My own role is now more of a facilitator while my students collaborate, coach, and instruct each other. I have students tackle problems individually or in small groups. Both methods lead to cooperative and collaborative learning, because after the students have worked through a problem or series of questions, the interactive whiteboards become the focal point for whole-class discussion, review, or re-teaching—providing the perfect venue for the individuals or small groups to present strategies and solutions to help their struggling classmates.
I’ve found that my students are learning how to be better problem solvers and risk takers. When I’m teaching language arts activities, I can show one student’s work to the entire classroom via the document camera and have them suggest ways in which that student could improve. They aren’t afraid to toss out ideas they might not previously have shared.
For one class, I even had a student create and teach a grammar lesson on “Me versus I.” The others demonstrated their understanding of the concepts by using the clickers to respond to questions. At other times during the lesson, students came to the board to place the correct answer in sentences highlighted on the interactive whiteboard.
It takes courage to get up in front of your classmates and teach them, but it also demonstrates how easy the technologies are to use. It’s that ease of use that hooked me, but it’s students’ deeper comprehension of subject matter that has me most excited.
My students used to memorize materials and promptly forget the information after a test. But with our new building-block approach of teaching, sharing, collaborating, and encouraging everyone to stretch themselves, they’re now using previous learning to solve the next set of problems presented. This shows how important it is to put students at the center of their learning experience.
This new teaching style is making an impact on my students’ achievement scores. Our Ohio Achievement Test scores rose steadily year over year, from 63 percent proficient to 79 percent in four years. In that last year, 2012, the state average was 66 percent. The difference in my mind was the effective and consistent use of the interactive teaching technologies.
I think John Dewey would approve of this new style of interactive and flipped teaching that I’ve incorporated and the difference it’s made in teaching, learning, and achievement gains. Using technology that allows for cooperation, collaboration, and feedback has played an important role in driving my students’ inquiry, discovery, and learning.
Darren ‘Mike’ McGuire is a fifth grade teacher at Granby Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio.
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