Paul Tatkenhorst, an economics and politics and law teacher at Anoka High School (AHS), has been named a Technology and Information Education Services (TIES) Exceptional Teacher.
A joint powers cooperative owned by 47 school districts, TIES is a Minnesota software developer. The TIES Exceptional Teacher award was established to recognize teachers in TIES member districts who model the best practices in their classroom in engaging students in learning.
Tatkenhorst was nominated by AHS technology teacher Doug Birch. In his nomination, Birch states that Tatkenhorst has used technology in his classroom for a number of years. Most recently, Tatkenhorst has “flipped” his Advanced Placement (AP) economic class.
“For the flipped classroom, Paul spent countless hours developing instructional videos and podcasts of his lectures which reside on his Moodle page, allowing Paul more time to work personally with students in the classroom on a daily basis,” Birch said. “This also enables Paul to do more formative assessments in the classroom.”
Tatkenhorst’s students told Birch that the flipped classroom gives them more one-on-one time with Tatkenhorst and allows for more immediate feedback. Colleagues said Tatkenhorst has been innovative with technology since his days as a student teacher at AHS.
“Paul is not afraid to implement technology with best practices,” said a Tatkenhorst peer. “He pushes the rest of the department into using more technology in our classrooms.”
Tatkenhorst grew up in a family of teachers and knew the business world wasn’t for him. After doing his student teaching at AHS, Tatkenhorst graduated from Winona State University with a degree in social studies and landed a full-time job at Anoka. In his 10th year at AHS, Tatkenhorst has also earned a graduate degree in education through St. Mary’s University.
Through his flipped class, Tatkenhorst records lectures that students watch at home on his website or Moodle site or through iTunes. Students who do not have Internet access at home can watch Tatkenhorst’s lessons on a DVD. Tatkenhorst uses PowerPoint for the lessons but also has video of him on each slide talking about the information to keep it lively. What was traditionally homework is now done in the classroom, allowing more time for problem solving and real-world application of economics.
“Students seem to enjoy that I am in the corner talking to them,” he said. “They like to be able to pause and rewind lessons and watch them before a test. Some kids said they watch all of the lessons again the day before the test.”
Tatkenhorst said he became aware of flipped classrooms when the iPad came out and he came across articles about this different method of teaching. Tatkenhorst was also inspired to try something different when he saw students outside of his classroom.
“I had a couple of students who were very gifted musically; I didn’t know that until I went to one of their concerts,” he said. “I thought why aren’t I doing things in class that showcase what students can do? I realized that because I am in front of the class lecturing and giving them content, I am not able to pull out their gifts and abilities. It dawned on me that if I flip the classroom, there are more things I can do during class.”
Every Friday during “Economics Connect,” students showcase how economics applies to their lives. The exercise is open to any form of economics and students have presented information about baked goods, performed skits and created story books.
“These are kids I maybe didn’t reach before and now I can spend time showcasing something we didn’t know about them before,” Tatkenhorst said. “I have a student who is very quiet in class. He loves musicals, so for Economics Connect he changed the words of a musical to be about economics. He really got into it and that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t use the technology that is available here.”
While this is the first trimester Tatkenhorst has flipped a classroom so not much data is available, the initial numbers show that this trimester’s students are scoring 5 percent higher than AP micro economics students did last year. Tatkenhorst knows the scores aren’t increasing because his lessons are online; it’s because of taking students to another level in the classroom.
“Anyone can put lectures online or links out to somewhere and tell students to do it; it’s about what teachers do in the classroom to make students better learners,” he said. “If teachers fail at that part, they have done the technology for nothing. Teachers need to find activities for a deeper level of learning.
“Before I would give students information in class and they would go home, work on problems and come back the next day. Now we take more time to do economics in the classroom.”
Tatkenhorst was very surprised to receive the email telling him he’d been named a TIES Exceptional Teacher; in fact, he thought it was junk mail.
“I had to read it out loud and then said to my wife, ‘I think I won something,’” he said. “Then I went to the TIES website and saw my name.
“I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from students and parents about the flipped classroom and I look forward to doing it again next trimester.”