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With his website, YouTube videos and Google apps, teacher opens doors long shut to many students
by Ellie Spielberg | December 20, 2012 New York Teacher issue
OK, class, turn off your monitors.
Before they make an orange Ernie using isolation techniques in Photoshop or watch a Harvard freshman English class on academicearth.org, blanking out the screen is the first thing students do in a high-tech class that’s getting them to “think big” and just might be the wave of the future.
“Now I have their complete attention for watching the day’s video tutorial that I created using the program Camtasia,” says the wizard behind it all, Andrew Drozd.
Drozd, who teaches graphic arts and design at the Academy of Urban Planning in Bushwick, Brooklyn, was selected in October to attend Google Teacher Academy, a two-day intensive program that recognizes innovative educators and accepts only 10 percent of hopefuls applying from around the world.
The day’s video, which Drozd projects on a wall, introduces a new concept or technique. Then Drozd explains his expectations for the day’s assignment to his grade 10-12 classes. The method has revolutionized his teaching practice.
“The program, Camtasia, allows me to zoom in and out of very specific areas on the screen, which reduces ambiguity and reinforces precisely what I want students to know,” he said.
Now students turn the monitors back on and work independently. They’re quiet and engaged. If students are feeling confused, they can watch the instructional video from their own computers, referring to it when needed.
“Mr. Drozd is gentle when he teaches and takes his time to teach new things,” said student Yorlenie Cruz.
Gentle as he may be, Drozd does not encourage dependence on his presence to figure things out and execute a technique. The Camtasia program, he says, encourages independence instead on the students’ part and frees him up from walking around to help individuals.
“I love the way Mr. Drozd teaches,” said Jose Quinones, another student.
At the end of every class, the work is submitted to Drozd via email and then teacher and students spend the last minutes of class “like a focus group, analyzing one another’s work and identifying areas of strength and areas that can be improved,” he said. “Previously we’ve talked about constructive criticism and positive classroom culture.”
Google Teacher Academy helped Drodz learn even more efficient ways to communicate and provide feedback to students. For example, he uses Google Forms for self-assessment and for an “exit ticket.”
“At the end of the period, students respond to a multiple-choice or open-answer question that indicates whether they have grasped the day’s concepts,” said Drozd. “I can generate infographics and know very quickly who’s mastered the concepts, can determine what percentage of the class is comfortable and how rapidly I can move forward with material the next day.”
The students love working in Photoshop. Through manipulating images and creating a visual medium, they find their artistic sensibilities. According to Drozd, it’s an easy way for students to express themselves, share it with the world and connect to a city that is saturated in media. They now look at print advertisements on subways and billboards through the critical lens of a graphic designer.
Using Photoshop, his YouTube video tutorials on mrdrozdaup’s channel and his website MisterDrozd.com, the innovative educator is able to teach multiple subjects. He uses those techniques to share his knowledge with colleagues in professional development sessions at his school.
“Andrew Drozd is a dynamic instructor and students are excited to go to his class because they see the relevance of what he teaches,” said Chapter Leader Tim Evan. “In comparison, my 10th-grade history class may seem a bit stale!”
High-tech education can be controversial in some circles. Some worry that it distracts from traditional learning, doesn’t foster in-depth exploration and compromises young people’s attention span.
Drozd’s approach addresses these concerns, connecting technology to in-depth learning.
“This opens up far more doors, ones that have long been sealed for some students,” he said, adding that it levels the playing field for students with economic disadvantages.
“This class has influenced me tremendously because I now want to become a professional graphic designer,” said student Angel Flores.
When students in his English class use academicearth.org to watch college lectures, they have insight into what college really looks like and are grappling with the same ideas that university students are tackling.
“Without question, it has helped them envision college,” Drozd said.
Since he started teaching at the academy in 2005, Drozd has been part of many success stories. Most recently, a former student is now at Parsons New School of Design majoring in graphic arts.
He’s proud of his students and is proud to be counted among those teachers who are using cutting-edge technology in their classrooms. Now he’s spreading the word about using technology to teachers in schools with limited resources. To that end, he is creating video tutorials on Google apps, which are free and user-friendly.
Meanwhile, Drozd is spreading a lot of enthusiasm around his classroom with technology, patience and humor.
“He’s very loud, which is good because he gets everyone’s attention, and is very excited every day,” said student Rudy Dejesus.
Idell Decoteau added that, were a student feeling a bit fatigued before class, “his voice will definitely wake you up.”
To see video tutorials on YouTube and to get ideas, go to MisterDrozd.com.