Are You Flipping Kidding Me? Why Would I Flip?

Are You Flippin’ Kidding Me?

Why Would I Flip?

@joe_edtech & @LisaBerghoff

This article is co-written and cross posted by Joe & Lisa. You can also find it on Joe’s Blog: WarriorEdTech

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It isn’t about using technology because it is flashy, and it definitely isn’t about more industrial age efficiency. Integrating instructional technology is about being able to do something that you’ve never been able to do before. It is about re-imagining the classroom, and everything else about school.

 Last Saturday, we had an opportunity to host a Google Education On Air Hangout on the “Flipped Classroom” during which we provided our participants with a description and history of the Flipped Classroom teaching model, clear reasons why each of us tried it with our students, and some evidence of it’s effectiveness. If you are interested in reading more about that as well as accessing some tools to help you get started, you are welcome to visit the “Flipped Classroom Resources” webpage we created.

 However, we don’t want to take up our blog space and inundate our loyal readers (a.k.a. – Joe’s Mom) with a lot of information about what and how. We think it is really important to start with why. Why would you take the time to flip your class? Probably the best way to explain it is through the eyes of a few students. First, we want you to see class through the eyes of Lisa’s Special Ed US History students.

 

@LisaBerghoff:

 My US History students all have IEPs.  Reading and writing is challenging for them and US History is dense with written information. Our textbook, while adapted for reluctant readers, is very long and intimidating. I wanted my students to be able to access the information but then do something with that information. I wanted them to apply their learning, make connections and predictions for the future based on what they are learning about the past. I wanted them to participate in activities that require them to think critically, make a claim, and support it with evidence. However, most of our class time was being used to read the material, talk about the content, and reach for a basic level of understanding. I was assigning homework activities that required them to extend their learning but I quickly became frustrated because many of my students were not completing the homework. The students who were completing it often missed the mark and the quality was nowhere near what I thought they could do.

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 I decided to take a risk and assign a video for homework. The students would watch the video to get the information and then we could use our class time to work in small groups to apply what they learned. I was amazed when all of my students watched the 5 minute video. I gave them a short survey and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  Watching a video for homework was a low-stakes activity.  Everyone could access the video and it was much easier for them to get the information in this manner.  I was so encouraged I tried several other approaches.  For one assignment, I read the lesson from the text and recorded myself while highlighting the important information.  I then took it one step further and created a Zaption “tour” with this video by embedding questions. I could check the analytics to see who had watched the video and their answers were recorded and even graded for me! I could see how long the students spent on the videos.  One student clearly forwarded the video and just answered the questions.  Another student watched it more than once. This was exactly the kind of differentiation I was looking for.  The students had some control, everyone was able to get what they needed, and our class time was spent doing the kinds of activities that push their thinking and maintain the high standards that I have for my students.

 @joe_edtech:

That’s the success story. On the flip side – pun intended – my daughter spends hours and hours struggling with her math homework. It is no fun, and I fear that the constant frustration will lead her to dislike math, or worse, school. When she is in class, the teacher explains the concepts and the skills, and it all makes perfect sense. But by the time she gets home, she has forgotten much of the teacher’s instruction. It is just one of many classes and activities she participates in every day. More than once Katherine has said, “Ugh, I just wish I could see her work this problem again.” And that kind of thinking shouldn’t surprise us. She is used to looking up instruction on YouTube. When she wants to learn how to fix her hair a certain way, or create something new with her Rainbow Loom, or generate ideas for building in Mine Craft, she turns FIRST to YouTube and other digital resources available to her. Imagine how empowered she would be if she could review her math, or science, or music lessons in the same way.

 From a Technology Director’s perspective, I love the Flipped Classroom idea because it can act as a “Gateway Drug” to the integration of much more instructional technology, and can help facilitate the shift from teaching-centered classrooms to learning-centered classrooms. And as Lisa mentioned before, you don’t have to invest hundreds of hours to try it. All you have to do is “Flip” one lesson, one time.

You can still be a part of the conversation. Our Google Hangout Webinar “Flipped & Blended Learning for the Chromebook Classroom” is embedded below. If you have any questions, please contact us via Twitter or leave a comment in the box below.

