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. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Reflections on my First Attempt at Flipped Learning

[I finally consolidated my notes in order to summarize my initial experience with the flipped class from last year.]
During the fourth quarter of last year, I tried a basic flipped class, where students watched videos at home and completed traditional assignments in class. But within only a few days, the class started to split into noticeable groups: those who could move on and learn at a deeper level, those who's pace matched my assignment sheet and those who needed more time to process the material. It also happened that some students missed classes during that week. I didn't know how to respond, other than just to let things go. I allowed students to watch videos in class if they didn't do it for homework or were ready for the next topic. It was actually pretty exciting. It felt like I was meeting the needs of my students. 

The unanticipated benefit was that I was able to hold students accountable for demonstrating knowledge. If students were working at their own pace, then why not make them redo unsatisfactory work and prevent them from going on to more difficult content, especially in a cumulative course? 

This accidental mastery model raised some interesting questions and issues. 

1) How was I going to manage kids ready for the test or quiz? How would I ensure test integrity if some kids saw the test earlier than others? 
  •  Since I had not planned for asynchronous learning, I decided to keep tests and quizzes on certain dates, perhaps pushed back a few days from originally planned to accommodate stragglers. In summary: asynchronous activities within each unit but an ultimate unit deadline. 
  • However, I decided to make online Moodle quizzes during the summer to accommodate mastery learning in the following year. The plan was to generate an exhaustive question bank to make each quiz attempt different from each other. Students can take exams early without ruining test integrity and make redos possible.  

2) How would I keep track of student progress?  
  • During the first three quarters, I used an assignment sheet with the aim, agenda and homework clearly laid out for each lesson. But that accommodation became obsolete as soon as the course became asynchronous. I decided on a stopgap measure: a spreadsheet organized by students and dates. I checked in with each student during each class and suggested a nightly homework assignment depending on their progress. Students who worked ahead did not get nightly assignments while others did. It was effective considering the "klugey" nature of it but seemed unsustainable for an entire year. How could I keep students accountable for homework in such a haphazard way? Next year, I needed a more effective method but wasn't quite sure of the solution. 

3) How would I approach labs and data collection? One of the historic strengths of the course was the collection of data-rich experiments. The way I achieved and emphasized statistical analysis was through repeated trials conducted by multiple groups. How could students who work ahead have access to a wealth of data if they were the first to collect data? 
  • I decided to minimize changes to lab procedurs between years and share data from previous years of experiments. Quicker students add to older data sets and can still draw conclusions.  The implication was slower students would have access to more data. 
  • I have to admit that setting up multiple labs was hard at the beginning, really hard! I had to be very organized. Biology teachers, who frequently work with perishables, understand the difficulty of this task. Imagine placing multiple orders for items, sometimes weeks in advance, some of which have a week or a less shelf-life; imagine doing it in a way that would allow students to conduct the experiment they needed on the day they needed it. Imagine trying to make these projections and accounting for unreliable shipment and students who change their work pace.  
  • I lucked out a lot in the 4th quarter; the human body lab materials were either easily purchased from a neighborhood grocery store or nonperishable. Had I conducted a DNA or fruit fly lab, I would've been in trouble.  
  • Truthfully, I still haven't figured out a great solution. 
  • So far, I plan to switch between asynchronous periods and synchronous activities. Right now, I'm thinking asynchronous 3 days then a break for synchronous activities, like labs, on the 4th day. It's not a perfect situation because labs ought to be relevant to contemporary content in the course. Students should follow up labs with relevant application. I wouldn't want students to complete labs before they're ready or so far after they learned the important background information. 

4) How would I hold students accountable for watching videos?  
  • The easy answer was mandate notes, like I did for assigned readings years ago. But I have to admit that the video notes were a disaster. I'm ashamed to admit that I took it for granted that kids could take notes from a video, especially considering that they can pause and rewind. In hindsight, this oversight is embarrassingly obvious. Students are used to passively watch videos, rather than actively take notes. I solved that problem by creating guided notes templates and collected them. The quality of notes tremendously  increased.

