As new technology and teaching methodologies are introduced, teachers like Martin Palermo at William Floyd High School in New York welcome the opportunity to adapt their classroom environment to enhance student learning. Now in his eighth year of teaching chemistry and biology, Palermo has found ways to increase test scores and prepare his students to be more successful in their future.
“Technological literacy is one of the most important skills we can teach our students as we prepare them for future careers in a technological society,” said Palermo. He said he also found that using technology in the classroom on a daily basis allows students to become more fluent in its use and promote a greater understanding of how to use it effectively.
Palermo’s first exposure to the effectiveness of technology in the classroom was from a student perspective while attending Stony Brook University. During a challenging physics class in a large lecture hall, Palermo recalls feeling more connected with the use of student response devices (clickers). It also allowed him to assess his understanding of the concepts or problems being presented by the professor.
INSTRUCTION WITH FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT
In his first few years of teaching, Palermo found very few teachers using technology to conduct real-time formative assessment during instruction.
In 2007 when his district purchased eInstruction’s CPS™ clickers and offered professional development, teachers began to experiment with the devices in the classroom. Palermo switched to the Insight 360 Classroom Instruction System for its ease of use and added features such as CueTag™ technology, which allows him to tag questions from any computer, then launch a question and collect student results instantly.
Insight 360 has changed the way Palermo teaches and interacts with his students. “My students are more engaged in the lessons because they are now more connected to their learning and can contribute to their own learning. The formative assessment aspect of Insight 360 has also allowed me to determine where students are struggling as well as identify misconceptions.”
MOVING BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM MODEL
In addition to using eInstruction® technology, Palermo uses a flipped classroom to leverage learning in the classroom. Students prepare for a lesson at home by watching instructional content such as screencasts or animations and completing homework questions. They then come to class with background information on the subject matter or topic.
When arriving in class the next day, students enter their homework answers using Pulse 360™ clickers so Palermo can assess their understanding of the content and focus the class lesson around their needs. Students then work in groups to solve critical thinking problems and with hands-on activitie. Instruction also can be differentiated from class to class and student to student.
“With Insight 360, I can assess understanding throughout the unit. For example, students use the Mobi™ Learners for assessment of group activities and take online checkpoint quizzes so I can evaluate their progress and provide additional help or instruction if needed before the end of the unit,” said Palermo.
MEASURING THE EFFECTIVENESS
To measure effectiveness of technology and his pedagogy, Palermo looked at student achievement and the learning environment. With the implementation of technology and use of a flipped classroom, he saw an increase in student achievement by 15 percent on standardized tests. At the individual level, department exams increased by as much as 30 percent. Through the use of questionnaires, students reported being less apprehensive about participating in classroom discussions, more connected to the content, and generally excited about the learning process.
OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO TECHNOLOGY USE
Many schools face barriers to bringing technology into the classroom and using it effectively. Palermo recognizes that technology may not be the answer to all problems in education, but when used effectively it can change the classroom learning environment and promote greater student achievement and learning.
He advises educators seek out grants or contact technology companies directly to inquire about trial software. If support is an issue, online networks and professional development classes can be beneficial. Additionally, he suggests reaching out to neighboring schools or districts to inquire if they are using the same technology and use them as a resource.