Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 3 - Students Recognize Need for Timely Feedback

In my Grade 11 Physics class I have had the chance to see how well they are capable of working together. I am seeing students helping each other with concepts, asking one another questions, and working through problems together. They are often asking their questions in pairs or groups - which is great. There are still kinks to work out and some of them are not completing tasks for homework consistently, but that seems to be changing slowly.

The neatest thing that I am seeing so far is students desire for as much formative feedback as they can get. We are using educanon so they are getting a chance to try to process while they are watching the lessons and many if them are taking advantage if the chance to type in an explanation when they get an incorrect answer. I allows me to read their explanation and give them credit for the question if the explanation is correct (which is an awesome feature if the website).

I have barely heard a single complaint when I announce a quiz coming up (my version of a quiz means that students get a chance to be in a test like situation and have me mark it, but there is no mark put on the paper). I have been using Edmodo to do some multiple choice, fill on the blank, and matching that is marked right away for them and then they do some more involved parts in class on paper. The students really responded to getting feedback without the mark and were given time to try to make corrections to their quiz before I posted the answers (and by then most of them did not need to check). I love that the flip class model gives me time to do something like this (or to have me come up one at a time for personal discussion about their results).

We have been through this process once now and they have a second quiz coming up. They seem to be less stressed about it than I have experienced in previous years and I am really seeing students try to focus on concepts and going back to passed lessons as needed. We have also done two labs that involved analysis with graphing and when I gave students the option to hand it in and have me write descriptive feedback or have them swap papers and us do it as a group so that we could do it right away, they chose the latter. 

I was pleasantly surprised by their choice and am hopeful that we can use this process to get them to analyze their own lab work more critically in the future. My intention is to have them work in pairs (not their lab partner) and end up with two labs from different groups that they will look through together.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Week 2 - Students Settling Into Their Needs

I have had the chance to see many of my students start to settle in and figure out some of their learning needs. I tried to accentuate my reasons for using a flipped class model, one of those reasons being that I want them to make the learning environment into their own - that they should explore and figure out what works best for them.

The first week or two is often hard for the new Grade 9 students. They are given more freedom then they are used to, but there is also more demand put on them in their classes. Not to mention they are in a new, bigger building and some are in classes where they do not know anyone. I have started to see them realize the importance of attendance and homework already and they are adjusting well to the use of Edmodo (although I would like to see them use it more as a classroom community outside of school hours).

Grade 11 students are also making an adjustment as they are now considered senior students and their academic demands are often higher than they were in Grade 10. There is an expectation of them being more mature and making better academic decisions. By introducing the flipped class to my students they are getting a chance to focus on things that they need to work on. For some of them this is the realization that their past work ethic is not going to be good enough to get them through a physics course. For others, they have a bit more freedom to focus on an earlier lesson for a bit longer so that they can feel more confident in the material. And for others they are realizing the need to work on skills as basic as note-taking and organization.

On Wednesday we worked on the concepts of displacement, position, and distance. In class I gave them the task of coming up with an example where all three were equal, and one where all three were not equal (thank you Noschese 180 for the idea!). They worked in groups to try to come up with ideas and used iPads to record the idea and take a screen shot to post onto Edmodo. It was great to see them struggle to start with and then find starting points that lead them to understand what aspects they might be missing. It seemed to be a good start and the next class where they had to match "stories" to d-t graphs they did quite well and, as it turns out, was not enough work for them to do!

Next week I am meeting with some of the Grade 9 parents to give them more information on the flipped class (and the following week with some of the Grade 11 parents).

Sunday, September 7, 2014

We're Baaaack!

A new school year always comes with new ideas, new excitement, new students, and new personal goals. One of my goals this year is to blog more often! I have probably said this before, and I don't know if I will be able to keep up with what I would like to do, but I am going to give it a go.

This semester I am teaching Grade 9 Academic Science, Grade 11 University Physics, and Grade 11 Workplace Math (Math for Everyday Life). I am continuing to work on my flipped class this year with the two former classes mentioned and am hoping to build on things that I tried last year. My Grade 9s are working with some videos that have questions embedded via EduCanon (this is new for me) and I hope to developed a lot more in-class tasks for my Physics kids this time around. I have all three of my classes on Edmodo this year as well. I really liked the idea of the kids having App access to our class website. So far so good.

This week I introduced the concept of the video lesson and put a focus on note-taking and the importance of taking the time to process the learning by summarizing and questioning. My Grade 9s had the opportunity to watch a couple of videos and note take in class as well as doing one at home (they won't likely have this concentration of "lessons" throughout the semester) and my 11s got to work at their own pace this week through a scientific numeracy introductory unit.

