Launching Marbles in the Classroom

galaxies collide

Why spend class time doing lectures and explanations, when you could spend it working on group projects and experiments? It has always been a struggle to get students to show up to class prepared, but what if they know that otherwise they’d be left behind in all the fun activities?

The NEA recently highlighted one physics teacher who took this idea to heart, and who mobilized the internet to make it work. She delivers all her homework and lectures via the web. This gives her three big advantages. Her main advantageous reason for doing this was to, as the NEA article states, “her students complete their “lower-level thinking” for homework, and engage in “higher-level thinking,” like the marble and catapult lab, in the classroom.” Secondly, when questions come up in class she can refer a student to a place in the lecture if she is already busy helping someone else. And, thirdly, my favorite, she doesn’t have to repeat the same lectures every year. They are already recorded, which gives her time to do fun things like add animations and stuff.

Without the class time this would be just another version of the Khan academy (which was one of her inspirations, I’m guessing). But this is a classroom teacher, in a regular school. So the students get to get together to do experiments, ask questions and learn as a group.

This is a great example of a teacher utilizing the resources available to improve the effectiveness, and the fun, of her teaching. Rather than feeling threatened or replaced by online learning, she is using it to make herself an even better teacher.

Great Idea: Carving out more class time for activities that inspire students.
Practical Steps: Put the lectures and homework online, so the students can come more prepared.

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