“The goal is, if I teach something I’ll learn, and they’re doing it in a fun way,” she said. Students pick a science topic they’ve (supposedly) learned. They shoot video and edit it. They created a video that teaches a science lesson geared to elementary students. Some videos so far feature gerbil-powered light bulbs and strange properties of water.
Banas, who teaches physical science to 140 students over six periods, has two or three iPads available to share, no budget to buy more and limited Internet bandwidth. “I don’t have the money, I don’t have the bandwidth, but I think it would be really engaging for kids to have access to,” Banas said.
Banas and Caraway received $750 each in grants from the Verizon Foundation, through The Education Fund. The money, more than $20,000 for 27 “disseminator” grants, are meant to help teachers share successful ideas or projects.
Even younger students are getting exposed to technology in the classroom.
At Auburndale Elementary in Miami, Yahaira Rufin has her first-graders use iPod touches and digital players for reading exercises in a pilot program with Innovations for Learning, a group in Illinois that focuses on digital learning and online tutoring. The pilot expanded this year to kindergarten and first-grade classrooms in nine struggling schools, and the school district bought 580 devices, according to Innovations for Learning.
With the players, Rufin’s students listen to a text and read along in a booklet. With the iPod touch, they work on drills, like frequently seen words. “I love it because not only do you see the kids, and they’re so enthusiastic, but I know it’s controlled by me,” Rufin said.
Caraway, who has taught for seven years at Killian, said the technology is more productive. If she graphs math problems on the board, they could go over four in a period. But with the devices, they can look at four graphs 10 different ways.
She said the tools make her more of a facilitator, but classroom management is still paramount. How does she make sure students don’t text or play games on their phones? “You set time limits, you know their posture and demeanor,” she said.
In the morning math class, her students work quietly on algebra equations that students created. The answers give clues to solve word riddles. (One final answer: “It’s all about the K,” a popular saying at Killian Senior.)
Not all the students are fans.
Erika Abreu, 15, prefers writing it out with paper and pencil “100 percent” more. “On the phone, it’s more confusing to me,” she said. “I’ve always learned on paper, so I think that’s the reason why, and I don’t use my phone for math. It’s something new.”