So what were the results of this experiment with flipping? 
Class was so much more enjoyable. I was excited to go to class. My students worked, laughed, collaborated, designed and redesigned experiments, volunteered to be test subjects, and argued about how the body worked. They edited previous answers to questions, quizzed each other, and explained ideas to struggling students. It felt like a community. I had tons of fun. Sometimes I joked around with a group of students, gave feedback, coached a student, or gave a mini presentation to 2-3 students at the board. Sometimes I gave an extra hand helping out a lab group, settled disputes, gave hints to frustrated students, and shared online resources. I even recall being a group's test subject here and there.  

Test and quiz scores were different between the two classes. One group maintained the same average since the beginning of the school year. The second group dropped by 8 percentage points. It's hard to make a conclusion about this data for several reasons. 
  • First, the final unit only had a quiz and a test, which is about 2 quizzes shorter than the other units. Not a great sample size. 
  • Second, the skills of inquiry were more prevalent in the flipped quarter but not greatly assessed. I used similar assessments from the previous years. It hadn't occurred to me to document the increases in inquiry skills emphasized in that quarter. 
  • Third, flipping was a new way of teaching. Video production was also new. It's hard to expect the same level of effectiveness when I've taught one way for a decade and the other way for a few weeks. The mistakes documented earlier in this post is enough evidence of that fact. 
  • Four, flipping was new to my students. This was the first time most of them even heard of that method. To make matters worse, they had to adjust midstream. Some students made the transition effortlessly while others did not. The students who were highly motivated, organized and independent had a great time, while the students who were slippery, disorganized and unmotivated, struggled greatly - which is probably true for any method.
I'm eager to compare my results with a group of students who were in a flipped course from day one. I'll be glad to write a blog post about my next reiteration of flipped learning a year from now.

What did my students say?
At the end of the year, I asked my students to fill out an anonymous survey evaluating the course. I added questions about the switch to a flipped class in the 4th quarter.  The responses were overwhelmingly positive and reaffirmed my desire to continue this flipped class endeavor. I also took to heart the cool feedback and planned for some changes (like having students fill out a Google form while watching the video to submit questions to me.)

The questions I asked and student responses are below: 

I'm encouraged by my first attempt at flipping the class. I think it worked well and the negative feedback was fair and not surprising at all. I've made some changes and now I'm ready for attempt # 2 (this year) in my flipped class!

The Potential of the FLIP Meets Workflow & Tech Issues Head-on: week 1 reflections

It was great seeing my new group of 8th graders. After working through some projector issues in the morning, most of my introductory lessons on day one accomplished my goals: explaining the Flip, intro to the course, workflow and tech tools. I do admit to explaining the Flip at the front of the room and definitely understood the irony. Despite interacting with students during this introductory monologue, there was a moment of clarity which reinforced my decision to flip. I couldn't say with certainty which students were listening, understanding or day dreaming. I felt relieved to say that this will hopefully be the last time I lectured at the front of the room. I'm trying it cold turkey. 

With that being said, I did employ some flipped strategies on day one. Students worked through a introductory course scavenger hunt, where they learned about the course, important tech tools and workflow. They produced a google document containing screen shots and information about the course. Of course, they had to watch introductory flipped videos. This worked well. Not only did students demonstrate that they knew how to use the tech tools and information about the course, but it had the added benefit of finding out which students had problems with their google drive accounts, wireless access or iPads. Since the scavenger hunt was flipped, I was able to spend class time on tech troubleshooting and helping students one-on-one. I learned most of their names on the first day! 

After day one, we jumped right into the content. We started a data-rich lab with tons of moving parts. Students put what they learned immediately into practice, whether it was collaborating on a google spreadsheet or navigating through the Mentormob playlist. There were questions but less than I expected. I walked around, talked, joked, and quizzed myself on names. I answered questions, asked (sometimes begged) how I could be helpful, demonstrated tech tricks on the iPad, and ran around a lot (the lab required some students to use hallway space.) Needless to say, I was so tired but had fun and was not stressed at all. 

