Gibault going high tech - Republic-Times | News

Gibault going high tech

By on November 14, 2012 at 10:08 am

Gibault history teacher Matt Schweizer and principal Russ Hart view a rare document examining the Declaration of Independence. (Mark Hodapp photo)

(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles looking at Gibault going “textbookless” in 2013.)

Teachers are asking questions all the time at Gibault Catholic High School. Parents are even asking principal Russ Hart what it all means. But Hart is really excited about the new direction his Catholic high school is headed — a “textbookless” and “paperless” school in 2013.

Ok, not completely without textbooks and paper… but pretty close.

“And I don’t mean textbooks on electronic devices,” Hart said.

Instead, Gibault teachers will be making resources available online as part of more traditional lesson plans. Students will also be learning directly from primary sources, researching scholarly articles, simulations, lectures, videos and more while using some of the latest technology.

And yes, students will be allowed to bring cell phones into the classroom to communicate with each other and teachers about a lesson being taught. Students will also be encouraged to keep a daily blog for reflections and discussions with their classmates and teachers.

with each other and teachers about a lesson being taught. Students will also be encouraged to keep a daily blog for reflections and discussions with their classmates and teachers.

“This type of learning changes traditional textbook learning to a more social, immersive experience,” Hart said. “It seems only like a natural progression and development in teaching.”

It will also enable a Gibault teacher to post questions and start a discussion thread about certain parts of the assignment on a My Big Campus web page, which looks and resembles Facebook.

Hart said the goal of the program is to make the teacher more effective, taking away limitations a textbook has on the subject and, therefore, the student.

Hart said Steve Blum of SonicBlum said it best: “Textbookless learning is like driving a car without a horse and carriage attached to the front.”

“Students of today have grown up with laptops, smartphones and learning from the Internet,” Hart said. “A textbookless solution is not so foreign to them. Their brain is already tuned into it.”

Hart insists the subject matter isn’t going to change at Gibault. But the vehicle delivering it will.

By 2013, Hart said he wants all Gibault staff to integrate an electronic daily lesson plan. Hart said about half of his teachers are doing that now.

“The other half are well on their way,” he said.

Hart said the plan is simple. He wants each student  to have access to an electronic device — whether it be a laptop or tablet.

Hart has already heard some parents say they don’t have Internet access at home and their son or daughter won’t be able to complete an assignment at home. But he said there is an answer to that.

“If your student was in college, what would a child tell their professor? I can’t do this assignment because I don’t have the Internet? That wouldn’t go over very well,” he said.

Hart has encouraged students who don’t have access to the Internet or a computer to stay after school.

“We really don’t ever really close our school,” he said. “Kids are welcome to stay here until 8 p.m., which some kids do.”

Hart said there are a number of places in the community which have wireless Internet access — including restaurants and the public library.

“Just because you don’t have it at home is not going to be an excuse we allow,” Hart said.

Gibault is the only school in Monroe County currently to offer My Big Campus.

Gibault might also be one of the few — if not the only — high school in Illinois to integrate this type of teaching.

Hart said there is a lot of confusion about Gibault going “textbookless.”

Some schools who say they are going “textbookless” are doing so by purchasing the electronic version of a textbook.

But at Gibault, it’s more than that.

“In some history books, Martin Luther King may be only studied for two-and-a-half pages. Is that all you need to know about Martin Luther King?” Hart rhetorically asks. “I think you are short-changing the guy.”

Hart said history teacher Matt Schweizer is his school’s “resident expert” in the My Big Campus program. Schweizer is taking this program one step further while teaching his students the Declaration of Independence.

Schweizer’s twist on this is a book he found on the Declaration written in 1776. The book was written by a British lawyer, and has since been placed in a university archive.

“Now, I’m telling you, I’d bet a year’s worth of my salary that there is not more than 15 high schools in the world who have read this book,” Hart said.

To read the second installment of the story, click here.

Mark Hodapp

Sports Editor