Friday, December 20, 2013

Borrowing Old School Lessons - Test Corrections in Flipclass - Week 14reflections

In my capacity as Department Chair, I have the wonderful opportunity to witness a variety of pedagogies and strategies. I'm so thankful to work with a group of outstanding individuals. I was recently reminded of an important metacognitive strategy I had long forgotten: test corrections. My colleague has her students fill out a sheet after exams where they identify which questions were answered incorrectly, provide an explanation of their mistake and cite the correct answer. I will definitely use this strategy because it solves two problems in my course.

The first problem that test corrections, or at least quiz corrections in my course, solve or minimize is the phenomenon of students repeating the same mistakes on future quiz attempts. I've had post quiz conferences which were eerily similar to previous ones from the same student. I have come to believe that allowing retakes without reflection encourages repeat mistakes. Why do the hard work of reflection when you are assured three attempts on a quiz? 

The second thing solved by quiz corrections is minimizing the length of post quiz conferences. Earlier in the school year, I spent so much class time conferencing after quizzes. If I have students attempt the corrections first, then the conferences should take less time; many of those conferences might only take the amount of time it takes to read the corrections. 

The first trial will be the Moodle part of the Genetics exam. In order for any student to take a second attempt, they will have to submit all outstanding work, make test corrections and write a message explaining why they should be allowed to retake that part of the exam. My rationale goes as follows. They need to submit all outstanding work because the assignments teach or reinforce the content, which should help prepare for the retake. It will also give a clearer picture of the actual grade. A student might not want to retake an exam if their grade is "high enough." The corrections will serve the function of metacognition and avoiding repeat mistakes. The mandated message is to help guard against the student who earned 97% on the exam and want to shoot for 98%. I will outrightly deny any student who can't demonstrate why they should be able to do a retake.

It's easy to get caught up in new and flashy strategies and tools like flipclass, augmented reality, and gamification but sometimes old fashioned and battle-tested techniques like test corrections can make a big difference.  

Rethinking Unit Exams in an Asynchronous Course: Week 13 reflections

My students took their first major exam last week. Scheduling a synchronous exam in a largely asynchronous course is difficult. I've changed the date of the exam at least two times. My strategy has been to schedule the exam once the slowest or close to slowest person has finished the bare minimum of assignments in order to take the exam. Balancing that desire with making the sure the fastest students are also fairly tested has proved to be a major obstacle. I think next year I ought to rethink the synchronous exam. This is especially possible since part of the exam is online and are different for each student, so there's no real need to have at least part of the exam occur on the same day. If I can construct enough written questions in a bank, then perhaps the entire exam can be asynchronously. On the other side, the one benefit of keeping the exam synchronous is it behaves as a catch up point for slower students. It puts the pressure on students to push ahead and not become complacent if they lag behind. It is a tough call. The entire purpose of going asynchronous is to meet the needs of all students, to give each student the ability to work at their own pace. I fundamentally believe this ought to be true. Unfortunately, the wild cards are students who have the ability to work faster but choose to slack off. I want the students who work behind to be those who normally struggle, not just because they behave in a lazy way. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Students taking Responsibility for their Learning in a Flipped Class

One important difference I see between students this year and in previous years is the amount of responsibility students take for their learning. In previous years, students generally took responsibility by completing their assignments and following directions. However, when I moved to a flipped model, all students were forced to take more ownership of their learning. A simple example is that students have to watch the videos to learn the content; they can't just show up to class and take notes. They actually have to visit a site to learn content. It's a minor example but it sets the stage for everything else. 

I have an asynchronous mastery model where students work at their own pace. However, I do have suggested weekly benchmarks. Most students treat them as deadlines but the deadlines are my way to inform students whether or not they are on pace to finish the entire course. To help with forcing students to stay close to my desired pace, I do have hard deadlines on lab reports and the 3 unit exams. Students decide which assignments to complete during class time and which, if any, to do for homework. I only get involved in these decisions if a student is a complete disaster. There are students who plan ahead and map out their week in science in order to compensate for an after school rehearsal or a family outing. Students who are absent no longer reach out to me for help but adjust their homework plans to catch up. 

Students decide when they take their quizzes. At the beginning of class, I poll the class for individuals who plan to take a quiz. It's their responsibility to decide if they are prepared to take a quiz, not I. If they want to use class time to study or push off the quiz for next class, it's all in their power. 

I post answer keys to most assignments. When students complete assignments, they have to check their answers and decide if they need help from me or a classmate or make small adjustments on their own. I also provide optional remedial assignments. They have to decide which, if any, parts of the remediation plans they need to complete.  

Students also take responsibility for their groupings. The groups are fluid and ever changing. Some students work with their friends, others work with whomever happens to be on the same step and some work alone. Some students might work in a group for one step and alone the next step. Some students jump in and out of groups. I only intervene when there are issues because my sense is that I ought to let students figure things out, even fail once in awhile before I "rescue" them. If a group isn't working out for a student, then I empower them to make necessary changes. If a student isn't holding their weight, then the group is free to move on without certain individuals. Some groups plan out which assignments to do at home individually and which assignments they will reassemble in class for. Some clarification is needed here. Most assignments can be done individually and students have the freedom to collaborate if they choose to do so. Some assignments, like labs and data collection have to be done in groups and some assignments have to be done individually. If some groups are noticeably dysfunctional, I will step in and make mandates. I also help students find group members to work with because they might be unaware who else is on the same step of the learning cycle. Some assignments like POGIL require group member roles. I've also checked in with individual students to inquire about specific individuals to make sure each person is contributing. I share this to say that it is not a complete free for all but students do take ownership of their groups. 

Students are responsible for checking in and showing their work to me. Some steps in the learning cycle are designated as mandatory or suggested check-in time with me. I ask conceptual questions to check for understanding and check off assignments during these checkin times. Students have to call me over to initiate these conversations. They must also update a tracking sheet to indicate when they have completed a step. 

I find it interesting that adults want youngsters to take more responsibility for their learning, yet rarely give them an opportunity to do so. Are they supposed to magically figure it out? I'm happy to say that students are forced to take responsibility for their learning in my course. And even if some students don't immediately internalize this message, they are aware of the expectations and have plenty of opportunities to do so -- courtesy of the Flipped Class. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Student Videos & Working out Bugs in Asynchronous Learning: Week 11 & 12 Reflections

It's been awhile since I've posted a weekly reflection. Even though part of the reason has been my hectic schedule, upon further thought, the real reason is that I haven't been inspired to write. Things are going well but I've become less prominent in the course. Students seem to have found a groove and are self managing. They know the routines and structure of learning cycles. They also appear to support each other and take better notes from videos - which have caused fewer questions for me. Students talk to their neighbors and problem solve before asking me to intervene. It's great; the result has left me with very little to write about weekly. Weeks later I now have updates to share about my flipped adventures. 

