“Not all kids have computers at home,” says Alison Murray, a physics teacher at Central Falls Senior High School in Central Falls, Rhode Island. “But somehow, almost all of them have smartphones. And those smartphones never leave their hands!”
Mrs. Murray has learned how to use those smartphones to teach her students, and even managed to increase their test scores and performance in class. In fact, Mrs. Murray is “pretty floored” by the progress her kids have made in the second half of her class this past year. What’s her secret? The Epson DC-20 Document Camera she received from her DonorsChoose.org campaign last January.
“I explain to people that it’s a modern version of the overhead projector,” Mrs. Murray says. “I’d wanted one for some time, but when I saw that this one recorded, I was so excited.” Mrs. Murray uses the document camera to help her with a flipped classroom approach, where she records her lesson and uploads it to her classroom’s website for online access. “I haven’t seen any other teachers using document cameras in this way, but it’s so perfect. Students can access the videos right from that smartphone.”
Mrs. Murray’s school is in an urban area, and attendance is not at a level that the teachers and administration are happy with. However, by flipping her classroom, her students excel in class–even with absences. “I record the lessons for two reasons. One is so that the students who miss the class don’t actually have to miss the instruction, and two is so that those who are having a hard time grasping the concepts can watch it again. It is physics, after all.”
In class, Mrs. Murray likes to think of her class as “multimedia,” using the document camera off and on, and in different ways. “Sometimes I write on the whiteboard, but putting something on the document camera makes it infinitely more interesting to them.” In addition, Mrs. Murray has noticed that working through a problem on the document camera produces better results with her students than using the whiteboard. “When I’m doing the same thing that they are supposed to be doing, it gives them more confidence to work on the problem.”
“Kids nowadays—technology, that’s their thing. Asking kids to go to a computer for what they need for class is often a lot easier than getting them to relate to a piece of paper.”