Hybrid High in Biology Class

Bonnie BraceyBy Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Editor, Policy Issues

Larry Cuban, in “How One Science Teacher Integrates Laptops into Lessons” (11.25.10), describes how a high school biology teacher, Carol Donnelly (pseudonym), has incorporated laptops and the web to create a hybrid mix that’s exciting and effective. I thought this example might stimulate discussion on how others are using a wide range of instructional technology, including social networking applications such as student blogs, to enrich hybrid practices.

The following excerpts on Donnelly’s strategies are from Cuban:

[Donnelly’s students] watch animations of photosynthesis that she had loaded on their machines earlier. A pop-up quiz appeared after the animations.

A lesson on the plasma (or cell) membrane . . . took three days. She included exercises that came from Kerpoof multimedia software that had students draw and label parts of the plasma membrane.

Donnelly  also has her students blogging. With a laptop camera, students liven up their blog page with photos they take of themselves and others. She reads the blogs and comments but gives no grades on entries.

[Her students tap into] other teachers’ lessons, videos, and websites [permitting them] to dig deeper into content than their text.

[Donnelly:] “When I asked students to compare the features of a cell to anything they wanted—the high school, family, friends, sports team, etc.—they created stories, took photos off the web, did an Imovie and a Keynote presentation. I was surprised and pleased. I had not expected all of that to be done in one class period.”

2 Responses

  1. This story suggests some excellent ways to enhance learning using computers. I read the entire article and was disappointed not to see anything about learning science in this science class. Of course, Larry Cuban was not focused on that aspect of the class. He was reporting on how technology (computers) was used in a particular class. I wish that people would look more closely at learning science and not just at new ways to do the same old things.

  2. Bonnie, I’m not sure why, but I like Cuban’s portrayal of Donnelly’s approach. I guess it’s an appreciation for the never say die, resourceful, creative spirit that Donnelly represents.

    She makes no excuses. She works with what she has then goes the extra mile (very much like you) to extend the learning environment. She explores and finds great resources and looks for ways to link her students to them.

    She’s not concerned about being on the leading edge in the eyes of tech experts, but she is concerned about her students and how she can get them to use the tech that’s available to them to enrich the learning experience.

    In the process, she’s managed to get students to create rich and fertile personal learning environments that integrate the classroom and F2F activities with the virtual world and to develop personal learning networks that include blogged communities.

    She doesn’t sit back and wait for the administration to say jump — jump into this or that technology. She doesn’t wait for learning technologists to hold her hand and tell her, step by step, how to be more technological. She doesn’t hold her breath for the federal or state government to provide funds, curricula, workshops, etc. to bring technology into her classroom.

    Instead, she gets up, on her own two feet, and brings laptops to her classroom. She uses her eyes, fingers, and imagination to explore the web and her collaborative skills to engage others who can serve as resources.

    Of all the models for educational reform we can invent, nothing will ever come close to beating this Donnelly model of self-reliant, sustainable teaching and learning.

    Instead of funding a comprehensive, blanket fix for our educational woes, America would probably get more bang for the buck by paying folks like Donnelly double her current salary and supporting her, financially, in her quest to to explore and gradually incorporate other technology. -Jim S

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