Flipped Class Website Intro

Last year when I had my first round of parent conferences in October, I found that many parents did not know that I had a functional class website let alone how to operate it. I also needed to walk students through the process in class several times before they completely understood where daily assignments were, how they could submit homework online, and where they should post for their weekly blog posts. This year, I am going to provide students and their parents with a video tutorial that works as a tour of the website. That way whenever they have questions about the site at the beginning of the year they can refer back to the video as a guide.

This will also be a nice way to introduce them to one of the ways I will be flipping the classroom this upcoming year. Although many of my flipped instruction videos will hopefully be interactive, I believe walk through tutorials could work really well for explaining how to navigate new sites, apps, and programs. This video tutorial is a little longer because I want to make sure that they know how to navigate the class webpage completely. I am also introducing myself to parents at the beginning of the tutorial. Usually I would try to keep flipped videos between 2-3 minutes, 5 at the most.

 

After students watch the website tutorial with their parents, they are asked to complete a Google forms survey. This will help me determine who understands the uses of the website and can be a homework grade. It will also give me parent feedback and allow anyone that has questions or concerns to leave a comment.

I am excited about flipping my classroom because it will allow us to focus on the production of work in class and the questions that accompany that work instead of the instructional process. If students receive the instructions or lecture portion of the lesson in small doses outside of class, then they can return to class with their questions ready and their interest piqued for the assignment/project portion of the unit. How much work could we accomplish if the prep work was done outside of class? What extensions could be added to projects that have previously been done in class with the lecture as part of the class time? The possibilities are fun to anticipate. Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager address this idea and other project based learning in the book Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering int he Classroom. The book focuses on the Maker Movement, but there are several moments that I thought of during this post and the following is one of them:

“‘I think it’s an exaggeration, but there’s a lot of truth in saying that when you go to school, the trauma is that you must stop learning and you must now accept being taught’ -Seymour Papert” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 69).

This quote highlights what flipping a classroom represents. It stops students from being taught and instead gives them the opportunity to learn in an organic, individualized fashion. If students are able to focus on creativity and innovative ways to display their knowledge in class, then it is reasonable to say that the end product will be much better than what they would have been able to create if a majority of the class time was spent on instruction.

Flipping the classroom is a valid option because of the technological advances we have made. Students have the ability to learn in new environments and through new experiences because of the technology available. According to Donovan, Bransford, and Pellegrino, “Technology can help to create an active environment in which students not only solve problems, but also find their own problems. This approach to learning is very different from the typical school classrooms, in which students spend most of their time learning facts from a lecture or text and doing the problems at the end of the chapter” (p. 207). It is a challenge to implement a new method of teaching into my classroom after spending a large amount of time creating a curriculum, but I am encouraged to take the leap by imagining the possibilities that a flipped classroom could gives my students.

References:

Donovan, S., Bransford, J., & Pellegrino, J. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368

Martinez, Sylvia L., & Stager, Gary S. (2013). Invent to learn: making, tinkering, and engineering the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

Build (and play with) a Technology Toolkit

A current buzzword in education is technology. How do schools get it? How do schools afford it? Why do schools need it? Most importantly, how exactly do educators use the technology at their disposal to help students succeed both inside and outside of the classroom? As surprising as it may sound, educators can figure out how to use the technology that they have by playing with it.

Before teachers can recommend programs and apps, before they can confidently ascertain which technological gadget would have great classroom implications, they have to spend some time exploring the tech themselves. Think about it, would we want a surgeon teaching medical students how to operate on someone with a robotic arm if they’ve never used the technology themselves? Of course not, that’s ludicrous. So, why do we expect teachers to miraculously be able to meld these new devices and apps into the classroom? Making another valid point are Mishra and Koehler (2009), “The idea of creative repurposing is important because most technologies that teachers use typically have not been designed for educational purposes.”  Because technology is rarely designed with education in mind, teachers must bridge that extra gap in functionality by becoming curriculum designers. In order to design an effective curriculum that functions through the use of technology, not because of it, teachers must put an immense amount of time into their thought process and planning practices.

Every educator has spent countless hours improving their curriculum maps and aligning those maps to state and/or national standards but how does technology fit into the scheme of things? As soon as a new piece of technology is added to the classroom the way the concept is taught, the strategies used, the focal point of the lesson all shift. “For example, teachers who change the technology they use naturally make changes to their pedagogical approach and the content they cover to create a new “curriculum” that is also highly effective” (Mishra & Koehler, 2009). The goal is to make sure that shift is an improvement and not just another hoop for students to jump through on their way to graduation and “the real world.” One way that educators may start to contemplate this idea is through the study of TPACK. Another way that you can start to effectively incorporate technology into your students’ lives is simply by playing with it.

The first task I gave myself when I wanted to start having students turn in work online was to learn everything I could about Google Drive and the whole Google realm of apps. I dabbled in Google+, made a circle of friends and started an online chat, messed with several of the apps that were free and downloadable. When I introduced it to my students four months later, I gave them my two cents and then asked them to explore the possibilities of the site. At the end of the first class, we made a list together (on a collaborative group document mind you) of class rules when working in Google Drive as well as questions we still had collectively. It was a much more productive and engaging way to approach the tools we would be using throughout the year, and many students returned to class the next day eager to let me know that they had solved one of our collective problems or found a new use for the program. “Teachers need to develop a willingness to play with technologies and an openness to building new experiences for students so that fun, cool tools can be educational” (Mishra & Koehler, 2009). It may seem a little discombobulating to get lost in Powtoon for an hour or build a few levels of your own videogame in Pixelpress and pass it off as future planning for your classroom, but as you spend more time thinking about the classroom implications and the cross curricular possibilities it will not seem as peculiar.  The truth of the matter is that the only way that technology will ever be useful in our classrooms is if we mold it in a way that showcases and aides in the learning process.

