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.