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Spotlight on: Henry Frischknecht

Bulkeley Middle School social studies teacher Henry Frischknecht moved to Rhinebeck as a second grader. He grew up, went to school and played sports in Rhinebeck. His love of the area, the school and the people led him back to education and Rhinebeck. Henry holds a BA in Liberal Arts from Dutchess Community College, continued his education at SUNY Albany where he majored in History with minors in Religious Studies and Anthropology, and completed his M.Ed degree at Marist in 2010.

He feels “unimaginably lucky” to have landed a position in Rhinebeck that same year, and has been here ever since.

Henry Frischknecht

Tell us about your interest in technology and how you came to it.
I have always liked technology, but I think that teaching is what has really made me focus my time and energy on it. Our world is quickly becoming more centered on technology and I feel that it is imperative that our children are not only proficient, but exceptional at using it prior to throwing them into the college and career scene.

You are a social studies teacher, but you use technology in the classroom. Describe for us what technology you use to teach the liberal arts, how you came to use technology, and what advantages it gives you.
There are really two levels to the use of technology in the classroom. The first is its use as a delivery system. Through that lens I use things like a SMARTBoard, Google Earth and online games to keep students engaged and excited about the content. The second level, which is even more important, is technology’s use as a medium for student creation and analysis. There is nothing more amazing then teaching students how to use a program like iMovie, Garage Band or Lego Stop Animation and seeing them create awesome videos, songs or documentaries centered around the content.

Teaching this way has several advantages. For one, it allows students to develop something that is relevant, which changes their excitement and desire to work on the project. I know students who have used the tech skills they have learned in class to create family videos and audition tapes. These are real-world skills that are going to benefit them in the long term. It also allows them to be creative in a way that other mediums don’t. I have found that many of my students this year enjoy acting. Having them create a video about the Bill of Rights is going to be so much more interesting and memorable to them than testing them on the Amendments.

In terms of how I came to use technology … it is just so cool! And fun. Seeing what some others had done in iMovie, for example, inspired me to teach the Civil War exclusively through a series of student-created documentaries. Luckily we have the technology available to us. And students are excited to use it, so why not?!

Are there any obstacles you have had to overcome to introduce technology into the classroom?
Every single year. There is a huge learning curve when teaching students to use new technology, and everyone is at a different place. Not only that, but I have to teach myself how to use the tech well enough to show the kids how to use it. I probably spent 100 hours this summer teaching myself how to use Instructure’s Learning Management System, Canvas. While that seems like a lot, there is always a pay off. Canvas has allowed me to more easily and effectively collect data on students, which drives instruction. It has also allowed me to easily provide feedback and clarify directions and expectations.

Are you pursuing any interesting projects right now, whether technology-inspired or not?
Well, right now we are writing DBQs – document-based questions, which are basically essays in which students are given documents and a task and they need to use the documents to respond to the task – not as exciting as it sounds … But, in a couple of weeks we will be starting our Bill of Rights unit. Students develop their own projects centered around the Bill of Rights and have to create something that they can share. I have gotten music videos, stop animation videos, board games, anthropologic studies, and more. It is a lot of fun because the kids have all the power and they are super creative.

Are there any interesting technological changes you see in the future of education? Are there changes you wish or hope for?
I think that most changes we are going to see deal with data. Technology makes it very easy to collect and analyze data. I hope that, as the technology becomes more ergonomic and available, more educators will feel more comfortable using it.

This may sound crazy, but I wish we had holograms, like the holodeck in Star Trek. How cool would it be to go back and meet George Washington?! Even in hologram form.

Do you think there are limits to what technology can do in the classroom?
The one thing tech can’t do is simulate personal interactions. Videotaping yourself giving a speech is much different than giving a speech in person. Because of this, I couple technology with other activities such as acting or giving a presentation in front of the class.

Do you have any technology-related goals for the future of your classroom?
I would love to have a paperless classroom. Over the past few years I have tried to use less and less paper and only seldom use it now. I am very excited about the new computer lab and hope to work with our computer teachers and librarian to develop some projects that utilize those resources.

What do you do when you aren’t teaching?
Well, I have 3 children, so that takes a lot of time. We like to go kayaking and hiking in the summertime, which gives us some wonderful family time. I am also in the board of Young Rhinebeck and am working with the board on developing a Madagascar Program. The plan is to have a education program in place for the 2016/17 school year and actually send kids in the summer of 2017. In connection to the school, I coach the JV soccer team and facilitate the Peer Leadership and Anthropology Clubs.

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