by Wendy Roshan
I started teaching in the early 1970's, when one of the most important resources teachers had was the mimeo machine. All worksheets and tests had to be handwritten and run through a hand cranked copier, which would turn your hands blue from the ink. There weren't computers in every classroom, we didn't use SMART Boards (just chalk) and students came to class carrying pencils and notebooks, not smartphones and tablets.
Yet, 40 years later, my computer, iPad, and trusty iPhone has revolutionized my life as a teacher. Today, there's more information at my fingertips than ever before, literally. I can type up an assignment and email it to the whole class, or even have tests taken (and instantaneously graded) online. Students can stay in touch with me, and I can communicate with parents 24/7 by email. It's a major change from the past, and has a lot of benefits for my students.
However, the biggest change for me occurred a few years ago when my daughter, Stacey Roshan, decided to follow in my footsteps and become a math teacher too. However, having grown up in a different generation, she became a different kind of teacher. While I continued to resist new technologies that were starting to be used in the classroom, these tools came easily and naturally to her. In 2009, Stacey attended the Building Learning Communities Conference and learned about Camtasia Studio, software that would allow her to literally flip her classroom. She began video recording her lectures, which students watched for homework, and during class she walked around the classroom and worked with students 1-on-1 when they needed help solving problems.
After much coercion, Stacey finally convinced me to give the flipped classroom a try, and just one year later my entire teaching life has been turned upside down. I began flipping my AP Calculus class last year, and as a result, 80% of my students scored a "4" or "5" on the AP exam, with half of the class earning a perfect score! Not only were my students thrilled at how high their scores were, I had one of the most enjoyable and rewarding years of my teaching career, as I was able to spend significantly more time working with students individually and in small groups, helping them solve problems, rather than lecturing – and that's really my favorite part of teaching.
I had no idea how much technology could change the learning experience for me and my students, and I'm not sure I ever would have given into change if Stacey hadn't practically forced me too. After such an exhilarating year, Stacey and I have been spending the summer preparing for the challenge of flipping our Algebra II classes, which we will both be teaching this coming school year. We have been making videos together and are really excited to provide a new group of students with an entirely new learning experience then they're used to.
While at one time, I was only looking forward to my retirement, I now am looking forward to the new and exciting year ahead. Technology has made me feel young again, as the boredom and tedium of the mimeo machine is gone, and in its place is a whole new world!
Wendy Roshan started her career in Montgomery County public schools teaching Math. She taught in Tehran, Iran at the Tehran American School for 3 years, was an Adjunct Professor at Montgomery College, and taught at the Langley School in McLean, Virginia. She is currently in a math teacher at the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia, where she serves as department chair.