 

 

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Appreciation, Celebration, and Gratitude

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week here in the US and for educators it is often a time  to reflect on those who helped us become the teachers we are today.

 

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I know so many teachers who say that they knew when they were very young that they wanted to become teachers.  How many first graders are going home and playing school?  You have to figure that at least a few of them will actually continue on to become educators.  So many of my educator friends  can pinpoint a specific teacher who so inspired them that they wanted to grow up be just like them.

That was not me.  I wanted to own a restaurant, or be involved in owning some sort of business.  Even after graduating from college, I did not really have teaching on my radar.  I liked school just fine but it was not my passion.  I came to teaching in a more roundabout way but now I could not imagine doing anything else.

When I think about the teachers that I had, there is one teacher who does come to mind as someone who played an instrumental role in shaping who I am today in the classroom.  Mr. Sprague taught social studies at my high school.  I took one of his classes as a freshman.  It was called “Man In His Changing Society”, can you imagine??  I liked Mr. Sprague. I did not love social studies and I did not have a burning interest at that time for learning about cultures.  What I liked about him was that he was so engaging.  So many of my teachers stayed behind the safety of their lectern at the front of the classroom. Mr. Sprague was all over the place.  He would get so close to you, and ask you questions. He would put you on the spot but in a friendly, non-threatening way.  I took another one of his classes as a senior.  A political science class.  Again, not my passion, but I enjoyed being in Mr. Sprague’s class.  He once spent an entire class period talking to us about the importance of driving safely in the winter conditions.   He shared a story about dropping his glove in his car and realizing that in order to reach it he would have to take his eyes off the road.  He let us know that he let his glove sit on the floor of his car until he got to school.  He cared about us that much.  Even today, teachers often fret about not having enough time to get through all of their curriculum.  That certainly was true back when I was in school and it is still true to this day but Mr. Sprague thought that it would be best use of our time on that day to talk to us about being safe.  He cared.  For that I am grateful to Mr. Sprague.  It reminds me to keep things in perspective.  Remember, we are teaching students and not subjects.

I’m also reflecting this week on the great fortune that I have  to work with  incredibly talented and unselfish colleagues.  There has been a trending hashtag on Twitter called #CelebrateMonday and I am so happy to say that I enjoy walking into school every Monday.  I happen to work with people who can make me laugh until tears roll down my face.  That is certainly something to celebrate.  Monday is always full of possibilities.  I haven’t had the chance to completely mess up the week (yet) and I’m ready to try all of the new things that I came up with over the weekend.  I work with a collaborative group of professionals who give me valuable feedback and keep me on my toes.

I am also so appreciative for my online P2LN (personal/professional learning network). Since I have been working to become a more connected educator I have grown exponentially.  I am gaining amazing resources, engaging in powerful conversations, and using what I am learning in my own classroom.

I’m hoping that you will join me in appreciation, celebration and gratitude.  Happy Teacher Appreciation/#CelebrateMonday everyone!

 

 

&nbspBy asenat29 [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Power Of Visuals: Tips for the inclusive classroom and beyond.

As far as teachers go, we like to talk, a lot.  Walk into any classroom and chances are you will see a teacher standing at the front of the room talking to his/her class.  We are story tellers, we are communicators, we are people who want to get our point across.

There are times when we just need to stop talking and let visuals communicate for us.

For teachers of students on the autism spectrum and other special needs, the power of visuals is invaluable.  Something amazing happens when I stop talking and put an image, or a written word in front of a student. It’s as if we speak a secret language. Many students do not process verbal information in a way that is effective for them to learn. Using pictures, videos, and even sticky notes can make a huge difference in the classroom.  These visuals can be replicated and used in a variety of settings.  I am encouraging the use of visuals with my students who have supported jobs, in their homes, and even in social situations. Especially with the increased availability of mobile devices, these visual tools can be utilized anywhere.

Here are some visual tools to try:

Start with low tech sticky notes:

Sticky notes are small.  You can’t fit a lot of words on them.  This is a good thing because it forces you to just write the most important pieces of information that the student needs.  I will often write the numbers 1,2,3 on a sticky note and next to each number I will write the directions to follow. Often a little drawing helps my students focus.  I could be talking all day but suddenly with the sticky note in front of them, my students are able to participate along with everyone else.

