It was a time Kareem Farah will never forget. The moment he realized he wanted to be a teacher.
As a junior in college, Farah volunteered as a tutor for elementary and middle school students in East St. Louis. It was an eye opening experience for Farah as he saw first-hand the barriers his students faced and the jarring width of the opportunity gap.
That experience left a lasting impact on Farah and inspired him to pivot away from a career in finance and become an educator instead.
The Push to Change Traditional Teaching Models
Every teacher experiences the traditional lecture model where you stand in front of the classroom to teach. During his early years as a teacher, that’s exactly what he did but soon found faults in this teaching style.
He experienced firsthand how classrooms operate under a flawed premise: All students, regardless of background, should learn at the same pace as their peers.
This one-size approach had glaring issues. Not all students learn the same way and lecturing failed to meet the unique needs of each student. Farah was inspired to seek other methods of teaching.
That’s when he teamed up with fellow teacher, Rob Barnett, and they dived right into blended learning. Barnett had been using video in his classroom and found a ton of benefits for its use. He removed lectures and replaced it with video lessons which helped his students stay engaged in class.
Building the Video Teaching Model
During their search for video tools, they found Screencast-O-Matic. It became a helpful tool to create the video content they needed to help their students.
With the use of the screen recorder and video editing tools, they customized their videos and built a library of content they shared with their class.
“This allowed me to facilitate a blended, self-paced, mastery-based classroom built on the backbone of high quality feedback and differentiated instruction,” says Farah.
Three Methods For Student Success
With the use of video, both teachers found that engagement levels increased and students started learning the material. Video also brought them closer with their students.
They continued to implement video and fine-tuned their learnings. The duo eventually created a video teaching model they’ve termed ‘The Modern Classrooms Project.’
The model consists of three methods to help students:
- Blended learning:
Instead of lecturing, Farah and Barnett recorded their own video content. The students could watch at their own pace from home or school. In class, the teachers supported students individually or in small groups.
- Self-Paced Structure:
Instead of moving students along at a uniform pace, they let students set out on their own within each section of study. Students who were slower-paced were given the time they needed to learn each skill, while students who learned quickly were never bored by stale material.
- Mastery-Based Grading:
This principle is very important. Instead of giving students credit for work they had finished but didn’t fully understand, the teachers graded based on mastery of the lesson.To progress from Skill A to Skill B, students had to prove they understood Skill A before moving on. They also could not receive credit until they had shown it. This eliminated gaps from forming and allowed students to build advanced content knowledge from the ground up.
With the model in place and the data to back it up, they were on their way to teach others how to implement it in classrooms around the country.
The Positive Shift With Students
A positive shift started happening with the students. They became more self-aware, independent, and their confidence soar. The model provided flexibility and time. It gave each each student control over their learning and empowered them to continue. Most importantly, student stress levels took a nosedive.
Authentic academic growth was happening before the teacher’s eyes. One student even noted, “The way we learn isn’t just memorizing for a test, the stuff you learn actually sticks with you.”
The positive feedback didn’t end there. In February 2018, Farah’s work was recognized when he received DC Public School’s Standing Ovation Award for Excellence in Classroom Innovation.
The Purpose to Teach Educators
Both Farah and Barnett’s video teaching model attracted the interest of colleagues, spreading district-wide. His video about their instructional model was a great success and by the end of the year, it had received 2 million views across social media.
In order to reach more educators, the teachers doubled down with hopes to help even more. They realized that starting a nonprofit would be the most effective approach.
By May 2018, The Modern Classrooms Project was born with the sole mission of empowering as many educators as possible with their blended, self-paced, mastery-based approach.
You can learn more about the Modern Classrooms Project by heading to their website. They also provided Screencast-O-Matic with a series of guest posts to explain their approach and how you can be involved.
Modern Classrooms Project guest posts: