Every summer, Harker’s learning, innovation and design department offers career development opportunities to Harker teachers looking to broaden their teaching methods and areas of expertise, often by incorporating the use of new or emerging technologies.
Lower school math teacher Mira Vojvodic used her LID grant to look into expanding the use of games in her classroom to “make difficult math concepts a bit more approachable to the kids,” she said. Working with a group of math teachers from other campuses, Vojvodic was excited to discover how many different ways there are to learn. “Even when it’s only a game, a lot of things are happening,” she said. Although she already had been using games provided by BreakoutEDU, Vojvodic found that “creating [games such as] treasure hunts, Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit are great ways to make the introduction of new concepts or chapter reviews more fun. I will definitely try to implement as many of these games as possible in my classroom.” Having observed that students become more engaged with math problems when they are made into games, Vojvodic said “this LID grant gave me inspiration and ideas to create and implement more games in my classroom.”
Andy Gersh, a middle school math teacher who was in the group with Vojvodic, also has been interested in furthering his use of games to instruct his students. Specifically, he looked into various ways that board games can illustrate how to solve math problems. “I think a lot students struggle with math because they try to memorize methods rather than take problems as opportunities to explore new ways of thinking,” he said. “Once you’ve memorized how to win a board game, it quickly becomes boring. Good board games require you constantly evaluate your next move, seek familiar patterns, discuss your methodology (sometimes), play and problem solve within a confined set of rules.” Noting the many similarities in the strategies used to solve math problems and win at board games, Gersh hopes to use board games to “get students out of the habit of thinking of a math problem as a procedure and instead as an opportunity where creative thinking will be rewarded with newfound insights.”
Intrigued by a virtual reality demo put on by Google at the lower school last year, grade 2 teacher Sejal Mehta used her LID grant to explore ways VR could be implemented in her social studies and language arts classes. “Students learn five U.S. regions and U.S. landmarks as a part of the second grade social studies curriculum. [With VR] students will have an opportunity to visit the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, the Liberty Bell, the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Lincoln Memorial, etc.,” she said. Using cost-effective technology that incorporates smartphones, Mehta said, “students will be able to learn geography and visit historical sites, historical monuments and historical events. They will observe and explore these places while in their own classroom.”