31/08/2021 • 9 min read
The EdTech Solution Making Textbooks Obsolete: A Physics Teacher’s Experience of Kognity in Lockdown
Libero Puccini has been a Physics Teacher at St Edward High School in Ohio, USA for the past 7 years. Currently, the school has 50 IBDP students in total. Since he began teaching IB science, he’s been using Kognity to inspire students to dive into quantum mechanics and electromagnetism.
Kognity proved to be even more valuable following the U.S. government’s stay-at-home mandate in March 2020. We sat down to talk to Libero about his experience of using Kognity over lockdown and on his return to the classroom.
When US schools were hit with the government mandate to stay home in March 2020, high-school physics teacher Libero Puccini had just two days to prep the move to remote teaching.
The pressure was on to support students in their studies at home. The prep work was exhausting – from adjusting lesson plans to finding alternative resources for students to learn from.
Originally, Libero thought the rules would only last until Easter.
But March soon rolled on into Easter, then Easter turned into summer, and summer snowballed into the entire year.
Thanks to his IB student’s reliance on Kognity, Libero found he had one less class to stress about:
“Kognity took the pressure off planning my IB classes, so I could focus on creating content for my other classes that I don’t have Kognity for. Being able to lean on Kognity for my IB classes in that situation was super helpful for me. It gave me enough space and time to give my non-IB students a really good experience remotely.”
With Kognity, Libero also felt he had a ready-made solution to help smooth over the transition to remote learning.
Rather than fret his IB students would get distracted and fall down a TikTok or YouTube rabbit hole, he knew he could rely on Kognity to keep students engaged. He says:
“When we were remote, I didn’t find that I was using Kognity any differently to when we were in class. The readings are great with the animations and videos; I always use Kognity because it’s just great practice.”
Kognity was so successful at keeping his IB students on track that he began to mirror the materials for his other classes. He notes:
“Kognity took the weight off planning classes early on.
I had literally nothing to support me in my other physics classes when we went remote. So, I was making videos, worksheets, and Google Forms as questions to simulate Kognity.
Not only did Kognity relieve all of that content creation for my IB classes, but it also gave me a good model for my other classes. How Kognity has gone about organising content makes sense, so I mirrored that for my other classes. It can be really time consuming to create that. “
Bringing science to the kitchen table
So much of physics depends on hands-on learning and experiments. At first, Libero worried that some of his students would struggle to understand the subject matter without experimental learning. But Kognity soon filled in the gaps:
“My way of explaining something might not always make sense to everyone, so in Kognity, they have the text, the videos, animations to help encourage their learning.”
Kognity also helped him spot and help any students falling behind – without getting weighed down by grading:
“Being able to track the reading, if they have or haven’t done it, you can even see how much time they spent on the assignment so you’re able to know that if they’ve spent 40 seconds on it then they haven’t done it properly. I can use that as a tool to prepare them for class.”
“Having the analytics is really nice for that. I don’t have to sit there grading things; I can just see if they’ve done it and how long they spent on it.”
Because he could no longer rely on spaced-out stares or stumbled responses to surprise questions, he came to find the analytics tool a necessity in helping him understand where the knowledge gaps in his class were:
“With the analytics, I can check, and then say, ‘Over half of you missed these three problems, so I’m going to take the time in class to spell that out for you.’
When I set them assignments, if I see if most of the students didn’t get something right, to me as a teacher, I know that I need to take the time to explain that topic or concept, or just go over that problem.”
The move back to the classroom
The echo of classroom chatter and school bells returned to St Edward in 2021. And Kognity worked so well to keep students engrossed over lockdown that Libero decided to trade in his old science textbooks completely.
“I personally don’t feel the need for physical textbooks anymore. When we were asked if we wanted to order more books, I said ‘No, why would we when we have Kognity?’
You can’t have videos or animations in a physical book. It saves the students’ backs from carrying around books. But it also saves the school money ultimately, by not ordering textbooks.”
Kognity also cuts through any student confusion about which sections to read or questions to solve:
“Textbooks are so limited. I can’t tailor a textbook to be exactly what I want, but with Kognity I can assign certain sections as reading. Before, I always hated having to say, ‘You’re going to do questions 3, 7, 9, and 13 from the back of the chapter.’ Now, I can just send them exactly as I want. There’s much less confusion.”
In class, students use Kognity to map out science problems and explain them to each other. They blaze through exam-style questions. And they use the strength battles to challenge each other’s knowledge.
Libero also levels up their learning with Kognity’s huge library of videos and pictures – he says:
“Kognity has great images. Why spend hours on Google trying to find images when all the ones in Kognity are great?”
From “Ugh, homework,” to, “I’ve done everything I need to, Sir.”
It’s always been a struggle to get some students to do their homework. And Libero has heard every excuse – from the cliché to the inventive.
But with Kognity, getting students to do their homework is no longer a battle:
“For the students, of course they don’t like extra work or homework, but with Kognity, they see the benefit and they acknowledge how helpful it is. They all do it and then they come to class prepared. There are no excuses from students – they can do their homework on their phone if they needed to.”
Libero also uses Kognity to create homework assignments that help students ace their exams:
“Kognity provides me with a way to provide quality homework. It’s exactly the type of stuff that the students need to know, asked in a way that they will be asked in the exams.
And based on the platform, I can decide whether to set 5 questions or 30 questions; it allows me to really differentiate from year to year, class to class, based on their needs.”
From old-school to new-school: “The textbook is obsolete”
At St Edward, textbooks are on the way out and Kognity is commanding desk space:
“Tools like Kognity are the way to go, across the board – not just in science. The traditional textbook is obsolete.”
Kognity is way more affordable for schools and way more affordable for students – no matter their background:
“The shift to digital textbooks is the way to go: it cuts down on paper, it saves money because printed textbooks are expensive even with bulk school discounts, so paying for Kognity or another edTech product is cheaper than buying textbooks, so it ensures that all schools can afford quality content for their students.”
Libero believes Kognity is made for Gen-Z learning
“It’s the YouTube generation; seeing the content in the form of videos can be so helpful. It’s so much better than a traditional textbook.
The future of education needs to shift to being more digital, because that is the way the world is going. Those who don’t adopt it are going to be left behind.”