Seventh grade openhouse

Recently, I went to my son's 7th grade openhouse. It was a nice setup. They made me follow my son's daily routine, visiting the same classrooms in the same order, but with 10 minute class time where the teachers gave information about what they would be doing this year.

Overall I am impressed by what I saw and heard. My main takeaways was that the school has embraced a hands-on learning curriculum, and is making very good/wise use of technology.

My impression from Math, Science, ELA classes was that, the middle school is using the flipped-classroom model to a great extent. There is little lecturing and a lot of group work.

The science class presentation was exciting. Instead of memorizing, the class emphasizes hypothesizing, testing, and reasoning.

Art class also sounded exciting. They added new media modules. This is not surprising given that half the 12 years old population list being a YouTuber as their career choice. The art teacher said that their goal is to get the students excited and comfortable with making/producing things.

The school offers many interesting clubs in addition to the curriculum. I wish I was a student, and had the opportunity to learn in this environment.

Technology use

The school makes very good use of technology. Each student gets a ChromeBook for the year. They use it at home, charge overnight, and bring it to school to use in the classes all day. These ChromeBooks have very good battery life, and they are very durable.

Everything is on the web, and accessible via the ChromeBooks. The students have access to grading information via the schools webportal for them. Many classes use apps that enable the students to create flash cards for studying. The students get to take practice tests. And almost every class  make use of videos, including YouTube videos.

In each class, the students are responsible for organizing their agendas and keep track of the homework deadlines. The students reach all their class material and view and submit homework online using their ChromeBooks and Google office and other Google tools.

It looks like Google has the monopoly on the mindshare of the new generation. And Microsoft is missing the boat on this one big time. By the time these students graduate college and start jobs, they may not be very willing to adopt into the Windows/PC ecosystem.

Each classroom has a smartboard. These smartboards are actually computer screens projected over to a regular whiteboard. The smartboard functionality comes from the software that tracks hand movements and pen touches to the whiteboard via a camera. The teacher can display any website on the smartboard, and can scroll, click, zoom, with ease.

I am left with a lurking and jealousy guilt after the openhouse. Compared to the middleschool's technology use, our universities and our CS department's technology use is very lame... Why is that?

In my university, we keep on traditional lecturing. In our classes, there is a nice monitor and projecting technology, but there are no smartboards. I think there are clickers available in some classrooms, but that is ancient tech and unnatural way to interact. The university makes us use the God-awful (and even more ancient) Blackboard software for interacting/managing the class and grades.


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