Visit Gary Abud's chemistry classes at Grosse Pointe North High School and it's apparent that students are learning about much more than just atoms and electrons--and they are doing it using their cell phones. That's right--the cell phones, iPads, iPods and tablets that many students often "sneak" into class are utilized by Abud's students as a means to collaborate, blog and create a classroom learning bank.
Last week, a small team of Abud's students took their unique classroom learning model on the road to Lansing for the 12th annual AT&T/MACUL Student Technology Showcase and wowed legislators, educators and other students with their innovative use of devices that, instead of posing a distraction to their learning, provide a forward-thinking method of cooperative learning.
"We have all these students bringing these great tools to class anyway, so I thought, why don't we use them?" Gary Abud explained.
Using free programs, or apps, that cross multiple platforms--Microsoft or Apple--students create journal entries with notes, photos and videos that they take with their own device and then submit to a public classroom document that compiles the learning taking place each day. Chemistry lab notes now include actual video footage of the experiments being conducted as well as the group's scientific hypothesis which was decided through a poll distributed on--you guessed it--their cell phones.
"When they leave my class and this building, they realize that they have this resource in their device, not just a distraction," Abud asserted. While chemistry is certainly the focus of learning in his classroom, Abud also wants his students to learn how to collaborate with others and be responsible digital citizens.
"They (digital devices) are a distraction for adults--we hope that our students will learn to be more responsible," Abud remarked.
His teaching method eliminates the old saying, "The dog ate my homework," because all of the learning and data is in one location that can be accessed by all of Abud's students from anywhere with Internet access.
Even students who are out sick or miss class due to an athletic event can tap into the journal and see what they have missed or better yet, watch a live-streaming video of an experiment through apps like FaceTime and Google Hangout.
Finally, Abud uses his students' weekly blog reflections to see where there are instructional problems and adjust his teaching if needed.
Presented by the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL), and underwritten by AT&T, this year's Technology Showcase featured demonstrations from K-12 students from all over Michigan. The presentations covered the gamut of learning, from science and mathematics to social studies and language arts.
The Grosse Pointe North team also met with Michigan 1st District Representative Tim Bledsoe to share their technology presentation and their classroom innovation.
North's Technology Showcase team members were: Shannon McEnroe, Emily Joseph, Graham Eger, Carter Bock, Nathon Jones, Chris Bahr and Carly Broman.
Revolutionary in the Classroom
Gary Abud, a Grosse Pointe North alum himself, is an innovator in more than just classroom technologies. He sees education at Grosse Pointe North differently than most and is one of two North science teachers that have embraced a unique teaching model combining Constructivist teaching and standards-based grading.
The resulting teaching method allows students to explore a concept and construct their understanding from their own experiences. Grading is the result of demonstrated knowledge and the level of the student's comprehension, not just a test grade. Abud said this model addresses multiple learning styles and reaches more students in a more organic way.
He is also part of a group of Grosse Pointe North faculty members known as the Professional Learning Community, which meets each late-start Monday morning before students arrive at school. These 12-15 educators are continually exploring ways to use creative technologies in their classrooms.
The group's members cross multiple content areas, not just science classes, and many of these North teachers are using Google-based apps like Google Docs, Google Plus, Evernote and Google Hangout in their classrooms. In addition, Grosse Pointe North students are also assigned a Google account as part of their enrollment at the school, something the Grosse Pointe Public Schools System supports.
Abud acknowledged that none of what he does with technology in the classroom would be possible without the support of North's and the district's administrators, including the school board, who advocate for integration of technology in learning.
"They have made much of this possible by initiatives such as getting Google Apps for Education in the district for students as well as supporting Bring Your Own Device policies in school," Abud said.