Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Chris Champion

Chris Champion teaches Computer Information Systems at Cumberland-Perry Area Vocational-Technical School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania (near Harrisburg). He's been teaching for four years after working in the computer industry for nearly ten.

Chris' Perspective

I found out about Tapped In by attending a conference for Pennsylvania technology leaders in Education - what the Pennsylvania Department of Education calls "Keystones". During this busy week long conference, I got a snapshot of how Tapped In could be used, but I never expected TI to have such a significant impact in my class. I'm currently working on my Master's Degree from an online university (Walden University), so I was not a neophyte to classroom content delivered via the web. I've also used Blackboard in my class in the past, so I have an idea of how to use that content as a teacher, not just a student. The thing I never counted on was the genuine engagement of students as a result of their using Tapped In.

Initially, I gave a homework assignment by posting a question to my K-12 classroom in the discussion board. It was (for my students) a simple question: "Find a current article on a computer news website that interests you". Students would then post the article in Tapped In, and summarize it in a way that would convince others to read it. Later in the week, students would then find two articles that interested them and return to the discussion board with three main points in the article. At this point, the assignment is pretty straightforward. It is the student response that surprised me. I find that usually most of my students are procrastinators (no surprise to many H.S. teachers). But in this case, students were so excited to use the Internet to post their assignments that many had completed the assignment within the first evening - some even using a free period in the library to post their response. Again, when they were required to respond to the initial posting - most of the students posted early. I saw genuine engagement in "homework" activities that I have not seen before. This really made me excited to teach using Tapped In.

The next thing I tried blew me away. After spending time in class to review for a test, with despondent, tired students who did not raise their hands or students afraid to raise their hands, I decided to send students back to their desks with a study guide for them to do independently. On a hunch, I logged into Tapped In and found my students chatting on their own computers about various subjects in my K-12 classroom, none of which pertained to the test... so I chimed in with a few of the review questions. Immediately I got more responses than I could ever have gotten at the front of the class. In fact, one student that sat quietly without making eye contact during the face-to-face review was one of the students who contributed the most to the chat. I was flabbergasted. For the next half-hour, I asked questions, and received a multitude of responses. Mind you, this was the same physical room as earlier when I got no responses. I can only surmise that the main reason students were engaged is because they enjoy chatting online - and when I turned it into an educational experience, they embraced the medium and participated.

It's been three weeks since I started using Tapped In for assignments - my students feel more comfortable asking questions, asking for help, and contributing to the class. I've even been asked to provide after school reviews for tests via Tapped In chat before the next test, which I plan to do in just a few days...