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.