Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Flipping Speed Bumps #flipblogs

In the earliest days of flipping my classroom, the technology and content resources were limited compared to current offerings. My colleague and I flipped on-level physics based on the model introduced by the AP chemistry teacher. One of the most important part of our success, besides the strong stubborn streak and an element of crazy, was the support of our administrators. They understood how important it was to let us try something that might move us away from the traditional class model to a more active student-centered class. Because this was early in the world of educational technology, there were lots of problems popping up every day. The principals would see me heading their way and say, “run here comes Katie with the problem of the day”. Problem of the day morphed into speed bump because they were so very frequent, mostly small, and conquerable with thought and care.

Fast forward to the present. I am starting to plan flipping a college physics course in the spring semester. This will be my first college teaching since I was a teaching assistant many years ago. I can’t imagine me delivering a lecture physics course, so of course I’m planning to flip. It is a whole new adventure in flipping with a new set of unknown problems, logistical and instructional. I am not sure when I will find out which level of physics I will be teaching, so actual preparation for content will have to wait. Now I am contemplating the nuts and bolts and the framework for best practices and optimized learning at the college level.

Communication about the class and why it is flipped will be directly aimed at the students. I will not have to convince parents and already have administration approval. Students wanting a traditional lecture will be disappointed and I hope they will not choose to drop. I will need a way to convince them to give it a try, even if they have had a bad experience in the past.

Filling class time with quality learning experiences was challenging work in high school physics, but I had lots of equipment, toys, and supplies at my fingertips when I needed to adjust during class. This will not be true at the college. I am only teaching one section, so the supplies, equipment, and props will have to be portable and well planned. Also, the room could be a room with tables or desks or a lecture hall with fixed seats, so I am looking at a method that works in lecture halls as well as classrooms, team based learning.

I expect the struggles that exist with school aged students as well as adults in professional learning will still exist with college students. The pre-work will be videos and readings with a learning check. There will be some who do not do the work before class. Keeping the class fair for those who do the work and still provide learning for those who do not will still be a struggle. Issues with assessing group versus individual work will need addressing. Technology skills and availability should not be a large issue, but I expect some glitches along the way. Once again, I will be dealing with making sure my expectations, grading, and work aligns with the department norms.

Heading into spring, I really do not know what to expect. Fortunately, I know physics, I have the technology and skills to create active, blended lessons, and I enjoy the challenge of trying something new. Bring on the speed bumps, I am ready, I think.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Flipping Improvements #flipblogs

When describing flipped learning in a nutshell, I often say that I broke school and stole nap time. Taking nearly forty five minutes of time devoted to physics lecture, refining and compressing it into a ten minute video provides in class time and create a whole new environment for learning. For me this meant higher quality interactions with my students, having time to actually do physics, attempt differentiation, and utilize some additional innovative classroom methods. The best result was students became the owners of the classroom and their learning. More of the time during class became theirs to manage within the provided expectations and guidelines.

One of my favorite labs is a circuit inquiry. Provide a box of wires, bulbs, and batteries and three challenges.
  1. Light up one light bulb
  2. Light up two light bulbs using the fewest wires
  3. Light up two light bulbs so one will stay lit when disconnecting the other
This is a wonderful activity, but it requires much more time than providing direct instructions for building simple circuit examples. Before flipping the class, it was difficult to allow the time needed to let students explore solutions to the challenges and come back together as a class and share the learning in a group setting. Now lecture time had become active learning, exploring and actually doing physics.

      Another major change that flipping brought to the class was time to implement 20% project. Every Friday students had worked on a personally selected topic or challenge. The beauty was while the topics were not required to be science related, the process of investigating, researching, and communicating results fell right into the objective for science. For the students, it gave them the opportunity to learn for the sake of learning, not for a grade, or with specific expectations imposed by the teacher. It was truly amazing to see a different side of the students. In an on-level required science, teachers do not often get to know what inspires a student or where their talents shine. With the 20% project, I saw both. I also saw students bloom and come out of what appeared to be an impenetrable shell.