I'm experimenting with students making their own videos. My students of previous years have always struggled with protein synthesis. The topic is abstract and the process has several steps which occur on a microscopic level. Over the years, I've been satisfied with students being able to determine DNA, RNA and amino acid sequences, which have helped them understand why mutations are important. But they haven't really internalized the process. I purchased some protein synthesis model building kits to help. I had an epiphany: why not have students create videos explaining the process using these kits? I have to admit that I did very little prep work, gave almost no instructions and did not provide information about grading. I broke all those rules because I wanted to see what the kids could do on their own. I didn't plan to grade the videos - I just asked students to redo the videos whenever I detected errors. So far, the products have been excellent. Some videos are just one-take live recordings, while others are narrated animations or slide shows. The fantastic thing is now I have a library of protein synthesis explanations in the language and voice of students. These videos can be used to prepare for tests and exams for years to come. 

I have advocated asynchronous learning since last year and won't get into the benefits again. However, I am seeing some of the troubles now. One trouble I've seen is loosing a sense of a class community; this has been addressed with peer instruction and other synchronous activities that I've added during the last few weeks. Of course scheduling labs is harder, especially if I want to combine data. That has been addressed, perhaps ineffectively, by sharing last year's data. The remaining problem is related to group projects. I have two major projects and an exam coming up. One is a genetic disorder project that requires three people and I would like groups to present their work to the entire class. That will be difficult if students are at different places. I'm considering creating an altered project that can be completed in pairs or individually but that will take some time. The other project is even more difficult to pull off because it is in conjunction with the history class. I need the students to be in a similar place in order to get the benefits of the interdisciplinary project, which also coincides with a field trip to a DNA laboratory. Gladly, this mini unit will start at the beginning of January, so I've mandated that all students be up to the unit once they return from break. This shouldn't be a problem because they need to catch before the break in order to take the genetics exam. Of course, if some do not catch up for the exam, then the problem will be compounded. I will try not to worry and make accommodations to help students catch up. I've already informed the slower students which steps of the current learning cycle should be prioritized before the exam. Hopefully, this guidance will prove useful. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Who Can be Replaced by a Computer? Not I!

Dschen Reinecke // Wikipedia
Arthur C. Clarke once stated, "Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be!" (Electronic Tutors, 1980.) I love this quote because it's my semi-sarcastic reply to concerns of teachers who fear online, blended or flipped learning. Now of course I'm sympathetic to these fears, and would never actually reply in such a way if a teacher were  afraid of the implications for future advances in educational technology. But I'll think it! 

Perhaps it is confidence or naïveté but blended and flipped learning do not worry me. For anyone who's led a flipped class, you realize that teachers play a more important, not less important role. In addition to the obvious like creating the videos, assessments, curating the content and making adjustments, the teacher has more contact with students in a flipped class. Watching the video is only a small part of the learning cycle. Students have questions, need motivating, and yearn feedback. In a given class period, I'm providing direct instruction and clarification to small groups and individuals. I'm asking questions to probe student thinking or to help them realize that they are mistaken in their thoughts. I'm lending a hand in experiment execution. I provide a gentle nudge to students off topic or give time management advice. I lead post quiz conferences for struggling students to help them realize their mistakes. I help negotiate social issues that interfere with learning or referee disagreements. I clarify points of confusion and identify whether the videos were effective. I provide feedback. If the original tools prove useless, then I'm changing learning materials on the fly. I'm slightly altering expectations and grading accordingly. I set up labs. I even facilitate whole class discussions and peer instruction. It's the simple fact that I'm invaluable. The course works because I'm constantly evaluating and making adjustments to the course and I'm negotiating the complex personalities of my students. A recent experience with a substitute proved this point. I don't recall students saying they missed and needed me after returning from an absence until this year. 

Hey, if a computer can do all of those things, then kudos to its designer. If I can be replaced by that computer, then I ought to be!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fluid Grading: Week 10 reflections

In our middle school, teachers can write Academic Notifications for students who struggle. These are notices that are sent home outlining specific issues ranging from academic to behavioral. This week I wrote my third Academic Notification this year. This is easily a tenfold reduction in notifications than in past years by this time of the year. I have typically sent notifications whenever a student failed a quiz, missed at least three assignments in a quarter and/or dipped significantly from earlier in the year. Don't get me wrong: I could have sent multiple notifications this year because students have failed quizzes and skipped assignments. The difference with this model is that a student can retake a quiz and jump from a 0 to a perfect score in less than 24 hours; this is no exaggeration, that jump actually occurred for one student. So by the time a notification would even be processed in the office, it would be obsolete. Even a student who skipped an assignment could make it up within a class period or at home that very night. The point is that the grades are so much more fluid in this model. I've seen a student in deep water on Monday but actually end up ahead of peers by Friday. I appreciate the hectic nature of the course because it seems more authentic. Just as microclimates can experience temperature fluctuations, a student's understanding of a concept can swiftly change from total confusion to sudden understanding. Ever witnessed an "ah ha" moment? This flipped model with traces of mastery and standards-based grading is responsive to these changes. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Flip Class as a Vehicle to Universal Design for Learning: Week 9 reflections


I received a wonderful letter from a parent. It was truly touching. I won't quote it here but I will explain the content. It was the parent of one of my exceptional students who has consistently worked ahead. The parent thanked me for allowing the student to work at his own pace and shared that this was the first time this student actually felt a science or math course allowed him to work at his own level. Now of course I'm sure that there are/were parents who could say something negative about the flipped class, so I won't overreach here. But I am glad that one of my main motivators to make the switch is actually happening. I do have a number of exceptional students who are ahead of the pace of the course and that number increases as time passes. If I stayed with the traditional model or even a synchronous flipped model, those students would still be kept hostage by everyone else's pace. They would never know what it felt like to get an education specifically geared to their them, rather than to the middle of the class.

I'm reminded of the Universal Design for Learning model. This model is inspired by a similar mode of architecture wherein the building is designed for the extremes rather than the middle. For example, if you build 7 foot doorways, everyone can fit through without ducking their heads. If you have wheelchair ramps at every entrance and exit, then everyone can enter and exit the building. The opposite approach would have doorways the same as the average height of people or only a few wheelchair accessible entrances and exits because most people can walk. If you design for the extremes, then everyone benefits.

The same approach can be done for education. If you design education by keeping in mind the extremes, those who are exceptional and those who have special needs, then you can reach all students. When I designed my flipped class, I kept in mind the strongest students I've ever had and the other extreme. I tried to design the course to meet those extremes, in order to reach all students. The traditional model is designed around the middle of the pack and doesn't do much for the most exceptional or those who struggle the most.

How do I meet the needs of the extremes?

1) First, by having my lectures on video, students can view the content on demand, rewind, pause or fast forward. They can watch the video several times. This really helps those who struggle the most because they typically need to hear and see things several times to get it. This helps the exceptional students because they can view the video once and move on and not be slowed down by the students who have questions or those who need to hear content repeated.

