In some math classes at Evanston Township High School, students are watching the lectures on their electronic devices at home and then discussing the material with teachers and classmates at school, a concept known as “flipped classrooms.”

Growing in popularity nationwide, the concept is just one of the ways that technology is making inroads into the traditional classroom experience at ETHS, according to David Chan, instructional technology specialist at the school.

He and his colleagues delivered a presentation Monday night to the District 202 School Board that updated them on ways in which the school is using technology to promote 21st Century skills in the classroom.

Particularly useful in math and science classes, complex material can be delivered in videos that students can replay time and again until they master the topic. That puts them in a better position, he maintains, to discuss the concepts in the classroom, where students can ask questions and hear comments from the teacher and fellow students.

Math teacher Sachin Jhunjhunwala has employed the flipped classroom strategy and finds that it gives the student autonomy and control of his or her learning and has increased the value of time spent in the classroom.

Another math teacher, Dale Leibforth, has 30 iPads he distributes to his students for use in his “paper free” classroom.

“What I’m trying to teach them,” he told the board, “is how to use the iPad as an educational tool and not just for entertainment.”

English teacher Mariana Romano extolled the virtues of Teacher Dashboard and Google Chromebook applications that enables her to maintain all of her students’ writing files on computer for immediate access.

She can grade their papers online to give them immediate feedback. Romano said she will often give her students a midnight deadline for turning in their homework.

“When I get up at 5 a.m. to grade papers, as I frequently do,” she said, “their document is there.”

Using Google Chromebook, Romano said she can track students’ progress on writing assignments, including their revisions, and she can add her comments electronically for them to see on whatever device they may happen to have.

Chan said that the iPads and computer applications are available to all teachers and their students, resulting in “an emphasis on creation, rather than consumption.”

At the conclusion of their presentation, Board President Gretchen Livingston said she would arrange a “technology tour” for board members so that they can see the technologies in action in the ETHS classrooms.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Online math learning

    Khan accademy has demonstrated the value of how technology and online can enhance a students experience.  Sal (the founder) and his team have built out a full curriculum in math and some other areas, video leasons, learning management system and analytics platform that is being offered for FREE.  

    These tools can be used for augmentation, differentiation, self paced learning from 3rd grade through High School.  Part of the breakthrough includes his approach of mini leasons, Video, practice problems and the learning management system.  When a student get stuck they can watch the video to better understand the topic and then go back to practice.  Teachers, parents and fellow students can all be setup as "Coaches" to follow progress.  

    At risk of sounding like a sales arm for Khan accademy – I do recommend people look into it and the High School find a way to leverage a solution that is taking fire around the country and even being tried in D65.

  2. Great post Mr. Bezaitis

    Online educational opportunities continue to increase. All students are individuals and many have different learning styles. Using technology sensibly should enable all students to achieve their potential.

    On a separate note, Mr. Bezaitis, I hope you continue your involvement in educational issues at both District 65 and District 202. While I didn't get a chance to meet you during the recent school board election, I heard you at 2 forums and was impressed with your approach and perspective. You have a lot to add to the educational dialogue in Evanston. This post is evidence of your thoughtfulness.

  3. Online courses—still a way to go

    I am all for online learning but the quality seems to vary substantially and it is not clear how well the students actually learn vrs. discussions that can occur in class—however 'proper' and meaningful class discussions are more of a dream and than a fact in even the 'best' colleges and even graduate schools. But development of other forms of education must develop somehow and there will be the good and the bad.

    Online learning has additional benefits to 'learning on your own' since you can/should still read on your own but you also do get the benefit of 'hearing' and well as reading. Whether online or in classes [at least ideally] over reading on your own, is the professor [and perhaps students] can lead in discussion and since you can only read so much during a course and it may be only once view point if getting through one text is possible in the time period and you may be convienced of its correctness, the teacher can say at least mention other viewpoints and tell you materials you may [one day] want to read to balance the course.

    I must admit when I hear 'online' the section of the cult movie "Real Genius" comes to mind where the 17 year old freshman at an technical college [CalTech but not allowed to say it], goes to a lecture room for a math course. The second day half the desks just have tape recorders, the third day all the desks are only recorders AND no teacher, just a tape recorder delivering the lecture.  I hope that is not what online courses deteriorate into.

    1. Flipping not an online course

      Flipping is where students do the "lecture" or other "sage on stage" aspects of a course online and outside of class.

      This allows the class time to be spent on activities, labs, etc. When done properly, students come to class having had the lecture, and are ready for a discussion or have questions for clarification.

      A math class can show how to do the type of problem online, and students work on what normally would be homework… in class where the teacher is present to help.

      The thing that is required to make flipping work is the student actually viewing the online part before class. The lecture needs to be short. This requires prep time.  Kahn academy may be nice, but students should have the instruction from their own teacher – aligned to the planned lesson.

      Flipping does not replace the classroom. It only switches the location of typical "lecture" and "homework".


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