 

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Google Images:

Google images has become the search engine of choice for my students.  They need to see images in order to make meaning of what they are learning. Also, the process of filtering the images serves as formative assessment for me.  If they aren’t able to filter out the images that  do not go with the topic, they don’t understand it and I need to re-teach.

Did you know you can even use images to search?  No need to put words into the search bar.  Simply drag an image to the search bar and you are using the “search by image’ feature!  Here, I am dragging one of the images of a tiger into the search bar:

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Create a Video:

With amazing sites like Pow Toon on the internet, it is easy to create animated videos and presentations for your students.   Here is a short video that I made to show simple steps for writing a thesis statement. Click the image below to open the video.

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Other favorite sites for creating videos:  GoAnimate, Animoto, WeVideo

Make An Infographic:

Piktochart claims you can make a beautiful infographic in 10 minutes.  Sticking with the thesis writing theme, here’s what I created in about 7.

 

Untitled InfographicThere are many other tools that you can use to create interesting visuals for students.  Let’s try to do less talking.  Sit back, and watch the learning happen.

 

What are your favorite visual tools to use in the classroom? 

When Technology Does Not Love You Back. Some Simple Advice For Teachers

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Years ago, when I was first married, my husband decided to get Tivo. I personally didn’t understand it at all.  Why would we need to have so much TV? Surely this crazy gadget would not catch on. (Ha!) He used to walk around saying “I love my Tivo!” and I would always reply “You shouldn’t love things that can’t love you back”.

Now that I am knee deep into educational technology, I often hear my own words ringing in my ears. Do I love this technology? Absolutely! But there are times when the technology definitely does not love me back.  In fact, I would say that most days I expect to have some sort of snafu. When I don’t, it’s a pleasant surprise.  I don’t let it stop me though because the benefits definitely outweigh the drawbacks.

In my recent collaboration with teachers who are exploring technology use in the classroom, one of the universal fears is:

What if it doesn’t work?

Yes, this is a valid fear and a major concern.  This seems to be the most common reason that teachers are reluctant to use technology. However, I’d like to share some words of advice that may help you get over the hump and hopefully encourage you to keep on trying.

1. Just like with most things, the more you do it the more comfortable you will be.

This is such a catch-22. It’s like waiting to lose weight before you start going to the gym.  If you just start going to the gym today, you will get more fit and also start to feel more like you fit in.  You just have to bite the bullet and endure a period of time when it’s not so comfortable and you feel like you don’t really belong.  So you start on the treadmill, right? Because you know how to walk without looking like a fool and the machine is easy to use.  That’s why the familiar phrase “Just Do It” is so effective.  The same applies here. Start today.  In your classroom, find ways to use technology that aren’t quite so risky at first and vow to do something with it every day.  You don’t need to be an expert, if you wait for that to happen you will never get started. Just set small goals and follow through.  Maybe your students write daily journal entries. Have them write their journals on GoogleDocs. Then, you can have them share and comment on each others’ journals, etc. Keep it going and pretty soon it won’t feel so scary. Then you can try something new.

2. You don’t have to do it alone.

I am so fortunate that I have teaching assistants in my classes.  I even have a senior teacher for one period and peer buddies who come to help out. These extra people can help me keep my cool.  When something goes wrong in my class, (Yes, it happens to all of us) whether it be technological or not, it is so helpful to just be able to make eye contact with another adult who can at least empathize and hopefully help problem solve.  If you are fearful that the internet will break as soon as you introduce your online research project, ask for some help when you get started.  In many schools, the library media specialist is happy to help assist with getting these projects off the ground.  Teaching can be isolating but it doesn’t have to be. Find a partner in crime to come in and be the voice of reason. Even if they are not feeling comfortable with technology, at least you have someone to share in the moment and make it less frightening.  And if it goes well, perhaps you will inspire them to take the leap as well.

3. Have a plan B, but don’t make yourself nuts.

You do NOT need to write a million different contingency lesson plans!  However, any effective educator will tell you that even the best thought out lessons can fall flat whether technology is involved or not.  I typically like to have an extra plan in my head, just in case something goes awry. For example, is google drive not responding? Go back to using your notebooks for those journal entries. Or, this could be a great time to do some real-world problem solving with your students. Tell them what they need to do and ask them for some solutions.  If this sounds crazy to you then you are greatly underestimating the ability of kids to think creatively when it comes to breaking through barriers.  If the kids know they are going to need to do the work anyway, they will probably be motivated to find a way.

