The school board will consider the “flipped classroom” initiative at their work session Wednesday, as well as the “Bring Your Own Device” program, in which students will be encouraged to bring laptop computers, smart phones and other electronic devices into the classroom.
“The flipped classroom involves the teacher creating online tutorials or digital resources for students to review outside of the classroom to prepare for in-class seminars or work sessions,” Chief Academic Officer Dr. Judi Jones said Monday. “BYOD means that students are allowed, and encouraged, to bring their own wireless or portable electronic equipment to use as part of the instruction program.”
Deputy Superintendent of Operations Chris Ragsdale said the district will be watching how many students bring devices into the classroom and what devices they bring.
“There are numerous statistics out there about what percentage of 14-year-olds have smart phones, but we need to know what percentage of the population in Cobb County can bring devices,” he said.
Ragsdale said that despite that uncertainty, he doesn’t have any concerns about the BYOD program.
The content students access would be filtered through the school’s firewall, which blocks inappropriate materials such as pornography or social media websites, Ragsdale said.
The program will be implemented in one eighth-grade team each from Lost Mountain, Pine Mountain, Floyd, Smitha, Daniell and Dodge middle schools. Three schools will implement flipped classrooms, while the other three will be in the BYOD program. The district hasn’t decided which schools will use which initiative.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa has been investigating new education methods like the flipped classroom since the district discovered they were facing a $62.4 million deficit for Fiscal Year 13. He said a new model would also help Cobb students compete academically on the national and international levels.
“You have to remember that we aren’t the pioneers on this,” he said. “There’s a consortium of districts that are already learning about the 21st Century learner. We won’t be the first one, but we need to get caught up.”
Hinojosa decided to pursue the programs after reading an April 2011 Wall Street Journal article about Khan Academy, a website created in 2008 that offers free lectures on topics such as math, physics and history. The article, written by founder Sal Khan, said the Los Altos school district in California had introduced it in their classrooms.
Los Altos Superintendent Jeff Baier told the Journal that his district began using the academy in 2011 with about 1,000 fifth- through eighth-graders.
Baier said the program gives both students and teachers instant feedback on how well the class is learning the material.
Students who traditionally struggled have improved under the program, but “we are looking for more than test score gains,” Baier said
“We are working to find ways to make learning more meaningful and personalized for students,” he said. “This tool also allows our teachers to use their instructional time in different ways, giving more individualized attention from the teacher on a more regular basis.”
Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) is a big fan of the online lessons.
“Khan Academy is revolutionizing education,” the state Senate majority leader said.
Rogers’ four children, ranging from 6 to 13 years old, started using Khan Academy’s math lessons about two years ago. They now use it a few times a week during the school year for math and science tutorials.
“It has been very helpful,” he said. “Sal Khan has a teaching style that I find very easy to follow, as do my children. Khan Academy allows us to add to what our children are receiving in school and in some cases advance beyond the school curriculum.”
Rogers said he believes the program could save taxpayers millions of dollars and improve test scores nationwide.
“The more important point is the opportunity to transform education in a way that will move the United States back towards the top in science and math,” he said. “The long-term benefits of doing so are almost too much to calculate.”