking for resources, or is starting a new class within a school. For example, if an educator wanted to start a meteorology course then he/she would need to find completely new resources. In addition, meteorology isn't quite as prevalent as a common course such as algebra I and resources may be more scarce. Since a few high schools do offer such a course for their students, Edmodo can bring educators around the country that have also started a meteorology class together and allow easier sharing of resources nationally.

Edmodo is a fabulous example of how social media can bring people of all types together. More specifically, Edmodo brings the teaching community together and allows easier sharing of advice, experiences, and resources. Since Edmodo itself is simply a website, the teachers within the site are the most essential part of improving it. As a result, I encourage educators to put their hat in the ring and improve the learning experience of students nationally by sharing the valuable resources they have created.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Why We Should Be Investing in "Longitudinal Developmental Studies"

A good question to start off today's post would be:

Assuming a child cannot have both, is it better to have advanced math skills at an early stage, or high executive functioning skills? Can a child that is behind in academics but has better functioning skills catch up to his/her peers?

These are all questions that longitudinal developmental studies aim to answer. In an NYU Institute of Human Development and Social Change post emphasizing the importance of investing in long-term studies for learning, it claimed that like any other studies, such as medications, there must be both a short-term study and a long-term study. In the past, many studies on development were strictly short-term and only examined the benefits such as immediate test scores. The problem with these studies is that it fails to analyze long-term drawbacks. However, if we go back to our original questions, a study found that even if a student scores lower on a math exam, as long as they have high executive functioning skills, they are likely to catch up to their peers in the future.  

This study demonstrates the importance of long-term studies because if only short-term studies are made, then educators may promote activities that are not beneficial to a child's development in the long run. A good analogy that was made in the NYU Human Development post was that medications must also be examined both short-term and long-term. Even if a medication heals a person of the disease quickly, that person must be continually examined to see if there are side-effects long-term. If there are side effects, doctors must take note of the trend and alert future patients before treatment. This is the same with developmental methods. 

Fortunately, many families nowadays are willing to take part in long-term studies that allow researchers to visit their homes and take notes on how the child is developing over a period of a decade. Even though these families receive very little personal benefit, they are willing to partake in these studies because their help could be of benefit to kids in the future.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Online High School as an Alternative

The previous year, I experienced education in a completely different way than I had before when I completed my senior year of high school through an online school. Prior to this, I had always attended school regularly, like most other children, and had never even considered virtual school as an option. However, after being out of school for almost two years due to familial circumstances and having only 12th grade left to complete, online high school became the ideal path for me. The idea of attending a new high school at that point was not appealing to me, as it would have meant me integrating into my fourth high school in total as well as having to wait until the following fall semester to start college. I was eager for a fresh start and needed the flexibility a regular high school could not provide, so I decided to enroll in an online school called Laurel Springs School.

Online high school is a form of education in which students can take classes online to earn their high school diploma. These schools can either be private, public, charter, or university-affiliated. The school I attended, similar to most other virtual institutions, gave me the freedom to progress through my schoolwork at the pace that worked best for me, as long as the school year did not exceed 10 months. I had access to help from my teachers, be it through a phone call, email, or video call. There was a wide array of clubs offered, which involved cyber meetings, and a physical education requirement. With just a few steps from my bed to my family study room, I had all the resources I needed to receive a high school education.

The flexible schedule in online schools is its greatest virtue. I was able to cut down the amount of time I spent completing my senior year of high school and begin college a semester earlier than I would have otherwise. Students can also progress at a slower rate if necessary for a better understanding of the subject material. Certainly, it is not all about the speed with which one is able to finish school, but rather the quality of the education. For this reason, it is crucial to enroll in an accredited and reputable school. Another benefit of online schooling is the extra layer of convenience it provides. Whether you are traveling for sporting commitments or your family is relocating to another country, you can take your education along with you rather than putting it on hold or changing schools. It is also a more comfortable form of learning for those who do not function at their best in social environments, and those that get distracted by peers and the school setting.

While there are many positives that can be identified about online schooling, there are areas of added difficulty. This form of education would most likely not be suitable for those who thrive and function through physical interaction. While you can meet people and befriend them through clubs and video calls, it might not be as fulfilling. Additionally, there is no doubt that it is easier to communicate your confusion and questions to teachers in person, and having the degree of separation that comes with online high schools could create some difficulty. Finally, there is a certain level of responsibility necessary for the freedom virtual schooling brings. With no requirement to physically attend classes, it can be easy for one to fall behind in or fail to do their coursework.

Online schooling is definitely not for everyone, but it is certainly a worthwhile alternative for those interested. I feel as though I had a deeper understanding of class material than I had ever had before due to the fact that I was essentially teaching myself the course material through the resources provided by the school. While it is mostly used nowadays for people in special circumstances, such as students with an illness that inhibits them from attending a school or those pursuing professional athletics or the arts, I believe in the years to come it will start to become a form of education people are more aware and informed about. As we steer towards a more technologically-dependent world, online schooling might one day become the more popular form of learning.

You can explore an online school here:

Contribution by Chizbel Oham