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.