Guest blog post written by Siobhan Stynes
Siobhan Stynes is a professor of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Integrated Science at Seneca College in Toronto, Canada. Spending time in the hands-on laboratory as well as in an interactive classroom has enabled Siobhan to re-evaluate the focus and methodology of her teaching, bridging the two learning environments. Her goal is to provide interactive learning experiences for her students so they can work together and develop a deeper foundation in science. Siobhan is on facebook and twitter @siobhanstynes.
Since I started teaching at Seneca College of Applied Arts of Technology in Toronto, Canada back in 2008, I have always struggled in engaging students with their work outside of the classroom. In my integrated science classroom, they were great! They would pay attention, do theoretical problems & calculations and get in to it. But, once the end of class came, the books & laptops were packed up, not to be opened for the purposes of studying science until our next class. When our institution adopted a Wiley textbook with digital content, called WileyPLUS with online homework, assignments, quizzes, tutorials, animations, audio files, students became more engaged outside of the classroom. They were eager for more assignments and more practice on their laptops and iPads (any excuse to use those cool devices, right?).
Last year, I participated in a limited field trial that integrated WileyPLUS digital content into my Blackboard courses and something magical happened. We went from engaging students with digital content outside of the classroom, to engaging them with digital content inside the classroom as well! Students were pulling up difficult assignment questions in class, enabling us to go over the tough stuff together. This really took the excitement of a science class (how exciting can it be?) to a whole new level. Integrating WileyPLUS digital content in to Blackboard courses eliminated what had become my catch phrase “does everybody understand?”, to which I undoubtedly got a room full of questionable head nods.
Today, I have a new type of student; someone who comes to class with questions from the previous lesson, stimulated by their work using Blackboard’s Digital Content. In class, this student sits in a group with others who share the same confusion and they work together to problem solve in class. Other groups form in other areas of the room, and students are in Blackboard, using that digital content in the classroom. Solving problems, being inspired by science, and using me for clarification when required. I expect to see more of these “new students” in coming semesters. Students who don’t want to identify themselves in class as confused, or falling behind, but who are eager to learn and catch up at home, given the right digital environment.