Rote memorization isn't the best way to learn the most high-level concepts in physics.
The discipline demands an aptitude for intricate problem-solving and calculation; it takes a combination of mathematical know-how and a talent for tackling abstract concepts. It's tough to master those skills simply from mindlessly copying equations off of a blackboard.
That's part of the reason Overland High School physics teacher Kevin Mann wanted a more interactive way to teach. He saw his students missing important concepts, even as they worked furiously to write down formulas and recreate his work on the board.
"They were blindly copying things down," Mann said. "They'd finish, and they'd say, 'I don't know what I just wrote, but I copied everything down."
Mann found the perfect piece of equipment to create a more interactive and enriching experience for his students, a response system that connects directly to his laptop. The system is similar to a SMART board in that it offers Mann and his students new ways to coordinate work on in-class work, quizzes and more. The equipment offers an immersive and immediate experience for Mann's students at the Institute of Science and Technology on the Overland campus.
"I can create questions instantly and it will show up on students' remotes," Mann said. "They can log in under their own names … It's really easy for me to upload information and get grades set up."
Students can watch Mann complete complex problem via an overhead projection system, and he can print his work for them to keep. What's more, the new equipment allows Mann to log in to the system from their desks for coordinated class problems. Mann can track responses and view trends – he can see which concepts posed the most challenges for the entire class and tailor his instruction to meet specific needs.
"They can see what I'm doing, visualize what I'm doing and then I can just print out my notes for the class," Mann said. "I'd rather them be watching and listening to what I'm saying. I know I had classes in college where I took notes and had no idea what had happened 50 minutes later."
The majority of the funding for the new equipment came from the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation, which provided a classroom innovation grant of $1,000. The new equipment aligned with the core mission of the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation, which is dedicated to impacting all district students, investing in innovation in the classroom and building long-term relationships in the community. The remainder of the $1,200 price tag came from school funds.
The two combined sources of funding gave Mann the resources to make an important impact for students studying an intricate subject. Mann, who hopes to pair the response system with SMART board technology in the future, says the grant has already made a noticeable difference in his classroom.
"I was very fortunate," he said. "I get to see how students are answering very quickly. With this, the analysis is instantaneous. That's very valuable for my instruction."