2) The first question I get from colleagues is what happens when a student has a question when they watch the video, especially at home. My students are required to complete a video form after/while watching a video. Part of the form is a required question. Students send their questions to me and I can respond, many times before they come to class. This works for students who struggle because they can ask any question without fear of asking a "dumb" question in front of peers. I can reply with an email or even plan to meet with the student during the next class. The exceptional student gets to ask a question that goes beyond the scope of the course and I can answer it without fear of confusing the students who might not even understand the question.

3) Asynchronous learning cycles further support individualized learning. Weaker students can slow down and work at their pace, while exceptional students can work ahead. The obvious implications are that some students will not finish the entire course, while others will learn content beyond the scope of the course. The former implication was hard for me to accept at first but when I remembered that the weakest students didn't actually learn all of the content in the traditional model anyway, I felt better about the decision. We rush all students ahead at a predetermined rate, usually equal to the pace of the middle students, without really considering that the weaker students haven't learned the earlier material. In a cumulative course, this approach is counterproductive. Either way, the weakest students will not learn as much in a year as the other students. At least in the asynchronous model, they have a chance of mastering some content and feeling good about really learning.


I have a weird policy regarding lab reports that I'm rethinking. Since the first lab assignments, I haven't let students work on their lab reports during class time. The major reason is that the reports take up too much time; if we stopped going through the learning cycle for lab report writing, we would get through a fraction of the curriculum. My workaround has been to allow students to record data and perform calculations in class but write up their reports and make graphs at home; in addition, students who complete the mandatory learning cycle tasks for the week could also use the remainder of the week to either work ahead or work on the lab reports. So far, this is the best compromise that I've figured out and still trying to think of an alternative solution.

Speaking of labs, running an asynchronous course makes it difficult to run labs that require the entire class. So far, I've managed to share last year's data to allow faster students to complete their writeup without waiting for other classmates. Once all of the students have nearly caught up, the entire class set-up the experiment and collect data to be used for next year. What I would like to do instead is let individual students or small groups set up the lab as soon as their ready, then share last year's data with them. This way they are setting up the lab as soon as it is relevant; ahead students won't have to set up a lab they already wrote a lab report for! I still haven't figured out a way to avoid using last year's data in an asynchronous course because I don't want the quicker students to wait too long and don't want the slower students to arbitrarily set up a lab when they haven't even learned the prerequisite material.

Friday, November 1, 2013

How to Write Calculated Questions in Moodle Quizzes

One of the most helpful questions in a Moodle quiz is the calculated question. Students perform calculations using a formula. Moodle allows you to ask an indefinite version of these questions by switching specific values. If you set up the question correctly, Moodle will insert random values (or values from a range) and will grade student responses. For example, let's say you want students to calculate the area of a rectangle but want each student to get different values for the length and width. You input the formula (A = LxW) and the parameters. Moodle will generate a different question each time by randomly selecting a value for L and for W. This is especially helpful in a mastery course where students are taking tests and quizzes at different times. Unfortunately, it is not a straight forward process. Below is a tutorial to walk you through the steps. The preparation will be worth it!

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Making Time for Synchronous Activities in an Asynchronous Flipped Class: Week 8 reflections

After last week's successful unveiling of peer instruction, which my students now affectionately refer to as Pi (pronounced "pie"), I instituted a few more beginning of class synchronous activities. This week, I added Metacognition Monday and Controversy Thursday, in addition to Pi Tuesday and Wednesday. Friday is a full work day since many of my deadlines are at the end of the school day on Friday. At the beginning of class on Mondays, I'll have students journal about metacognitive topics: how they are doing in the course, which topics they feel great about or not so great about, mapping goals for the week, etc. On Controversy Thursdays, students will discuss controversial topics related to the current unit. The middle of the week will be dedicated to peer instruction. 

I cheated on the first Metacognition Monday. Instead of a reflection, I asked students to organize their materials from the current learning cycle. This is in response to the loose papers and handouts I've noticed left in class. Now that students got the clear message that they'll be held accountable for keeping materials, I expect some of this lackadaisical behavior will change.  

Both attempts of peer instruction were successful. In both attempts, students were highly engaged. Generally, 8th graders seem to love debating each other. It was great to harness that desire to argue and apply it to science concepts. Who would've known that Punnett squares can elicit such vigor! In all attempts, incorrect responses decreased and correct responses increased after the student discussions. My favorite part of PI was the post voting discussion. I was impressed with my students's ability to explain why the incorrect choices were incorrect; more importantly and my eduwin for the week, they were able to explain the confusion that led to incorrect responses from other classmates. These discussions were informative; some sources of confusion were predictable but others were interesting. Most issues were those related to either reading comprehension or a conceptual misunderstanding. 

Near the end of the week we had our first Socratic Seminar. This was our first full class synchronous activity since the course scavenger hunt on days one and two. These discussions were a treat to facilitate and changing the pace for the synchronous discussion was the right move. Some students made interesting comments that their peers had not considered. I need to incorporate more of these rich discussions. 

I'm considering making most assignments optional for the students who are excelling. I mentioned in last week's blog post a student mentioned frustration about be required to do all of the assignments because he/she felt all of the steps were unnecessary to learn the content. I will reach out to a small group of students who demonstrate strong ability and will inform them that the video forms are now optional; in addition, they will no longer need to complete every question in the problem sets. I might denote specific questions as mandatory but otherwise they'll be free to pick and choose questions. I won't offer this option to all students because I want to see how it works first. There are logistical things I need to work through, like setting up exempt or optional assignments in calculations of grades. Of course there are pedagogical reasons to have some mandatory assignments. All students will have to perform the labs and participate in the exploration and revisitation of the exploration phases. Eventually, I want to make most assignments optional but I'm just not there yet. Some flipped teachers make their videos optional. In principle, I agree. In practice, this is difficult because my course is a hybrid of different levels of biology. Some topics we cover specific aspects that are closer to a 9th grade course and others are 11th grade and even above. My students learn Punnett squares at a basic level yet they perform chi square analysis. They learn of protein synthesis but not the names of specific steps. It's difficult to videos and readings that will be appropriate to my course unless I create them. I worry about students learning of vocabulary and details that we will not address. It's easier to find readings because I share links  and tell students to skip certain sections. My long term project is to write my own e-textbook tailored to the content of the course. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Introducing Alternative Assessment & Peer Instruction in the Flipped Class: Week 7 reflections

Students only had an exploration, video, problem set and Moodle quiz  because I wanted to add some breathing room for students to catch up to my pace. I also instituted peer instruction at the beginning of lessons. Students are all over the place - anywhere from one week behind to one week ahead. The number of ahead students has increased in the last day or so. After next week, I plan to speed up the pace a bit and offer more synchronous activities.

