Can a health science teacher successfully incorporate new blended learning resources into their classroom? Though using digital curriculum can be daunting for some instructors, Patricia Smith at Hamilton Career Center in Oconee County, SC truly embraces the benefits of blended learning.
Smith has been teaching for over 28 years and tries to teach her Health Science 1 & 2 courses differently each year. She needed a resource to support her blended style of teaching, keep students engaged, and allow students to work at their own pace.
HealthCenter21 fits that need perfectly for Patricia’s courses. Not only does the digital curriculum help her keep students engaged, it allows for “no wasted days” if she is away for a meeting or sick day.
About Patricia and Her Health Science Courses
Many health science teachers have very little teaching training when they make the switch from the health science field. That is why for Smith to have been teaching for over 28 years is quite unusual. She started out in the health care field, but after 3 years decided to teach.
“I'm the only teacher here at the career center in the health science department, and one of the few overall, that was actually trained in education. I got my certification in teaching before I came to the career center. It helps with several different aspects of teaching.”
Smith teaches 10-12th grade, all of which could possibly be in the same class. Smith sees her role as their teacher is to help them to explore health care careers and determine if they are actually really interested in it or not. If they aren’t, then students can get out of it at the end of the semester and explore another career path.
Smith’s classes are an A/B block schedule which means that she and her students meet every other day for a lengthy session. “We have a long class with a lot of kids…enter HealthCenter21!” Smith says. She loves the block schedule for teaching health science because she has the time to introduce something, maybe do a lab, and get finished with it all in the same day.
A Blended Learning Health Science Classroom
During the first hour or so of class, Smith likes to be able to do various things. She has frequent access to a computer lab in which everybody has access to a computer. That's when she uses HealthCenter21. It's usually incorporated into at least one day a week, and sometimes more. The digital curriculum works perfectly for her blended learning style of teaching. She goes on to share:
“I never teach the same way twice and that's after 28 years. I have to weed out things and rearrange things because they change. I feel like I've always been the type of teacher that I will pull from so many different resources. Just trying to get something new and different and something that will spark some interest that will keep my kids from dozing off in class.”
HealthCenter21 works out well for her mix-and-match approach, due to it's flexibility and the extra resources included.
“Some of the modules, I depend heavily upon HealthCenter21, and some of the modules are more like supplements for me. I find that some students just learn better having that time with the computer where they can listen or they can read as much as they want. They could practice and go over the quizzes as much as they want and things like that. I think that being able to use an eLearning curriculum really is helping somebody out there, and actually me sometimes.”
Another aspect of HealthCenter21 that Smith appreciates is how easy it is to use. As someone who sees how new teachers struggle to get the hang of the classroom, HealthCenter21 is a good resource to help those teachers out.
“HealthCenter21 works for even the novice teacher who is not computer savvy. And when I say novice, I'm talking about that 28-year veteran nurse who decides to come into teaching who may not be as familiar with online curriculum and things like that.
I think it's pretty easy to maneuver in HealthCenter21. One thing that people just have to get over is that you can click on anything. You can always get out of it. It's going to prompt you before you delete something. Getting past the fear factor in delving into a curriculum like this is probably the biggest thing holding inexperienced teachers back."
Keeping Students Engaged and Meeting Diverse Needs
Smith tells the story of a class of students that she’s had for a couple years. “Knowing them or having them all year last year and all year this year, I know them really well... If they're tired of something, they're going to tell me about it, and they're going to complain about it. Long story short, I did not get complaints about going to the computer lab.”
Smith even has students that work ahead. She’d assign one or two lessons and the students would end up doing quite a bit more than she assigned. “They took the lead on their own. That was fun. They just get in there and they started working and they enjoyed going with it,” she says.
Smith wants to point out that there are two groups of students that have particularly benefited from HealthCenter21:
“My ESL students and some of my IEP students have reading disabilities. I have one student that will ask me for the headphones every time. He's going to listen and then he knows that he can go home and do the same thing. He can finish up at home or finish up in his tutorial lab, and that's a great thing.
They can sign in from another classroom or at home to finish it up at their speed and with help if they need it. Just being able to listen to the audio is really good for both those groups of students.”