Over all, flipping freed up important active learning time, allowed me time to interact with each student every class period, and help shift the class experience from compliance to learning. Students came to class expecting to do something and learn in the process. Instead of fearing physics class, more students looked forward to being in class. Now, when I teach, I flip.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Why Flip Your Class? #flipblogs

Early in my flipped learning journey, I presented at a conference attended by district administrators who were unfamiliar with the concept of flipping a class. After listening to me talk about how much my class had improved, one of the questions that struck me was “Is this the silver bullet we’ve been looking for?” I wanted to say yes, but the real answer is no, but it is worth trying. The simple act of moving direct teaching moments out of a whole class session and into homework or other student driven time is not enough to change much. The real change comes when the teacher uses the face to face time purposefully with well designed lessons and active interactions with students.  Since all high school students in Texas are required to take physics, I was desperate for ways to help my students succeed, so flipping my class was worth a try.

Teaching is about student learning, so I will start with how things changed for my physics students. First and foremost, students got the help they needed when they needed and before they became frustrated or learned material incorrectly. Class became time to do physics instead of listen to physics. We were able to complete labs, including a post lab discussion. We often had time to collect data twice, an important part of science that is often omitted due to time constraints in the classroom. Tough problems that were sent home, where there was often little assistance, were worked on collaboratively in class with assistance. Watching videos and taking notes became physics homework parents could help with. (Some learned along with their kids and emailed questions the next day.) Overall, students were less frustrated and more successful. At the end of the year, students reported that they actually enjoyed physics even though they thought they would hate it.

Flipping the classroom improved the class culture. We came to class to work everyday. Students, eventually, took responsibility for their learning. They learned to ask meaningful questions. They were also happy and active during class. There were some who fought the change, but most embraced the opportunity and took advantage of the benefits. Grades improved, attitudes improved, and class was fun for me and the students. Not quite a silver bullet, but a big jump in the right direction.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It's A New Year - Here Come More Flipping Change #flipblogs

Students arrive on Monday, but for the second year, I will not have a classroom. Last year I was an instructional coach. My goal as an instructional coach was to offer more flipped professional development sessions and struggle with the adult learner version of the question ‘what will I do if they don’t watch the video?’ This year my role will be different again. I will be involved less in the curriculum and instruction side of education, but I still see a role for the things I have learned from flipping my classroom. In fact, I think the pillars of flipped learning still apply.

F – Flexible Environment

Flexible Environment in my new role will be less about the actual room and more about preparation and follow through. My success will hinge on the ability to provide different modes for communicating information as needed. It will also require monitoring and adjusting. Instead of students it will be processes and results that will be monitored.

L – Learning Culture

I imagine that with communication being key and providing information and ensuring understanding a must for success the importance of Learning Culture could be similar to a classroom that is using an in-class flip that is just-in-time teaching. Providing information that is meaningful and does not depend my actual presence to access the information should prove helpful.

I – Intentional Content

Efficiency is a must and, like a classroom, there is not time for busy work. I am certain the people I am working with would agree that Intentional Content is necessary to keep those involved in the process informed and engaged. Any information I provide or processes I use must be relevant and accessible to all levels of understanding and ability.

P – Professional Educator

This one is a bit of a stretch since I am not working with students any longer and except for some professional development, I do not know how much real teaching I will do. Some would question if the Professional Educator is part of my new role. But, I will be educating people as we work through processes. There will also be data to evaluate and refection to be done.

So, no more students, no more classroom, but those things that make a flipped teacher an excellent teacher will still apply in a different setting with some tweaks. I’ll have to start down this new road and see what really works. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

She Pushed Me! #flipblogs

Looking for the one inspiration for flipping my class leads to one of two stories, a long winding yarn about observing an amazing teacher, Dena Leggett (@denakleggett), and her first year of flipped AP Chemistry class, much contemplation and consideration, or a very short single word – data. In 2011, the week of inservice before school starts included a twenty-minute session about flipping the classroom. Dr. Leggett presented data from her AP Chemistry class and the data from Clintondale High School Algebra. At the time, I taught on-level physics in Texas where every high school student is required to take physics on an algebra II level. This lofty goal was quite a struggle when the students in my class included many who had not even passed algebra I or chemistry yet.

Dr. Leggett flipped her class in 2010 with great success based on the model proposed on the AP message board by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams. I had the opportunity to observe her classroom, help her troubleshoot the issues, and see the results for myself. But this was AP, I teach on-level. It might have ended there, but then she showed data. Seeing data where failure rates dropped from over 50% to less than 20%, made me realize I could not continue without giving flipped learning a try.