One cool thing that has emerged from post quiz conferences is pin pointing each student's conceptual issues. In previous weeks, I suggested struggling students to work through pre-planned remediation modules after a quiz. The pre-planned modules are divided into topics, so students always had the choice of how to spend their time. But these conferences have better equipped me to recommend certain tasks or to create remedial tasks on the spot. A few examples will make the point. Two students struggled on the same quiz but had different issues. One student couldn't couldn't decipher the difference between codominance and incomplete dominance, while another student had some issues solving blood typing Punnett Squares, which included codominance. For the first student, I told him to create a list of traits (the weirder the better.) He had to imagine the appearance of a heterozygote, in situations where the trait displayed codominance and incomplete dominance. I pointed the second student to a blood typing reading and online practice quiz that was already part of the remedial module. I'm also adding more remedial activities to the modules because these conferences are uncovering areas of confusion that I did not anticipate in the planning phase. It would've been difficult to identify and offer specialized remediation without the post quiz conferences built into the class period, courtesy of the flipped model. My eduwin for the week is using post quiz conferences to suggest tailor made remediation.

I really love adding a synchronous activity to the beginning of class. It changes the feel. It's slowed things down a bit and made the class feel whole. I'm glad that I opted to go with peer instruction instead of a tracking journal at the beginning of the class. The tracking journal could've helped with goal setting and slowed down the pace but it would not have the added benefits of peer instruction. I posted a scenario with a multiple choice answer. It was an engaging and conceptually rigorous question. Students thought about their answer individually, with no help. They jotted down their answer and closed their eyes to vote. I recorded the class results. Then students found someone with a different answer and tried to convince them to change their answer. After a few minutes, students re-voted. I shared the results of both votes and asked students to explain their reasoning. I made sure to include students who were convinced of the correct answer. I revealed the answer and had time for explanations and clarification. Once the session was over, I let students resume their work. Students were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about this change. We all craved for communal time. I'm ecstatic that the communal time was a research based approach that was still student-centered. It was the best of all worlds. 

I expected a two year roll out of the flipped class; year one is flipped videos and associated guided notes and forms, explore flip apply, Moodle quizzes and asynchronous learning, while year two will be standards based grading, blogging and voice & choice. I'm starting to question whether I should institute voice & choice earlier. I have a student or two who have struggled with the Moodle quizzes, despite post quiz conferences and retaking them. Even though there are some real issues with learning the material, the lack of partial credit has been a real detriment here. Moving forward, I will have a paper version of the quiz to administer to a small number of students who struggle. In addition, I ought to institute voice & choice sooner for students to display learning in alternative ways. I've already opened things up a bit. I've asked some students to create their own problems and solve them to convince me of their understanding. Even though I've done this informally and on an as needed basis, it has worked nicely. I ought to build in these alternative opportunities more often and eventually, allow all students to choose from a menu of ways to demonstrate knowledge. 

The other change I'm thinking about instituting a year earlier than originally planned is an element of standards based grading. In a recent response to a my ongoing course feedback form, a student mentioned that all of the activities were unnecessary to understand the material. I, of course, agree; this is one of the main reasons that I planned to institute SBG next year. In the interim, I've decided to reach out to individual students and discuss making certain activities optional. I won't open things up for all students just yet until I've thought through effective accountability and grading systems. At the very least, I can tell students to complete as many or as few problem set questions that they need. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Experiencing the Strengths and Weaknesses of an Asynchronous Course: Week 6 reflections

In a shortened week, students completed an exploration, took notes on a video, conducted an online lab and a majority of students needed to catch up and/or take last week's Moodle quiz. 

So far, I've focused on the benefit of the asynchronous flip in the context of students moving ahead. But now I'm seeing the benefits of allowing students to work at a slower pace. The most obvious benefit is for absent students. We are approaching a notorious time of the school year for illnesses. Some students have missed multiple days. Sure, a good number return to school behind the schedule but a few haven't missed a step. In the traditional model, all of these students would be behind. But some of my sick and/or absent students were able to watch videos, take notes and even complete problem sets at home. I rarely have to schedule individual tutorage outside of class time. This week's #eduwin is the number of absent students who were able to remain on pace, courtesy of the flipped class. Just as important, since I run an asynchronous class, these students aren't forced to make unreasonable demands of themselves. One student has mapped out a plan to add small chunks to his nightly homework assignments to "catch up" in a week.  

It's interesting how some students get ahead during one week and a different set of students get ahead in other weeks. As of today, four students are a week ahead. It was wonderful because I paired up these excelling students with the students who did not pass the last Moodle quiz. It was a great sight seeing my students provide the one on one tutoring to their classmates that I typically do in class. Aside from using these students as peer tutors, I'll start to recruit lab assistants from this consistently ahead crowd. Again, these opportunities only existed because of the flipped class.

I still have not worked in synchronous full class activities and discussions. On a related note, I want the beginning and ending of each class to have clear routines. I loathe to take time away from my students working on assignments because they have been effectively using this time. However, I worry about the frenzied pace of the class and wish to avoid a "study hall" feel. The combination of synchronous discussions and activities with clear daily routines at the start and closing of each class should help with these issues. Since my students work independently, the first few minutes can be used for students to decide and record their goals for the period, then assess their progress at the end of the period. This could help their metacognition and executive functioning. I suspect most students are doing just fine without this requirement but it might uncover poor habits in some students. It will also build in a way to begin and end each period with silence, a major value of our school and a way to slow the frenzied pace of the class. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Spreading the goodness of the Flipped model: Week 5 reflections

This week, students had a video, problem set, lab challenge, their first POGIL and a Moodle Quiz.

An english teacher randomly visited my class today. A few students were watching my blood typing video in the hallway and he stumbled upon the students. He engaged my students in conversation. During one of my frequent hallway check-ins with these students, my colleague inquired about how I run the class and if he could enter my room. He observed and talked to students. He asked me a few questions. He gave me positive feedback and even suggested that there was a part of his class that he could flip. Interestingly, this was the first time a non science teacher observed my class. Even if he doesn't decide to flip his class, this was a success story. An english teacher observed the process and seemingly felt positive about what he saw. Flipped educators can use as much positive advertisement and word of mouth as possible. Another 8th grade advisor told me that students are really starting to get into the model, even though they were apprehensive at first. This is my #eduwin of the week. 

In my department, I instituted a peer observation lunch initiative. Pairs of department members observe each other's lesson and have lunch together to debrief. This week, my partner observed my lesson. I initially thought about rescheduling when I realized that most of my students did not view the blood typing video during the weekend. I knew they would have to watch the video during class. A class of students watching a video on their iPads wouldn't make for an interesting observation. For several reasons, I decided to let the observation happen anyway. I'm happy with that decision. Many times we make sure an observation occurs during a spectacular lesson, in order to impress the observer; however, we don't actually need feedback on the wonderful well-prepared lesson. Rather, we need feedback on the everyday unspectacular lessons. This was a success because I got over the fear of someone seeing an unpolished lesson. If other folks can stop by at any time without advanced notice, I can get really helpful feedback on my craft. Others can point out what I am unable to see, rather than telling me what I already know. 

