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Technology, Higher-Level Thinking, and Student Engagement

Technology, Higher-Level Thinking, and Student Engagement

Brenda Muse, principal of Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Southwest VA, tells us how VISTA helped one of her new science teachers utilize effective instructional methods and new technology in the classroom, which led to a student engagement level that “far surpassed that of the other classrooms”.

As the principal of Benjamin Franklin Middle School (BFMS), I was delighted when one of my new science teachers, Ms. Chan, agreed to participate in VISTA’s Secondary Teaching Program. After serving one full year at BFMS, I knew she was ready to take on a new challenge.

Ms. Chan was always so excited when she learned a new science skill or instructional practice, and she readily shared her knowledge with other science teachers. This in turn helped Ms. Chan (who at 24-years-old was the youngest science teacher on campus) to boost her confidence in teaching.

One of the challenges Ms. Chan initially encountered during her first year of teaching was classroom management. Students tended to regurgitate facts and copy notes rather than actively participate. VISTA helped Ms. Chan to incorporate more technology and hands-on experiments to engage students in the learning process.    

One thing that really stood out to me was Ms. Chan’s use of modern, real world tools to enforce a skill. For instance, I watched her use iPads to introduce students to new apps for science. The students loved this, since many of the apps allowed them to create and examine science through 3-D models. I also witnessed Ms. Chan's students using microscopes to examine different insects and parasites. Ms. Chan was introduced to a lot of these technology resources through the VISTA program.

Ms. Chan also increased the rigor of instruction in her classroom by asking more thought provoking and probing questions of students. She caused students to think about the "why" in science as opposed to simply responding to questions in a word or two. Again, she was introduced to these higher-level thinking strategies through VISTA.

During observation of her classes, I noted that the number of scientific activities in play and the level of student engagement by far surpassed that of other classrooms. Ms. Chan would always tell me with a smile that she learned how to do this through her VISTA class.

In short, I was amazingly pleased with the content knowledge Ms. Chan acquired; the new instructional methods she implemented as a result of the program; and the confidence she possessed. I have nothing but praises for the effectiveness of the VISTA program and have already solicited teachers to participate in VISTA this school year as well.

If you’re interested in participating in VISTA’s Secondary Teaching Program, click here. The deadline to sign-up is this Friday!





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