Keeping up with advances in technology is now part of many teachers job description.
For example, high-school physics teacher Clyde Qualk recently used an interactive whiteboard and student-produced video during a lesson on acceleration, and biology teacher Jade Leung asked students to use an animation program to create a movie about bacteria.
When students in Clyde Qualk’s physics class know the answer to a question, they don’t have to raise their hands. Sometimes, they don’t have to speak.
Qualk, who teaches in Bethel Park High School, occasionally lets pupils text their answers. The results are sent Qualk’s phone, then post to a poll projected on a screen in front of the class that updates instantly with answers.
The technique is just one of many technological touches Qualk uses to engage students. He is among educators across Western Pennsylvania who are incorporating innovative approaches into their teaching styles.
“It’s technology they have at their hands,” said Qualk, a teacher of eight years who previously worked as a chemical engineer.
Educators know they’re preparing students for careers that could involve technology not yet invented. Working the latest advancements into lesson plans ensures children will have the necessary groundwork to be ready to use it.
“One of the challenges of teaching is, you constantly have to know what’s going on with new technology,” said Jade Leung, honors biology teacher in Shaler Area High School. “It’s coming in droves.”
Leung conducted a lesson in which students developed scripts, characters and animation for a virtual cartoon to learn about the effects of bacteria on humans, such as anthrax or leprosy.
The program, called Go!Animate, lets students work in groups on school-issued laptops. Each group shows its cartoon to the class, so everyone gets the lesson.
“I don’t like them memorizing definitions and regurgitating them back to me,” said Leung, a teacher of six years. “I will spend days lecturing; I don’t discredit that. But once they have the background knowledge, I want to see them demonstrate that knowledge.”
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