The POGIL and modified inquiry labs are stretching the thinking of my students. As I reported last week, I've removed data tables and procedures from most of my labs. With the added time for collaboration, this strategy represents an effective use of time. When a student is able to complete the writeup of these labs or complete the POGIL activities, I'm confident that they really understand the material. 

The biggest source of stress in class is students forgetting to bring headphones to class. First, I should admit that I prefer students to watch videos, take notes and complete the video form at home. Whenever a critical mass of students are watching the same video in class, especially at the beginning of the week, I point out how it's an ineffective use of class time. However, it appears that most students are working at an acceptable pace and an overwhelming number submit work in at deadlines. (I have to remind myself that it's about what students need and not my personal preference.) Anyhow, even if students choose to use class time to watch videos, they ought to bring headphones. It's just not possible to have several iPads blasting asynchronously and students being able to pay attention and think about the material. They really need to bring headphones to class and I promise that the issue isn't about affording headphones - most of these students own iPhones and other equipment that come standard with headphones. I think I'm going to use school funds to purchase a class set of headphones. I'm not sure why I haven't done that yet; it might be a stubborn teacher thing, "they need to take responsibility for being prepared for class!" At this point, I've given up on that and decided its just not a battle worth fighting. Things are going well in my class, even despite the initial apprehension and resistance. If this is my biggest gripe, then I'm lucky! 

Another source of tension is perhaps an over emphasis on collaboration in my class. It's actually a beautiful thing to see students helping each other, dividing the labor and setting schedules and priorities together. However, I've noticed students sharing headphones and one person recording notes in a Google document, presumably to be shared with their partner later. In one sense, it doesn't bother me so much. If a student were absent from a traditional lesson, they would need to copy notes from a classmate. One argument against a traditional classroom is the temptation for students to cheat on homework problems. So many students have been caught copying math homework, for example. I suspect that copying "homework" happens less often in the flipped model because those assignments happen in class in the presence of the teacher. A student copying a problem set in this case would have to be audacious. So aside from the major labs and assignments, students have the best opportunity to copy video notes in a flipped model because those usually take place at home. As a presenter at FlipCon 13 stated, I'd rather students copy the low Blooms work like video notes than the higher application and problem solving work. But with that being said, I still want students doing the work behind taking video notes and not relying on peers. One, there is actually some thinking in the video notes; I have students pause the video at strategic times to answer questions and resume in order to reveal those answers. Two, on principle, a student ought to take credit only for the work they have completed - this is an important lesson in academic integrity. I've mentioned this concern with students that I've "caught" working on "collaborative" notes but I think I ought to address this with the entire group.  

A student inquired about the next quiz and wondered if it would be a "real quiz." After I asked some followup questions, I realized that some students think the traditional one-take quizzes are "real" while the multiple trial Moodle quizzes are not real. I suspected that this was the case, especially when I discovered during post quiz conferences that some students had not memorized the vocabulary required to solve the problems. This conversation confirmed my fear that some students were not taking the quizzes as seriously as I hoped. I suppose this is both a success and an area of needed adjustment. On one hand, the test anxiety is low. One the other hand, I want my students to prepare and make a true effort, even if they have the safety net of multiple trials. I think my response will be to limit the retakes to two, instead of three. I already made the decision before this conversation affirmed the decision. I do have some trepidation though. It's important to me that I give each student what they need to be successful. Some students might actually need a legitimate third chance. I think I will change the default setting to two chances, then a third chance for students who convince me that they need another chance. I might require an email stating how they prepared, what they learned from our post quiz conferences and what they will do to prepare for a third chance.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Screencast 101 - a Comparison of Screencast Apps

There are tons of screen cast programs. A person new to flipping could be overwhelmed with the choices. Hopefully this post will prove to be helpful.

(feel free to edit the spreadsheet above to add programs, features and update outdated information. Since this is a publicly edited document, I can't attest to its accuracy.)

My favorite desktop program: 
Camtasia is hands down the iMovie of screen casting. It is a powerful feature-rich program. It has a longer history on the PC, so it has fewer features on the Mac. I hear ScreenFlow is the powerhouse on Macs but never used it. Nevertheless, it is an amazing program. It is costly though and has to be downloaded to your desktop. It has tons of editing and annotation options like zoom & pan, highlighting and even custom animations. You can export directly to YouTube, as well as TechSmith's Unlike the simpler alternatives, Camtasia supports recording from the webcam with a picture in picture option. 

My favorite web-based program:
Hands down Screencast-O-Matic is the best web based screen casting program. Assuming you have Java enabled, this free app is a great alternative for someone who doesn't want to download software. With an inexpensive upgrade, there are some nice editing and annotation features. Like Camtasia, you can either download the video or export to YouTube or a propriety website. Screencast-O-Matic also supports webcam recordings. 

My favorite iPad program:
Explain Everything is a feature rich video producing app. For only $2.99, you can import images, videos, and presentations from cloud based accounts like Google Drive, Dropbox and Evernote. You can export to YouTube and pretty much everywhere else. You can even import a website into your video. In addition to the annotation options, a cool useful but undervalued feature is the customizable laser pointer. And as expected for an iOS app, it integrates well with iTunes and the iPad's native photos and videos. 

Simplest/Easiest to Use
Jing (harddrive), ScreenR (web) and Quicktime Pro (harddrive) are the simplest and easiest to use screen casting programs. The drawback to these programs is that they produce one-take videos without editing and any helpful annotations. I use Jing for screenshots but not for screen casts because the videos are recorded as swf files, which do not upload to Youtube. Quicktime Pro has a relatively unknown screen recording feature. It's as easy as selecting "New Screen Recording" on the File menu and pressing record. This is my go-to program when I wish to do a quick one-take screen cast.

Giving my Students what they Need: Week 4 reflections

During this week, students took their first Moodle quiz. They also had two videos, a lab challenge and two problem sets.

I'm not sure if this comment is a success story in the normal sense of the phrase, but rather it's an interesting share. My #edwin this week is a quick anecdotal. I own a love bird who chirps all day. In some videos, he is happily chirping in the background. I do what I can to minimize the distraction but some students noticed the sound. It made for an interesting discussion with a few students after class. We exchanged bird stories and had a few laughs about their seemingly notorious way of making the most noise when you need quiet. Perhaps the bird chirps were less of a distraction and just another way to help me connect with a few students. I'm just a little bit more human to those students who exchanged bird stories with me. 

I can feel students, who were once resistant, are starting to buy in to the flipped class. A parent emailed to let me know her student has done an 180 degree turnaround on the flipped model. 

