Sunday, 27 October 2013

Eating the Napkins at the Buffet - Reflections on ECOO 2013

Kevin Honeycutt said at ECOO that not involving technology, and specifically social media, in today's classroom is like having a huge buffet of delicious food in front of you, and just eating the napkins! Even worse, its like forcing your students to eat napkins.

At a conference filled with inspiring speakers and sessions, I found myself amazed at the fact that my phone died after three sessions because I was Tweeting too much.  If you want to expand your experience past this post, simply go to the Twitter hash #ecoo13 and you will experience why #ecoo13 was trending as the second most popular hashtag in Canada.  Here are some of my highlights:

Amber MacArthur (@ambermac)

  • Amber encouraged us to let the students get into the real time world by using social media.  She used this Oreo add which was published while the lights were down in the last SuperBowl.  The entire campaign was created and launched while the lights were out. The add reads "You can still dunk in the dark".

    • Amber also urged teachers to use the facets of the internet to allow students to create and participate instead of just consuming the content.  This will empower students and give them their own voice.  She showed an example created for the BYU library by its students, as well as an example of a kid recording his dad's reaction when he finally passed math (with a C).  Pretty powerful stuff

    Jamie Casap (@jcasap)

    • "No one walked in here this morning and was impressed by the fact that there's electricity.  Your students aren't impressed by the internet.  It's what you do with it that matters."  We have to understand that WiFi is like the air to our students.  Not saying that they need it to survive, but to them its just there.  Its not impressive.  We have to make use of it in a way that impresses them.
    • "The iPhone5 is to kids what the Commodore64 is to us."  It is the worst piece of technology that they will ever have to use.  This says to me that since we work with those kids, we have to be willing to grow and adapt at a pace faster than most professions.  Adults are more patient than students.  We have to keep up.
    • "Teachers used to be the Google in the room." So that begs the question, what do we do now?  Information is out there.  We don't own it, and we're not needed to access it.  Siri can tell me what -3+4 is (try it...pretty cool).  We have to help students curate this information and digest it for bigger purposes.
    • "Technology is not the silver bullet.  Education is."  Education overcomes poverty.  Technology is just about how we make education relevant to this age.

    Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt)

    • "Live out loud! Don't be a secret genius."  Allow students to demonstrate their understanding to the world, not just you.  Use social media to get their genius seen throughout the world.
    • We've all made mistakes on the playground we're not proud of.  The upside for us is that those mistakes aren't Googleable.  Our students aren't so lucky.  We have to get it across to them that they have to own everything they post online. Kevin also said "Don't give your Like away.  Every time you Like something, you're signing a petition that you support that thing for the rest of your life." Pretty powerful, I think.
    • "Let it hang."  If you don't reply to online slander, it dries up.  If you reply, you fuel a fire.  So let slander hang itself.
    So when you're at a buffet, don't eat the napkins.  Get at that delicious food that's out there, and let the kids eat too!

    See you next time.

    Sunday, 1 September 2013

    Flipping with Edmodo - My plan for the semester!

    As the school year is about to start, I thought I would share my plan for how I will carry out my flipped class. A few things are key for me:
    • I house my videos on YouTube and they're public - this makes it easy for students to "google" when they need to.
    • I need to know if students have seen the video - so YouTube playlists aren't enough.
    • I need a way to check for understanding and know what students got from the video (and this is ideally done before they even come to class!)
    • I need a forum for students to ask questions (and answer if they can) and if this is done before class, even better.
    • The platform has to be user friendly for students.
    • The platform must be user friendly for me so that I don't give up.
    • The easier the platform is to use, the better, because I'd like to be able to point other teachers to it without making their jobs more difficult.

    This list of needs has lead me to try using Edmodo.  It is a free Learning Management System (LMS) (they claim they're not, but they essentially are) which allows you to connect with students as well as other teachers.  Here are some reasons why Edmodo is my tool of choice for the year:

    1. Quizzes with instant feedback!

    It is ridiculously easy to make a quiz and send it to my class.  When I make a quiz on Edmodo I find out, in real-time, when students complete and submit them. I also get an awesome breakdown of how well each student did, or how well each question was answered.  So basically I walk into class knowing what my students are missing. That's pretty cool if you ask me.

    Students find out right away if they're right or wrong.
    I found out how students did on each question.

    2. Students can share questions

    Students can post "replies" to my video and to each other. This means that if a student wants to ask a question, the whole class can see it.  Someone can reply to it and they job is done.  Sometimes I may even reply to it, but I'm sure the students will beat me to it.  

    3. So EASY!

    Edmodo is very easy to use for teachers and students.  I've just encouraged a new teacher to join.  This teacher has very little tech experience, and has never used an LMS before.  She said it was very uplifting to see that it was so easy to jump in and just do it!

    Finally, I want to say that I'm not pushing Edmodo, but I do think that the list that I mentioned above is a good one for things to consider when flipping and deciding how to do it, and Edmodo is one of the programs that does all of those things well.