So far, I've gotten positive feedback about the helpfulness and clarity of the videos. In addition, some of the students are starting to realize the potential of the Flip. For example, a student mentioned to me in the hallway that he went ahead because he had a sporting engagement later in the week. What a testament to this student but the model made that possible. Students are working in random spots in the classroom and in the hallways. They are helping each other. Another student received permission from me to skip a video because he already knew how to do something. I also have a high-achieving student who is considering blasting ahead in order to learn some concepts beyond the scope of the course. There is great potential in this model. 

The iPad is new to 8th graders this year so a good number of questions stemmed from that. I need to learn the Reflector app to screen cast how to do certain things on the iPad. I imagine I'll get fewer of those questions in future years since the younger students now have iPads. I might also consider documenting all of the quirks of iPads; for example, you can't insert images using the Google Drive app, there's a way to switch from the mobile to the desktop version of Google Drive, or editing a cell on Google Sheets in the mobile version opens the edit option for the entire row - not good if other students need to edit the same row. I won't speculate how much data had to reentered because of this ridiculous quirk in Google Drive.
My plan is/was (still not sure) asynchronous units with ultimate deadlines. So students will work through the content at their own pace during a unit but must complete the entire unit by a deadline. Throughout the unit, perhaps once per week, there will be synchronous full-class activities like peer instruction, lab set up or data collection. But I decided to shrink down the asynchronous time to a week rather than a unit. Students will work at their "own pace" during the week, deciding the best use of daily class and homework time, but must have their work completed at the end of the week. I'll keep this model for the first few weeks until I feel students have a good handle on this new type of control. I worry about students who typically have issues getting work done. But I do want to transition to my Mastery Learning Cycle model to give students more say in their education. I'm hoping students will appreciate this change. 

I added due dates for activities, which basically means the end of the week. I only recently added estimated duration times to give students some help with planning. I'm embarrassed this didn't occur to me sooner. How did I expect students to plan days ahead if they had no idea how long activities would take? Of course, I'll stress that these guidelines are my best estimation of uninterrupted work time. I'm eager to find out if these estimations are true.

It also became clear that I needed to make videos outlining the weekly tasks. Each week's video will explain the tasks, known obstacles and pitfalls from previous years, and some workflow suggestions. During this week, students watched the video in class but I'm convinced this ought to occur at home during the weekend. So I'll set a date for publishing and sharing the videos with students during the weekend. Even though I'm concerned with keeping up with video production, this change should prove to be useful. The video will be current, based on the flow of the class, potentially geared to individual sections and can also keep parents in the loop.  I'll post the video to the top of the course website homepage (week #1 video is below.)

A student's question pointed out something I hadn't considered. While this is my first full year of flipping, I do have some videos that I made in previous years. This year, I changed the order of some content but neglected to edit past videos. Unfortunately, one video I shared took certain facts for granted that the students did not learn yet. Urgh! I definitely will have to pay attention to past videos.  Anyhow, I was able to edit the video and add the missing parts within 30 minutes. The silver lining is this was an example of "Just in Time Teaching." I made and shared a video in response to a question. (Yes, the question stemmed from my mistake but it is still a demonstration of the potential of flipped learning!)

Student questions really are an indication of the effectiveness of a lesson, instructions or general clarity. This week I received several email messages from students unsure about which graphs to make for the lab. They told me that they understood from the videos HOW to make the graphs (good!) but not WHICH graphs to make. At first, I concluded that the confusion stemmed from students neglecting to read the packet, which is probably true for some students.  However, when some messages started with the disclaimer that they read but did not understand, I knew the problem was on my end. Instead of editing the lab packet, I just edited the week one video and added more information then sent an email telling them where/when in the video to get this information. This might be more effective because the screen shots also provide examples of graphs and the location of the data to be graphed. Again, this intervention did not hold those who understood hostage. I'm so happy about the Flip because students who already figured out which graphs to make can continue working in class, while the other students can get up to speed by watching the video clip. Everyone getting what they need! 

One of the email messages I mentioned previously was interesting because it asked if I was going to "teach" tomorrow. I might be sensitized to that phrasing because veteran flippers warned me that some students and teachers will not equate flipping with actual teaching. 