So far three students have taken advantage of the opportunity to work ahead. They are almost a week ahead. I'll be interested to see how, or if, they continue this trend. One benefit for me is that I'll have at least some students ahead to point out issues. One student informed me of an incorrectly phrased question on a problem set. I was able to make the change before any other student saw it. This will force me to set up materials and learning cycles at an appropriate pace. (Getting fruit fly cultures, which require ample time before shipment, will be an organizational challenge for me.) I'm even thinking that students who are ahead could help me set up labs; they will learn new laboratory skills and I will get much needed help. This could be a great situation. 

The wonderful thing about my class is that I'm gaining real insights into the thinking of my students, especially through their questions. I'm taken aback by how many questions I get in a period. I wonder how students got their questions answered in the traditional model; there just isn't enough class time in that model. I bet there are just more questions now because I've made myself available for them. But what about the other questions? Did students call a classmate, talk to their parents or a tutor? Were these people able to help them without doing the thinking for them? Did my former students copy someone's work? I'm happy to answer these questions. I'm even more ecstatic that I can redirect questions to help my students think through their confusion. Usually my first response to a student's question is another question. It must be frustrating when you're used to someone giving you what you want as soon as you want it. My approach is to give you only what you need, not necessarily what you want. Whether it's asking a question to remind you of a step you skipped, what improvements can you make, or what was your motivation, it's important that my students are doing the hard work of thinking. 

The flipped model allowed me to provide one on one feedback to every student after this week's quiz. For each student who performed under the set benchmark, I had a conference with them to look over their incorrect answers. They resolved each problem in front of me after our check-in. I was able to see patterns in mistakes. I saw students who skipped steps, did not study vocabulary, did not use scrap paper, did not read the entire problem and took short cuts. I gave stern but, hopefully, encouraging feedback. After reworking each problem, I made them explain what they did incorrectly. We even had time for take home messages - where they identified what caused their unsatisfactory score. This is where students admitted to rushing, skipping steps, etc. I'm sure there are teachers who conference with their students after assessments to discuss errors. The english teachers at my school are excellent about meeting with students to look over their papers; there's hardly a period where I don't the English teachers in a case conference with a student in a random crevice or classroom. The difference here is that I was able to use class time to conduct my case conferences without falling behind in the curriculum or giving busy work to students. And more importantly, for most students, the quiz scores rose significantly after the conferences. The flipped model opened up class time to make this happen.

The other beautiful thing that happened was the video form responses proved to be helpful to me in a practical, not just theoretical, way this week. The students watched a video on chi squares, which I knew would be difficult. Next to protein synthesis, it is always the lesson that gives me the most anxiety before doing it. This is a difficult concept, especially for 8th graders. The lower than normal video ranking (2.4 compared to 2.75 out of 3) is clearly an indication. However, I see this as a success story because I wrote down all of the student names who indicated confusion and we spent the first few minutes in a small tutorial group going over chi squares. I knew going into this process that some students would struggle with some of the video lessons - this is why I use class time to provide remediation, tutoring, etc. The part unseen is the majority of students who understood the concept from the video and can now move on, without being slowed down by their peers. In my opinion, this is exactly what should happen in all classes: students getting what they need!

During the first day of post quiz conferences, I made a list of students and called them to me when I was ready for them. I was stationary that day, so I probably didn't do a great job managing subtle behaviors like students working too slowly. Perhaps I'll be more strategic about which problems I go over. Next time I should jot down notes about each kid and prioritize which problems to discuss during the conferences. I worry that these conferences can start to become a time drain. I also need to stress that students should be more strategic about when they take their quiz, only take it when they are ready. I don't want to spend time in a post quiz conference with a student who just didn't study. The other students need my guidance; it shouldn't be wasted in that capacity.

A large number of my students are not updating their tracking sheets. I sent an email to them explaining changes to policies in order to encourage them to update tracking sheets. 
Excerpt below:
I'm seeing a lot of red on the tracking sheets, even the simple inheritance one which most people have finished. Starting tomorrow, I won't allow quiz taking until your tracking sheets are filled in. You also won't pass a check-in without showing me your tracking sheet. Please update. 
Quick explanation: this is really important to me because I need to know where you are in the learning cycle. If you are behind, I need to figure out a way to help you. If you are ahead, then I need ample warning to set up and order lab supplies, make photocopies, etc. You might be ready for the next step but not have any materials. So please, I implore you to update those tracking sheets.

In a related note, I believe that I've identified a student who has not been watching videos. I won't get into how I know for fear of spreading a way to game the system. The take home message is that I designed my accountability systems, like mandatory check-in and tracking sheets for a reason. I need to hold myself accountable for relying on these designed systems. My attitude moving forward is that the steps of the learning cycles are designed in such a way that students either need to demonstrate they don't need the step or that they have completed the steps. I will need to do a better job holding all students accountable for this. Most students are doing quite well with completing the learning activities. I just don't want any student falling in between the cracks. 

Now that students are starting to get the hang of asynchronous learning, I do want to build in time for full class activities, like peer instruction, jigsaws and Socratic seminars. I want to harness the power of rich discussions, especially when confronting ethical considerations of the science they are learning in class. Even if I have to supplement these discussions with online forums, I will carve out some time to start these talks during class time. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

100 Flipping Ways - Comparing Models of Flipped Learning

The media portrays an oversimplified version of flipped learning. Media Synopsis: videos teaching content done for homework, while traditional homework assignments completed in class. In the early version of Flip 101, I suspect the majority of these in-class activities really were normal homework assignments like worksheets and problem sets. But as Aaron Sams and Jon Bergman stated throughout FlipCon13, Flip 101 is the entry point to flipped instruction and most teachers move beyond the "traditional flip" (irony of this term is not lost on me.)

A brief summary of some Flipped learning models:

Traditional Flip - synchronous course where students watch videos at home to learn concepts then apply their learning in class.

Mastery Flip - an asynchronous course where students view videos and complete learning activities at their own pace. Note: videos can be watched in class. 

Explore-Flip-Apply (EFA) - inspired by the learning cycle and inquiry instruction, students synchronously engage in hands-on exploration of concepts, which are explained in the videos that follow. Students apply their learning after the explore and flip stages. Consistent with "just in time teaching," these videos can be created in response to deficits, questions and misconceptions identified in the explore phase.

Flipped PBL (project) - students complete projects to learn concepts in depth and demonstrate learning. Videos are offered as supplemental aids in completing the projects and/or direct instruction of required content.

Flipped PBL (problem) - similar to the other flipped PBL but the focus of the course is to solve "messy" problems. Students identify concepts they "need to know" in order to solve the problems. Videos and other materials are shared to provide students with the content they need to solve these problems.