    Please let me know if you've got other suggestions about other programs, and also if there's anything I've missed about Edmodo.  I'm looking forward to this!

    Flip on flippers.

    Friday, 5 July 2013

    How to start planning the "in class" part of a flipped classroom

    It is very important that when flipping a classroom, we do not go backwards in our pedagogy. 

    Hopefully, in your classes, you've worked very hard to work inquiry and problem solving into the fabric of your lessons.  It is very easy to get away from that with flipping.  It is very easy to just have your students watch a video for homework, and have them practice in class.  And yes, sometimes this should happen.  But most of the time, the time that we free up in class should be used to not just go through skill drills, but to have deep discussion, collaboration, and hopefully have your students solve an actual realistic problem.

    The Conference Board of Canada has outlined some important employability skills on their website, and they're grouped into:
    • Fundamental skills
      • Communicate, Manage information, Use Numbers, Solve Problems
    • Personal management skills
      • Demonstrate positive attitudes, Be adaptable, Be responsible, Learn continuously, Work safely
    • Teamwork Skills
      • Work well with others, Participate in projects and tasks
    So every time I have my students work in class, I check myself and see if I've given them the opportunity to work on these skills. 

    Numerous other organisations have put together other lists which they value which we should be checking our classroom practices against (click the links for the lists):

    The Exeter Academy in the UK

    The Rainmaker's Group - Google's approach to hiring

    University of Toronto

    So please, when you flip your classroom, don't expect amazing results just because you've recorded yourself and you're giving students the same homework sheets in class.  It is important that we utilize the class time to do something that we have always wanted to do - build in MORE realistic, inquiry based, collaborative learning.

    Keep on flipping.

    Saturday, 22 June 2013

    The Most Important Thing About Flipping Your Classroom...

    The most important thing about flipping your classroom is not technology! It is not the video that you use, it is not how pretty the production is, nor is it whether you use your own videos or someone else's (athough more on that in another post...)

    When talking about the importance of flipping, we need to think about why we flip at all?  Is it because we want to have to do less in the classroom as teachers? I hope not...I hope it is because we want the time to do more! And when I say more, I don't mean more examples, more questions, more drills.  I mean more thinking!  More discussing, working with each other. More real world stuff.  More of what we really want to do as teachers, but claim we don't have time for.  If you're wondering what I mean, check out Dan Meyer's TED talk about Math Class needing a Makeover:

    So, the most important thing about flipping is what to flip, and more importantly, what NOT to flip. 


    What to flip:

    • Anything that would have you speaking to, or demonstrating to the studends.
    • Here are some examples:
      • In algebra - How to use algebra tiles
      • In science - How to set up for an experiment
      • In english - A video which demonstrates the desired way to write a paragraph
      • In hisotry - A video which shows masses of people listening to Hitler speak
      • In trigonometry - How to use your calculator to calculate the Trigonometric Ratios
    • Basically anything which we would consider a one way flow of information


    What NOT to flip:

    • Anything that students could talk through with their classmates
    • Things that they need your scaffolding/differentiation to process
    • Some examples that go with the above flipping examples are:
      • In algebra - What patterns arise when you use algebra tiles to multiply binomials
      • In science - Students actually carrying out an experiment and comparing results with colleagues
      • In english - Students grading exemplars of written paragraphs, establishing common criteria for what a good paragraph looks like, and then writing their own
      • In history - Discussing why so many people followed Hitler and believed in his rhetoric
      • In trigonometry - What the Trigonometric Ratios mean and how they're derived

    So your first step when deciding to flip is not HOW to flip, but WHAT to flip. 

    Happy Flipping!

    Tuesday, 11 June 2013

    The Start

    My name is Velisa Anusic and I teach high-school math in the Peel Region in Ontario, Canada.  I've spoken at a few conferences about flipping the classroom, and have been featured on CTV news as well as The National.

    Clip from The National - Sal Khan's Big Idea
    Clip from CTV News
    This blog will chronicle my journey through flipping.  I've been flipping for about a year and a half now, and I'd like to make this first post about how I got started:

    There were two issues which arose while I was teaching a content heavy Calculus course:

    1) I was absent quite a few days through the semester because it was my first year as department head and I had to go to many conferences and training sessions.

    2) Students were watching ready made videos on their own time, but didn't fully understand the concepts so they were applying methods which I hadn't taught and doing so incorrectly.

    To solve the first problem, I started making short videos of myself teaching, so that when I was absent the supply teacher would just play the video and students would benefit from a lesson even in my absence.  For the second issue, I started to make my own add-on videos which the students could watch which would explain further the concept they had learned from other videos.  I posted all the videos to my YouTube Channel.

    Before I knew it, the videos I had made were being watched by students again and again.  Videos I had made for being absent were watched at home to reinforce the concepts.  Other videos which I had pushed out to only a few students were being viewed by everyone in the class.  The students were obviously letting me know that this works for them! So away I went...

    That was the start, but I am far from the beginning now.  My next post will explain my evolution, and what I've discovered is the most important part of flipping.