 References

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., & Robison, A. J. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. The MacArthur Foundation, 5-7.  *Didn’t reference in-text but was a good read!

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Too Cool for School? No Way!: Using the TPACK Framework: You Can Have Your Hot Tools and Teach with Them, Too. Learning & Leading with Technology, 14-18.

How We Learn and the Importance of Technology

There are many scholars, scientists, and psychologists who have contemplated how we learn and process information. Trends in education are often morphed to fit the latest research in the field. Teachers have been preparing their students for standardized tests for decades and some are currently preparing their students for new tests (PARCCs), which focus less on memorizing facts and more on interdisciplinary inquiries and process learning in order to apply former knowledge to new problems that arise in real life situations. The problem is, the world that students are entering and growing up in is an ever evolving, technology driven realm. Educators are hard-pressed to develop ways to prepare students for this world inundated with information while at the same time trying to master and keep up with the morphing technologies themselves. How do educators bridge the gap between learning and technology? How do they help students learn in a way that is sustainable and applicable to new material and problems? Educators can start by making students aware of their own learning process, providing students with interdisciplinary, relevant learning opportunities, and using technology as a tool to help students learn and transfer the concepts being taught not as a magic wand that will “fix” the comprehension problem or fill the gap.

Students spend a lot of time worrying about what was marked right or wrong on their papers, but they rarely think about why they may have struggled with a concept unless they are asked to contemplate their thought process and reflect on their own learning. If students start to evaluate their own learning process and grow from it, they will start on a path of self-discovery that will lead them to using higher order thinking skills on their own. According to Donovan, Branford, and Pellegrino (2000), “Teaching practices congruent with a metacognitive approach to learning include those that focus on sense-making, self-assessment, and reflection on what worked and what needs improving. These practices have been shown to increase the degree to which students transfer their learning to new settings and events (e.g., Palincsar and Brown, 1984; Scardamalia et al., 1984; Schoenfeld, 1983, 1985, 1991).” This sounds great on paper, but how do educators provide the framework for students to learn these metacognitive approaches and start using them on a daily basis? There needs to be time in the learning process for them to reflect on their lesson and decipher their learning process. “Providing students with time to learn also includes providing enough time for them to process information” (Donovan, Branford, & Pellegrino, 2000). Like many new approaches in the classroom, adding self-assessment and reflection will require new strategies and time commitments in order to give students learning opportunities that are relevant as well as rigorous.

Providing students with relevant, interdisciplinary learning opportunities also promotes self-reflection and higher order thinking skills. Students are more likely to learn and engage with material if they can make connections and transfer the prior knowledge that they bring to the table from one content area to another. “A key finding in the learning and transfer literature is that organizing information into a conceptual framework allows for greater “transfer”; that is, it allows the student to apply what was learned in new situations and to learn related information more quickly” (Donovan, Branford, & Pellegrino, 2000). Providing students with that conceptual framework will help them form connections between concepts and content in their mind. Once again, teachers will need to modify their curriculum and work cohesively with other departments in order to allow students the ability to transfer as much knowledge as possible. Technology can play a key role in providing this framework if used effectively as a tool in the classroom.

Using technology as a tool instead of the lesson itself is a thought provoking concept on its own. “One of our key goals is to stop focusing quite so much on “do kids have computers in their classroom?” and start focusing more on “do kids have the basic social skills and cultural competencies so that when they do get computers in their classroom, they can participate fully?” (Jenkins et al., 2006). It is important, especially with the incoming PARCCs assessment that educators make sure that students have the skills necessary to operate the technological tools and contribute positively to society as global citizens. So, how do we use technology as a tool to empower students and lead them to higher order thinking when the Internet and technology are constantly in flux? Teaching them how to evaluate their own learning process can also bridge into learning to evaluate the value and effectiveness of different sites on the web as well as their own role in that global society.

In retrospect, it all comes down to one point. In order to effectively provide students with the learning experience they will need to function in our evolving world educators are going to have to modify not only the way they instruct students but also the way they think about learning.  As stated by Mishra and Koehler (2009), “teachers who change the technology they use naturally make changes to their pedagogical approach and the content they cover to create a new “curriculum” that is also highly effective.” Become an innovator, collaborator, and metacognitive encourager in order to prepare your students for the challenges they will encounter throughout their lifetime.

References

Donovan, S., Bransford, J., & Pellegrino, J. (2000). How people learn:     Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., & Robison, A. J. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. The MacArthur Foundation, 5-7.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Too cool for school? No way!: Using the TPACK framework: You can have your hot tools and teach with them, too. Learning & Leading with Technology, 14-18.

Greetings from Galway!

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Hello All!

My educational journey in Galway is now underway and it has been an adventure already.  I’m very excited about the course work and the great people I am going to be collaborating with over the next couple of weeks. This site will be used to document my educational journey in Ireland.