Mastery Learning Cycles - inspired by the Explore-Flip-Apply and Flipped Mastery models, students engage in asynchronous learning cycles. They explore concepts before watching videos. After videos, they apply their learning and can choose to demonstrate "mastery" of concepts by completing higher order tasks. 

The irony is there is so much diversity within these models and some teachers might even disagree with these definitions. Many of these paradigms are not mutually exclusive, just like the Mastery learning cycle model is a blending of EFA and mastery models. Not to mention, the addition of Standards based grading, student Voice & Choice, Understanding by Design and Universal Design learning can add limitless flavors to flipped instruction. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Getting into a #Flipclass Groove: Week 3 reflections

This is probably the first full week that accurately captured the essence of the flip class. Students took a quiz at the beginning of the week and individually mapped out their best use of class time - the week contained one video with guided notes and Google form, problem set and a lab challenge. 

Back to School Night happened this week. This event has been on my radar since before the school year. Members of my PLN have shared horrific stories of parents heckling or chastising them because of the flip class. Minutes prior to my first presentation, a colleague warned me that there will be a lot of parent questions. But I felt confident because I planned my brief presentation assuming the worse. I started with a talk about why I chose to flip and the problems that were solved by the flip. The mood changed when I addressed the concerns before they were even stated. I could feel the logic of my argument swaying opinions and was relieved by the sea of head nods accompanied by smiles and audible affirmation. All I kept thinking about was a comedian in a movie who hugged his agent after standup performances and said, "they didn't boo." My #eduwin this week was the parents didn't boo me either!

I've been worried about my workload as the course approaches the asynchronous units. I needed a way to keep on top of student video watching and form submissions. Up until this week, I double checked each form response, gave feedback and updated my records. Since there were only two videos, this wasn't a difficult task. But it is a terrible waste of time to check each response for 5-6 videos form spreadsheets. After some research, I found several scripts in Google Apps including "VLookUp", "ImportRange" and "Array."These gems have drastically reduced my workload and increased my ability to respond to student needs - so much so that I'll write a future blog post about them. 

I graded the first batch of quizzes and lab assignments. The first quiz average is higher than last year's first quiz. The first quiz of the year is always the lowest for me. Students expect factual recall and not application questions. Every year I have the conversation with students that I never ask for definitions and other lower Blooms questions. Instead, I incorporate the terminology into my questions, while asking them to use what they learned in a different setting. If they haven't learned the lower level information than they can't even begin to make applications. This year, the students in 2 out of 3 classes were apparently more prepared this year to make applications on the quiz. And don't forget that this all happened without any direct instruction of facts during class time, all instruction was delivered via video outside of class time! Rather, class time was almost exclusively used for application and exploration. 

The ratings on the videos have increased from 2.7 to 2.85. I attribute this increase to greater comfort with the flipped process rather than better videos - especially since the earlier videos were made most recently, after I suffered through the video production learning curve. 

Students are adapting and adjusting differently to flipped learning. Some students are watching videos in class, some are mapping the week out to watch videos at home and using class time to get help from me.  Some students are watching videos and taking notes in the hallway. The best sight of the week was the formation of impromptu tutorial groups. Some students who were a step or two ahead used class time to help their peers. One of these groups politely dismissed me because they figured out how to learn a bit more on their own. I think my students are starting to get into a groove. I have a handful of students who completed the learning cycle prior to the end of the week and took the quiz before others. This marks the beginning of a shift, where differentiation becomes a reality. I will pay close attention to this development and continue to solicit student feedback. 

I'm really enjoying the structure of the week: initial exploratory problem-based lab with data collection, a video with associated guided notes and formative assessment Google form, application practice and revisitation of the original lab challenge. The students really are thinking their tails off. I've redesigned many of the labs by taking out mandatory steps, withholding information and giving them the freedom to problem solve and apply what they learned so far. This week's Corn lab is a prime example of the shift in pedagogy. This is a traditional lab where students tally the different offspring and are told information about the inheritance of the traits and the identity of the parents. They test whether or not the observed offspring fit this pattern. The traditional lab is a decent practice of Punnett Squares (and either percent error or chi square statistics) but it's not a challenge to their thinking. In my revision, students record the data after figuring out an effective method for doing so. Then they use the data to figure out how the trait is inherited, the possible identity of the parents and use percent error and Punnett Squares to justify their reasoning. So this adjustment is nerve wrecking because the students don't already know the answer. They are not merely performing or practicing algorithms. They are problem solving by determining which algorithms are needed and how to apply them to the problem. It's a giant shift that required a change in my thinking. Students who are successful really demonstrate that they can perform the algorithm(s) AND have internalized their purpose and how to apply them. The other benefit is that they instantly see why the information from the video and other learning activities are important. 

As I mentioned in last week's reflection, students requested changes to workflow and I complied by switching to an assignment sheet rather than the MentorMob playlists. Some students prefer the playlists but I'm forcing all students to make the adjustment. At the end of the current learning cycle, the Mentormob playlists will be deleted. A student suggested that I keep two systems to give students choice. I considered it for a couple of days but vetoed the idea for two reasons: 1) sometimes introducing unnecessary choice creates confusion, which I'm trying to avoid; 2) it is a needless workflow addition for me to update the playlists and assignment sheet. So I kept the current playlist on the site and deleted it once all of the students finished the current learning cycle. For those who continued to use the playlist, they will have to adapt to the change. 

While most of the tech issues have been resolved, printing seems to be a hassle. The flow of this asynchronous class gets ruined by needless pauses and tech trouble shooting. At least until this issue gets resolved, I'll revert to old school photocopying of handouts.

My final adjustment this week is my approach to quizzing. A few students were able to take their Moodle quiz today. I'm glad it was only a handful of students because I became aware of a few glitches. I definitely needed to work through the Moodle quiz options. For example, the quiz is password protected but it is easy for that password to spread. I initially thought changing the password between periods would be enough. Apparently, I need to hide the quiz even during the same period. Some students took the quiz without permission. They mistakenly thought they could take the quiz. In addition, I enabled the force time break between submissions because some students took the quiz a second time right after taking it. I added a 24 hour break between submissions and a total of three attempts per quiz. I don't want students rushing through attempts without pausing to reflect on how they did on the quiz. Some students ignored my advice and took the quiz without having pen and paper. Since several quiz problems entail math, they did not do so well when they tried solving the problems in their head. In addition, I have to set a better tone for the quiz taking. The class is an "organized chaos" with students moving around and collaborating. This atmosphere is not conducive to taking quizzes. In the later periods, I had students taking quizzes separately and mandated that they give me their scrap paper after taking the quiz. I'm hoping this will reduce the sharing of quiz questions. Although I hope I have enough questions in the test bank to prevent or discourage sharing.

