At the front of the class, assistant professor of education Cynthia Geer holds a red apple over a tank of water. “Will it sink or float?” she asks. Half say sink, half say float. She drops it and it bobs. Then she holds up a grape. Sink or float? The grape sinks. The lesson, she reminds them, is density. And the class—seasoned elementary and high school teachers—remembers the lesson well.
The question they want to know, though, is how to translate that into something understood by and of interest to today’s high-tech, computer-loving school children.
Geer has them turn on their computers and sets about teaching them how to teach about density and bobbing apples using spreadsheets and PowerPoint.
“Some of us have minimal experience with the Internet,” says Joe Beiting, a sixth grade science teacher. “What we’re doing here, the kids are pretty savvy at. So we’re both keeping up with the kids and teaching them new things.”
Because Catholic schools rely on tuition and donations to balance their budgets, little money is available to help teachers stay abreast of new practices. That’s why Sister Carren Herring, director of the Eastern Catholic Alliance of Schools for Excellence, approached the University about creating a program to give Cincinnati Catholic schools’ teachers technology training. Today, about half the teachers in the alliance’s nine urban schools are trained. Herring expects to focus next on changing the curricula to a more student-directed learning style, which helps students learn in a much more tangible way. Doing that, she says, will help them remember that apples bob and grapes sink—and why.