After fielding some questions related to workflow, I also made some tweaks to improve the clarity. For example, I made the error of over sharing Google Drive documents and folders. The accounts of my students were flooded with documents that they did not need yet. I unshared several folders. I also added a sign to the homepage indicating which learning cycle and unit we are investigating. I'm hoping these tweaks and more time students getting accustomed to my workflow, will lead to more clarity. If not, I've also sent a Google feedback form so that I will stay aware of emerging issues. I suspect that the workflow will need to be greatly condensed this weekend. I'll take a look at what worked well last year and student responses from past feedback forms to reconsider what I'm doing with workflow. I'll be sure to share my thoughts on workflow in next week's reflection.
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Friday, September 13, 2013

How I Spent Flipped Day

Probably by coincidence, our school's Online & Blended Learning Committee presented their findings on Flipped day. Knowing that I flipped my class, I was asked to participate in the presentation. 
Here's the basic outline of my presentation, minus some things I mentioned on the spot. The beginning of my talk was greatly inspired by Amanda Meyer, who blogs about a presentation she recently gave. Since then, I've adopted this message and shared it with my students on the first day of class.

"Stand up if you agree with the following statements. 
  • You want your students to engage in critical thinking.
  • There are times where you need to give direct instruction - explain a concept, demonstrate how to do something, give information or instructions.
  • Some students instantly understand while others do not.
  • Some students need to hear or see things at a slower pace than others.
  • Some students need to hear or see things multiple times to get it.
  • Some students pay attention during direct instruction and some do not.
  • Some students are absent when you give direct instruction.
  • Some students need and/or request your help outside of class time.
  • Some students are reluctant to request help.
  • Some students do not complete their homework because they are genuinely confused. (Some expected chuckles here.) 
  • Some students would benefit from your presence during those times.
  • Some students get inappropriate help during those times.
Keep your responses in mind when viewing the next clip.

So I was faced with an important question, what is the best use of my class face-to-face time. Is it me delivering information to my students or is it working with my students?
I decided the second option was the best way to spend class time and that's what led me to flip my class. "

I went on to explain what I did during my first flipped class attempt, which was 4th quarter of last year. I provided tangible examples of how flipping improved my class and how I plan to enthusiastically build on my progress this year. I mentioned how a previous presentation on digestion took about a class period and a half in previous years and how the video turned out to be only 10 minutes. This recovered time was spent answering questions, letting students spend more time on designing experiments, even revising experimental designs and collecting data. I answered questions and grabbed a few students who struggled and did small group instruction at the board.

There were thoughtful questions and issues raised. But at any rate, a couple of teachers approached me about connecting with other flipped teachers and learning more. Even though I did not have a class of students, it was a great Flipped Day!
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Friday, September 6, 2013

New Beginnings on Flipped Day

Happy Flipped Day! The beginning of this school year marks a pivotal transition in my teaching career. Due to a summer of reflection, professional development and growth of my PLN, I will make a slew of changes. Perhaps, I'm taking on more than I can chew and this is analogous to diving into the deep end; however, once I get an idea, it is full speed ahead. Like Mike Greenberg constantly says on my favorite ESPN show, and I recently repeated in a #flipclass chat, "once you find the one you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want to begin living that life immediately."

The same rings true in my class. Once I realized that I wanted to flip my course, use Standards Based Grading (SBG) or have students blog, I needed it to happen yesterday, not tomorrow.

Here are the changes I'm implementing:
  • Flipped class - started 4th quarter of last year
  • Mastery learning
  • Learning cycles  
  • Projects aligned to Higher Order Blooms Tasks
  • Student voice and choice
  • Moodle quizzes
  • Student blogging - next year
  • SBG - next year
It is an overwhelming list. The flipped class would've been a great accomplishment in a given year. However, the reason I'm flipping is because offloading direct instruction gives me the opportunity to make a responsive class. By instituting mastery learning cycles with blogging, SBG and voice & choice, I'm creating the class that I've always wanted. The flipped class gave me the vehicle to achieve, what I hope to be, teaching Nirvana. 

I know the road will be filled with obstacles and roadblocks but I'm happy to have a wonderful PLN,  a toolkit of teaching techniques and pedagogy to navigate the road!

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