Why Exploration Before the Video

One interesting debate of note in the flipped teacher community is the order of hands on work and viewing of the videos. I first became aware of this debate while listening to the Flipped Learning Network podcast hosted by Troy Cockrum. In episode number #3 with Ramsey Musallam, Ramsey offered a critique of the mastery flipped model because he thought it encouraged plowing through content. He also argued that science classes lend themselves to the inquiry model of instruction. Specifically, his major contention was that students ought to engage in hands on exploration before watching a flipped video. Students ought to have a reason to watch videos; in his model, a higher Bloom's exploration would cause cognitive dissonance. This sense of discomfort would provide motivation to watch the video, which would provide tools to successfully complete the exploration and extension activities. 

Recently, a study at the Stanford Graduate School of Education further supported Ramsey's work. A group tested the impact of sequencing of direction instruction and hands on exploration. The results demonstrated that students, who engaged in exploration prior to direct instruction, outperformed those who participated in the same activities in reverse. The speculation is that students who engage in hands on work prior to instruction are familiar with and have built context for facts delivered in videos or textbooks. My interpretation is that students generate a schematic or framework when engaging in these activities and even though they don't master the content during exploration, these students are primed for the content. They are also able to relate the video or text content to their prior experience from the exploratory activity. 

A summary of the study 

Original research 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Importance of Adjusting to Student Feedback - Week 2 reflections

This was a shortened week since we had our annual overnight grade trip. Even so, we managed to get an exploration activity completed and some tweaks to workflow. 

Hands down the highlight of the week was when a student encouraged me to patent this way of teaching. He sounded disappointed when I informed him that thousands of teachers flip their class. That is my #eduwin for the week!

A new student joined the 8th grade and it became obvious during the exploration activity that he already knew the content for the upcoming week. We agreed that he didn't need to watch the next video, take notes nor submit the associated Google Form. He'll skip to the problem set to demonstrate proficiency, and if successful, work on an alternative project or move on to the next learning cycle. In the traditional model, he would've suffered through one period of lecture, demonstration and sample problems. Flipping the class will allow this student to use class time much more effectively. 

After some anxiety about students understanding the content presented in the videos, I'm relieved to share high ratings regarding the helpfulness and clarity of the videos with average ratings of 2.7 out of 3. (The average would've been higher but I neglected to have a 3 rating as a choice and was made aware by students who wanted to use a rating of 3.) In addition, students answered the understanding level questions correctly on the Google form responses. A handful of negative reviews can be attributed to students assuming the video would give information about something that I opted to put into a different video or an upcoming activity. A few incorrect answers on the Google form appeared to be careless arithmetic errors. Two students mentioned that they preferred the old method and one wanted to a question answered in the moment. 

On a personal but related note, I'm becoming less concerned with perfecting videos; rather, I'm focusing on getting useful videos published in a timely manner. I can now appreciate Jon Bergman's joke, "do I need the video to be perfect or do I need it on Tuesday?" This new focus should reduce stress and anxiety. The hours I put into earlier videos created an unsustainable workflow. The encompassing theme of the Flip seems to be intentional use of time and energy for students and teachers alike. Think I've internalized that message, finally!

The FormEmailer Google Form script works marvelously. This script sends email responses to form entries directly from the spreadsheet, rather than necessitating the crafting of separate email messages to each student. One concern I had about the Flip is the inability to answer questions during video-viewing or shortly after. One way to alleviate the concern was the addition of a Google Form, where students can submit questions. Adding the FormEmailer script greatly decreased the turnaround time for a response to student questions or concerns. I typed my responses into the spreadsheet, clicked a button or two, and students got an email response. There's some setup required but it is well worth it. Some of my email messages were sent minutes after the students submitted their form. I plan to enhance this with other scripts that can indicate which students have not submitted a form response. 

Gradebook Pro (on the iPad) has proved useful as well. If you take the time to input or import student email messages and determine values for each assignment, you can send a grade report to students directly from the app. The report can inform the students which assignments they are missing, current grade and even notes that you recorded about assignments and/or conduct. After sending these periodic messages, my inbox shortly gets flooded with Google Drive share notifications, indicating students submitting their work. On one or two occasions, the message prompted a student to correct a mistake I made in record keeping. 

Since we're on the topic of Google Drive documents, I reminded students in class that I needed to see their video notes. Apparently, I must have mentioned printing the notes as a submission option. A student replied (and I'm paraphrasing), "it's better to share on Google Drive with Mr. Wilson because his best use of class time is working with us, not checking assignments." Wow...this student is really starting to internalize my daily message - think about YOUR best use of class time. 

After class, I informally chatted with two students and asked whether the new assignment sheet format (more info on that later) was an improvement. They both agreed, one more emphatically than the other. The one criticism was deadlines were missing from the assignment sheet. Before I responded, the other student said, "that's the point, you're working at your own pace." Sounds like more students are starting to buy into the philosophy here. I met with the student who desired due dates and helped him set daily deadlines. This doesn't have to be an "all or nothing" approach. It's about giving each student what they need to be successful. If some students work more effectively with deadlines, then I can make adjustments for that student without handcuffing the others.

I got some really helpful feedback about a video. A student mentioned on their Google form evaluation of the video that they would love more practice on the concept, while others felt they understood the concept just fine. Since there is always an application in class, I took this to mean that the student wanted just a bit more practice before coming to class. Typically in the form confirmation page, I share the answer key to the form questions, in order to give students instant feedback. Now, I'm adding a link to additional practice problems with answers. This way, students can choose whether they want the extra practice or not.  
The great thing here is that some students are submitting questions with answers in their Google form response. These questions can behave as formative assessment for the students who submitted them and extra practice for future students.

I'll need to add a table of contents to videos. On several occasions, I referred to a specific part of an instructional video. This will be helpful to allow students to pick parts of videos they need, instead of watching the entire video. 

On my tracking sheet, I have students input the date on a completed cell and change it from red to green. Even though this seems like a simple 2-step task, is it really necessary? It occurred to me that they can input the date and I can set up conditional formatting to automatically change cells with dates into green and set empty cells to red.

I also found a simple solution to the ridiculous issue in the mobile version of Google Drive Sheets, where students accidentally erase other entries because the entire row gets highlighted when a student edits a cell. 
   I switched the rows and columns so if a student edits a cell, they are only editing their row. I suspect they will be more careful and aware of their actions if their entire row can get ruined due to careless editing.

After a brief love affair with Mentormob playlists, I've opted to use an online assignment sheet with links to all resources. [I alluded to this change earlier in this blog post.]

Multiple Playlists vs...

One Assignment Sheet

Even though the playlists are aesthetically pleasing, it became clear that the extra step of navigating through a playlist was an unneeded obstacle. In addition, a student pointed out that a web page with multiple playlists takes quite a bit time to load. I should have expected this because last year's evaluation responses indicated students found the online assignment sheet with links to documents all on one page to be useful. I'm unsure how I got to this point; perhaps it's because I loved using Mentormob to learn about different topics. It's still a great tool but the online assignment sheet just works better for my students.