Lakeville flipping out over new technology

Lakeville flipping out over new technology

Article by: HERÓN MÁRQUEZ ESTRADA , Star Tribune
    Updated: September 21, 2012 – 6:27 PM

Students and teachers alike seem to like doing their homework in school and their school work at home.

Like most teenagers, Grace Kerber can easily spend hours a day on her computer, her iPad or her iPhone. But no one minds, even when she is using one of her devices while in class at Lakeville South High School.

That's because she's a student in a pilot “flipped,'' or reversed, classroom program at the school. The 15-year-old sophomore is required to do her course work on the devices, and she must do so outside of school hours.

In flipped classrooms, students do their course work at home over a few days, listening to taped lectures and then doing their homework in class during their one-hour periods.

“It's nice,” said Kerber, who is one of 36 students in a flipped health class. “It's like working on your own time.”

The Lakeville School District, like some districts in the metro area, are experimenting with flipped classrooms as part of an overall strategy to use technology to enhance student learning and extend the reach of educators.

“It's the same content, the same material, just presented in a different way,” said Trish Harvey, the district's digital learning coordinator. “It's extending school beyond 8-3.”

“It really allows for a lot more flexibility,” said Chris Myers, the digital learning coach at Lakeville South. “It's a different delivery model.”

Three classes at Lakeville South and three at Lakeville North are currently flipped, and Harvey said there are plans to add a fourth at each school next semester.

At the end of the school year, the program will be evaluated and most likely expanded, judging by the early reviews from students, parents and administrators in the district.

“So far so good,” said Lisa Rasmussen, who is teaching a health class via a flipped classroom. “I think [the students] are adapting well. They knew what they were getting into.”

That is because the district took a survey last year to gauge interest in digital learning and find out who had the devices. They then selected the courses to flip based on interest from students and staff.

“I think it will help me in the long run,” said Haley Ravndalen, 15, expressing a common theme among students.

Students can use district equipment in class, before school or after school if they don't have their own laptops, tablets or smart phones. However, most students have their own devices. In fact, many use an iPhone with its small screen to do the interactive work.

Time management the key

Rasmussen said she sees her students twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursday for less than an hour. She then uses district software to post assignments and deadlines for getting things done. Assignments are handed in electronically, and she can monitor if students are spending the required amount of time online.

“Time management for kids, that's going to be the biggest issue,” Rasmussen said.

The flipped environment also has extended the teaching hours of Rasmussen, who finds herself answering questions late at night or checking student e-mails on weekends.

“I knew it would be a bigger time commitment, but it's been worth it,” she said. “Kids I never hear in class I hear in the discussion groups.”

The switch to flipped has put a lot more responsibility on the students because they dictate when they get the reading done, when to take quizzes and when they join in group discussions about class topics.

“It's kind of confusing, but also kind of better,” said Mitchell Norris, 16, who describes himself as “a technological kind of guy.”

Norris and other students say they feel the added responsibility, but also feel less pressure, because they dictate when they get assignments done. Some will get them done at 6 a.m. while others are logging on at 11 p.m. or midnight.

“I don't feel pressured,” Norris said, “I don't feel rushed.”

Chris Norris, his mother, said she approves of the district trying new things. She supports anything to engage her son more with school.

“He seems to like it,” she said. “If he's taking on that responsibility for himself, that's wonderful. He actually does seem to be taking more responsibility for his school work.”

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