I am trying to gamify my workplace math class somewhat this semester to engage the group of students more effectively than I did last semester. I made use of Kahoot on the first day of class and hope to use this more in the future. I am also trying to turn the class into a "Game of Life" of sorts - each week I am hoping to come up with 6 scenarios related to what we have learned that week and they will roll a die to see what happens to them. They created avatars this week to introduce themselves to the class including their goals for after graduation. They were very honest about what they wanted and posted the resulting link to our Edmodo site. Here is one of them.

One last big change I have made in my approach to the flipped class this year is that I am hosting a parent info night early on in the semester so that parents can come in to get more information and voice their concerns before we get too deep into the semester.

If you have any suggestions, comments or questions your input would be greatly appreciated!

Cheers to a great new year!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why I Don't Use Remind 101

Since the invention of the smart phone my memory (for my life schedule) has become a lot worse. Sometimes I miss the days of the hanging calendar in my parents house colour-coded for my sister and my schedule for the many sports and activities we were involved in. Somehow it seems like I was able to keep better track of my life. But I slug on and continue to use the calendar in my phone, setting reminders for myself so that I hopefully don't miss a beat. What I don't seem to do is check the calendar for upcoming events, I rely on these reminders (if I somehow miss it or have forgotten to set the reminder, then I might forget altogether). My new phone often puts that day's event onto my home screen, which is nice and does make me open my calendar more often.

Maybe the above was pointless, or maybe it has lead you to the point I want to make about Remind 101 (with respect to high school classes). It is my strong belief that we have to graduate students who can fend for themselves in the world - and if I have come to struggle with the above, imagine those who never learn to find their own way to remind themselves?

I think there are some great reasons for Remind 101 to exist and it definitely has its place. It is just my opinion that using something like this gives my students an excuse to miss something if I forget to remind them - but it is there job in the first place to remember homework, tests dates, etc so I want my students to come up with a system that works for them. I encourage them to use their device's built in calendar, find an app they like, or purchase a paper agenda if they prefer. I also post important dates on my LMS if they need to access a calendar or are away from school.

I am sure there are many amazing teacher that use the Remind 101 service successfully and for great reason, and this post is by no means an attempt to spark a debate. Just some thoughts that have come up a few times that I felt the need to write down. In the end, the purpose of a teacher in the classroom is to have an educational philosophy and to use that to decide on purposeful things to try to teach students to make them successful, contributing members of society.

And so, we try.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Next Time My Class Would...

Here is a much needed update and reflection on semester 1. I honestly felt like I was a second year teacher all over again. Granted I did have a new prep (and this semester I have 2 new preps), but it was definitely more to do with the new methodology than it was anything else. You can see which classes I decided to "flip" and the reasons, etc at the post here.

Some of the highlights included:
- the bulk of students performing at the level I had anticipated based on the past performances
- a small group of students showed improved results and actively showed their engagement in the way the class was run
- I knew my students better this semester than I ever have before - I was able to write detailed report card comments with less referral to written/technological records
- the freedom to help students that needed it in class
- having conversations with students about math, school, post-secondary, etc that were valuable

Some of the low-lights included:
- students that did not connect with me and ask questions (a smaller group of students with weaker math skills that ultimate resisted the changes I had imposed on them), despite other students being fine with asking questions (though this is not necessarily much different than any class)
- ELL students that still did not work with others as often as I would have liked
- students not using the check-in questions I created for them to check their understanding
- repetitive nature of class (particularly in physics) became boring

Some of the things I might do differently when I get a chance to do a senior class this way again:
- use Office 365 or Twitter to try to create a more interactive nature outside of class instead of using Angel (means I can no longer use the quiz aspect of Angel but could make use of something like Google forms that the video could be embedded in and contain questions for students to answer and submit)
- for Physics make sure to have a demo/simulation/additional "fun video" to go with every lesson so there is always something to do in class beyond "the work"
- create critical thinking tasks to be done in class (for same reason as demo/simulation need)

- provide students with a "shy" way to say "i need help" (though I did try creating online discussion boards with the ability to most anonymously and that did not seem to help)

I am doing some "flipping" (which I would much prefer to call shifting) in my Grade 9 Science class this semester. It has allowed me to talk explicitly about note taking this semester and I hope to keep that up. The idea being to create a bit of additional time so that I can give them a bit more time to work on assignments in class and so I can check on their progress in class more often.

Good luck Semester 2 everyone!