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Technology links ‘flipped classroom’ program at Warren High

Gurnee-02/08/13 Fri./Warren High School Dominique Geocaris KenoshSpanish teacher Warren High School works recording lessons video for students review as they

Gurnee-02/08/13, Fri./Warren High School Dominique Geocaris, of Kenosha, a Spanish teacher at Warren High School works on recording lessons to video for students to review as they work at home. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 14, 2013 2:10AM

GURNEE — Warren Township High School is in the pilot year of a new teaching strategy called the “flipped classroom” where students listen to lectures at home and do homework in class.

For example, Spanish teacher Dominique Geocaris records lectures for students and they then use their devices (phones, iPads, etc.) to watch them outside of class and work on homework during class periods.

“We are still teaching. We still have to deliver a classroom. This is not replacing the classroom — it’s extending the classroom,” said Chris Geocaris, Dominque’s husband and assistant director of educational technology for District 121.

He said it was difficult to say how many teachers are using the flipped classroom approach, but more than 20 teachers attended one training session. The math departments at both Almond and O’Plaine campuses are using the flipped approach, he said.

Teachers like Dominique use their school-issued tablet computers to record lectures and they use free technology such as Youtube to share course content with their students. The school upgraded its wireless system to allow more wireless users.

On an average day, about 3,200 of the district’s 4,500 students use the district’s wireless system, Chris said.

“We have an open phone policy. They’re part of their lives. We’re teaching them how to use them responsibly,” Chris said.

Most of Dominique’s fifth-hour Spanish 1 students said they use their phones to watch class lectures. The class consensus was that the flipped classroom was the best and easiest way to learn.

“We’re already on the computer. It’s not that hard to pull up the Youtube videos,” said Scott Cymbal, 14, a freshman.

Fellow Spanish 1 classmate Kyle Cassiey, 14, said he spends less time doing homework and that it was easy to watch the seven-minute videos that his teacher posts online.

“They learn and apply (concepts) in class. They practice more in class than they would before,” Dominique said. “I think it’s a fun environment.”

The flipped classroom also makes for a more relaxed classroom setting, she said. She still assigns homework, but the majority of class time is spent engaging students to make sure they understand how to apply the concepts.

“I really feel like we’re training the students for what’s coming in college. We’re training them how to learn, how to take notes and how to use the Internet,” Dominique said.

She said she prefers the flipped classroom strategy because she thinks it gives her students more resources. Her students learn the basics through the videos.

Unlike a live lesson lecture, students can rewind the video as often as desired to understand the concepts.

“We have an entire class period to understand the video. We can re-watch the video as many times as we want,” said freshman Madison Tomasiewiscz, 15.

“We can ask questions in class, not like in a regular class. We’re not stuck at home doing homework and getting confused,” said freshman Amanda Wolff, 15.

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