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New way to go to class

Tanner Lee and Dakota Dixson work on a problem in their statistics class. (click for larger version)
November 09, 2011 - It was a usual Friday morning for freshmen in Jeff Peariso's Statistics class. They were working on the task assigned to them.

But what was usual for them was unusual for anyone peeking into the classroom. Instead of textbooks open, they had laptops. Instead of pencil and paper, they were using a Bamboo pen tablet linked to their computers.

They were being used to flip their classroom, a new technique used in a few math, science, language arts and history classes at Clarkston Junior High School.

Peariso explained a normal day for each student always includes something new. But throughout the day, his lesson tends to fade. Mixed with other classes and activities,by the time students start their homework, the lesson learned in his morning class is gone.

With flipping the classroom, however, students research what they will learn in their next class.

"I tell them tonight, I want you to go online and find out what standard deviation means," Peariso added as an example.

After using resources, including the Internet, students answer any questions on Peariso's blog, showing they know what they are talking about. They also create a video on how to solve problems.

"The 30 problems I used to give them for homework, we are working on together while they take notes," he said, adding their next homework assignment would be to show him how to solve the problems.

"The best part they are not coming in cold anymore," Peariso added. "They know what we are going over. They have a deeper understanding of what they are doing because they own it."

"It's fun," said Paige Bailey. "We learn in a different way."

"It's just learning with a keyboard instead of a pencil," added Tanner Lee.

Peariso and the students have noticed a boost in grades from using the technology in the classroom.

The idea came from a conference Peariso attended with Clarkston Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock, along with other administrators, last year.

Eric Mazur, a Physics professor from Harvard University, talked about how he had flipped the classroom.

"He realized his students had gotten to the point all they had to do was spit back the answers," Pearison said.

By telling the professor what he wanted to hear, they knew they could pass. They knew how to do the problems but hadn't learned anything from it. Mazur switched the roles by flipping the classroom.

"I took it one step further with my students," said Peariso. "They have to teach someone else. We all know if you are good enough to show someone how to do it - you know it."

The students are looking at the benefits as more than just learning but also as organization and convenience.

"It's easier because you don't have to bring all your binders and books," said Dakota Dixson.

Chelsea Turk pointed out it was easier to have everything on the laptop and saved on buying school supplies.

"It's easier for homework," Lee added. "You either send it or blog it. You don't have to worry about leaving your homework at home. You just bring your laptop."

In case the laptops crash for some reason the students also put their files on Google docs.

Peariso also noticed a convenience in less paper when printing tests. The students download the test and right before they began, Peariso shuts the internet off. Plus, students unable to come to class due to illness can still participate at home and not get behind in lessons.

Peariso also said for snow days the students will still have class. They will just be using their computers.

The students have also used Skyping to talk to Dr. Rock about making the pilot program permanent, and if they will have it next year in high school. They will be using it to talk to Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson about jobs in technology, wireless network in Clarkston and giving their feedback.

Peariso and Clarkston Junior High School history teacher Michael Greve presented how they were using technology in their classroom at the 11th Annual AT&T/MACUL Student Technology Showcase at State Capitol in Lansing, Nov. 2.

Students Carter Zielinski, Joe Shefferly and Sophie Hubble showed elected members of the Michigan State Senate and the House of Representatives how they use the laptops and Bamboo touch pads for school.

Peariso had visitors from New Zealand on Friday seeing how everything worked.

"They are looking at doing the same thing," he said.

The students received the notebook laptops at the beginning of the year. Like a library book, they signed them out and can put insurance on it.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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