Using Digital Tools to Teach STEM Courses Remotely and Effectively
By Robert Low
Providing science and math content online can be relatively straightforward, but engaging students in true distance learning requires more than just transmittal of information. Secondary students in particular need to be able to see and ask questions during laboratory experiments, or receive feedback when developing their own solutions to math problems.
During a recent edWebinar sponsored by Wacom, two experienced teachers explained how they made the transition from teaching in a classroom to remote instruction during the spring, and how they are prepared to teach online or in hybrid settings during the new school year.
By using a combination of programs and digital tools, middle school math teacher Kim Gardner in Utah, and high school chemistry teacher Beth Tumminello in New York, have found ways to provide effective instruction and also replicate other important aspects of the classroom experience that can motivate students and enhance distance learning.
Math Made Meaningful
For Kim, a Friday the 13th in March was the day when she and her students learned they would not be returning to the classroom. Fortunately, Kim was already using a combination of digital tools to work with her students, so continuing the process online was not a huge transition.
Kim was not only able to create and deliver interactive lessons, but using a program called Classkick she could see her students working on their answers of questions in real time, and thereby gain insights to the processes they were using. Student could use a hand-raising tool if they had questions, and also share screenshots of their work for feedback.
Kim could then write notes on the written work the students submitted, and provide annotated responses in other ways with text and drawing tools. Based on the students’ work, Kim could then create new assignments and lessons that could be saved and used with certain students or classes, but not others. In these and other ways, Kim was able to support her students’ diverse learning processes and improve their understanding of the content.
Continuing the Chemistry
For Beth, “distance learning isn’t about being perfect; it’s about being you and being human.” She found that students prefer to watch their teacher rather than professional videos, and this includes brief videos Beth created showing everyday, real-world science, such as what happens to dry ice after a food delivery. Videos like these can become “phenomenon-based learning” and teachable moments, even though not part of the official curriculum.
Beth has also found that creating pre-recorded videos without audio can be helpful, because that way she can provide narration and answer student questions while the video is being shown. A screen recording app can be used in a similar way to demonstrate how she works with data, so she can then be discussing the process she used while the app replays what she did.
Another distance learning technique Beth has found helpful is to encourage students to post brief videos of their own in which they ask questions verbally rather than in writing. This makes it easier for some students to communicate, and provides an option for students to ask questions they don’t want other students to hear.
To see how students feel about lessons she is teaching online, Beth keeps a separate window open in which students can post yellow circles if she is going too fast, and red circles if they have urgent questions. Based on the volumes of differently colored circles she is seeing, Beth can modify or even stop the lesson as she is teaching, and in this make up for the missing social cues that an experienced teacher would normally notice in the classroom.
To stay connected with students on a personal level, and have something like the quick conversations that occur when students are entering or leaving the classroom, Beth uses separate software to pose questions or exchange brief videos about non-curricular topics.
Through the use of digital tools and techniques such as these, teachers can teach STEM topics effectively and interact with students in both academic and interpersonal ways that strengthen student-teacher relationships and make distance learning more effective.
This edWeb broadcast was sponsored by Wacom.
This article was modified and published by eSchool News.
About the Presenters
Beth started teaching Chemistry at Calhoun High School in September of 1999, where she currently teaches both NY Regents Chemistry and Advanced Placement Chemistry. She graduated from The University of Scranton with a dual major in Biology & Philosophy and completed her Masters Degree in Secondary Education at Dowling College. During her time at Dowling, she participated in data collection for The South Shore Estuary Reserve as a graduate assistant in the Chemistry Department. Beth has been using technology in the classroom to reach her students where they are most comfortable. She began making and posting videos for flipped teaching 5 years ago and started her YouTube channel 4 years ago. The recent challenge of teaching chemistry from home has sparked a renewed interest in learning about available technology for teaching. Beth is eager to share what she has learned!
Kim is beginning year 30 in the Utah Public School System. The first 24 years were spent at the elementary school level where she taught 3rd-6th grades in the classroom as well as K-6 in the computer lab. After receiving her Masters Degree, and a level II math endorsement, she made the jump to middle school math where she is beginning her 6th year. Kim has been a presenter at multiple technology and education conferences through the years where she has been able to share some of the tips and tricks that she has found to make her classroom teaching more engaging for her students and more do-able for herself.
Join the Community
Ignite Digital Learning is a free professional learning community on edWeb.net where educators, librarians, and administrators can explore strategies and tactics for getting every child to be a better thinker, better reader, and better writer through the use of digital resources
Wacom delivers innovative digital technologies to support all aspects of human creativity. For educators and students, Wacom provides remote-ready tools, including digital pen and tablet technology for eLearning in traditional classroom and lab settings and for remote teaching and learning.
Robert Low has more than 30 years of educational publishing experience, ranging from editing and product management to online advertising and content development. He also works with edWeb.net to write articles on their professional learning edWebinars