That afternoon, I met with my teaching buddy and let him know I was going to flip. I hoped he would join me, but I was okay doing this by myself. It was a tough sell since we had good lessons and activities, but he reluctantly agreed and we got to work that afternoon finding a video for the first day. (Keep in mind this was 2011 and YouTube was not the educational resource it is today, Khan Academy was to high level for my course, others were not mathematical enough.) After a few hours of searching and previewing, we found suitable videos for day one. We created our guided note with the YouTube link. We also wrote a letter to parents explaining that their student was telling the truth, physics homework was watching a video and taking notes.

We did it, flipped our first day. Just like any homework assignment some did it, some did not. Some students had notes and some did not. So far it was not much different. There were some benefits. We had a lot of class time to actually finish an introductory lab on measurement, collected all the data, worked on questions, wrote conclusions, and even got to the post lab. Students had time to think and collaborate. We had time to talk to each student, make sure they could measure correctly, and lay the groundwork for good data collection for the rest of the year. That was something very new for our course.

We were happy enough with the initial experience, we kept going. The two biggest struggles we faced were learning to create videos that matched our content and making sure students had quality activities to do the learning. The best reason for flipping was it made learning physics less painful for many and a joy for more. Looking back, we learned, changed and improved so much after that crazy first attempt, but you must start somewhere. We jumped in, it was not pretty, but we
didn’t drown. Thanks for the push, Dena!

Monday, February 13, 2017

(Not) Fail! #flipclass flashblog

              Today’s #flipclass flashblog topic is about an essential teaching practice. There are many things involved in teaching. Reflection has always driving my practice, but I would have to say that when I embraced the idea that failure is just part of any successful process and let go of the idea that perfection was the measure of success, I became a much better teacher. This idea allowed me to adapt and meet the needs of as many students as possible. The plan was always to teach every student, but the execution was tough as long as mistakes were not an option.   

              This shift has brought much joy to my professional life as well as improved the classroom for many students. Flipping the classroom allowed time to differentiate, provide meaningful feedback, adjust strategies mid class period, and really help students learn and do physics. It has led to more opportunities to include collaboration, creativity, inquiry, and communication. I started this blog and after three years of trying, I was able to include student blogs in a second-year physics course. That same course evolved from traditional to project based learning to a whole year physics and engineering based service course. There was a time when I would not speak in front of a crowd of adults, now I am active in providing professional development in and outside the district. My students defended their proposals for projects to an audience of district administrators and experts. None of that would have happened without some risk along with colleagues and administrators willing to support my journey.  
              Be brave, ask questions, try new things, but be honest in your reflections and evaluations during the process to make sure the process is complete.

Monday, January 11, 2016

What’s In A Deadline? (#flipclass flashblog)

Are due dates important or is it more important students have the time they need to learn? Yes, both are the answer. Students need to know that both hard and self-determined deadlines exist. Cramming for an exam and time-management are both skills that will serve students as they move out of school to college and career. Students should have experience with both so they can build the skills they need to succeed with either situation.

In my project-based senior science there are few firm due dates. Things tend to change as students make choices and progress during the project. At the end of the fall semester we had an interesting situation that involved both a flexible due date and a very firm due date. I think you could predict the student reaction to either.

Students had been working in groups to prepare proposals for solar charging stations for personal devices. They would present to the class and the class would choose the 2-3 they wanted most to build. Then students would revise the presentation from what we can do and what we want to do as a class to what would administration want or allow in the school.

Administrators from all levels were invited to our Shark Tank and I wanted to give students 3 class periods to work on their revised presentations. 3 days before Shark Tank and students wanted more time, 2 days to go and they still weren’t done. When they got the extension, which they really needed, I explained the hard due date of the Sharks and the need to have 1 class period minimum to regroup and revise.

They presented to their classmates and were amazing. We chose our favorites. Students were divided into new groups to deal with administrator-type questions such as safety, liability, city codes and maintenance. One day to do all of that. Students had created their own high-pressure situation. The night before the Shark Tank a student emailed me wondering where his group’s presentation was located. Sadly, all that existed was a cover page. A few texts and messages and student work started to appear. Collaboration was occurring via Google docs and I was witnessing on-line miracles. I was still worried about the tank, but starting to feel better.

Long story short, they were fabulous for the Shark Tank and impressed the toughest critics. They met the challenge, answered tough questions, took critiques with class and learned from their experience. I can tell you that both the flexible due date and firm due date were correct. The important piece was students understood why they were different. It was not just a case of inconsistency, but reality.