4. It’s Good To Give options.

I am a huge proponent of allowing students to have choices when it comes to their learning. I believe when they are given opportunities to choose they take more ownership and stick with the task longer than if I just told them what to do. If you are worried about the technology failing, give the students some options in the activity.  Some may involve tech and some may be more low-tech choices. That way, if the technology fails, you still have those other choices available to students.  I often have my students create something creative to show their understanding about a certain topic.  In my US History class, my students were working on the causes and effects of the Civil War. They were given guidelines and a rubric to show the content standards.  Then, I let them choose whatever medium they wanted to use to complete the project.  We had everything from old fashioned posters to Smore flyers to GoAnimate videos.  If one of the students’ chosen mediums was not working, they could just opt for a different one.

5. Please! Do NOT allow yourself to quit.

Recent research shows that it takes anywhere from two to eight months to build a new behavior into your life.  If your students worked on a new skill one or two times and then gave up what would you say to them? I’m guessing you would give them a pep talk about practice, sticking with it, not giving up, etc.  Here is a chance for you to model that for your students. It’s ok to let them know that you are trying something new and you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Be optimistic and upbeat about it and your class will join you for the ride.

 

 

 

&nbspphoto credit: OUT OF ORDER payphone via photopin (license)

“You’re Late” : 5 Foolish Things We Say To Our Students

One of my students came to school about an hour and a half late the other day.  She walked into class without a care in the world.  I turned to her and said “you’re late”.  As soon as it came out of my mouth I realized how ridiculous that was.  She absolutely knows that she is late.  What good could possibly come from me interrupting class to announce this to her?  Was I thinking that my stern tone of voice was sending her the message that punctuality is important? Ha! Not likely. Here are five other questionable (in my opinion) things we sometimes say to our students.  Don’t feel bad! I’m guilty of it too.  I’m hoping that with a little self-reflection, we might be able to eliminate some of these from our classrooms.

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“If it’s not done on time I won’t accept it.”

Why oh why do we say this to our students?  Basically we’re telling them that the assigned work actually has no value because there is no real reason to do it once the due date has passed.  What was the lesson that was to be learned from this activity?  Was it purely a lesson in punctuality?  To really teach our kids about time management, the best solution would be to have the students complete the late work, while also managing their current work.  That experience will hopefully allow students to understand that keeping up with their work is actually the better option.  If you want more helpful information on this topic, see Rick Wormeli’s work on late work.  Continue reading

Why I Teach

The Hidden Picture

Have you ever looked at one of those optical illusions with a hidden picture in it?  You need to totally relax your eyes and try not to focus too hard on one particular part of the picture.  If you can put your eyes out of focus just enough, a picture kind of jumps out at you.  Suddenly, you can focus very clearly on the picture hidden within.  It’s an amazing thing when you can see that picture and when it clicks you want everyone around you to see it too because it’s just so exciting.

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This is why I teach.

Each one of my students is a complicated, seemingly unfocused picture with a very clear and much more interesting picture hidden inside.  Sometimes it takes a long time and I need to look from many different angles but once their picture comes clear I want the world to see it.  Each picture is completely different but there is something familiar, a common thread, that makes them that much more spectacular when they share the same wall space. Continue reading

5 Reasons/Ways To Use Googledocs With Students With Autism

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By Google INC (Traced from File:Logo 2013 Google.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I have been a teacher for almost 20 years and I have always worked with students with special needs.  Much of my recent work has been with students on all ranges of the autism spectrum.  One of the biggest challenges for my students is getting their thoughts and ideas out to the world, both on paper and verbally.   In the world of special educators it is referred to as “written and verbal expression”.  It’s tricky to tell exactly what gets in the way or which issue is causing what when it comes to students with disabilities expression.   Students are complicated and so is writing/speaking.  My students have endless IEP goals dealing with generating topics, using graphic organizers to plan their writing, editing checklists, sentence starters, etc.  I have color coded, created visuals, scaffolded like there’s nobody’s business and still my students’ progress is slow at best.

Until now.

Ok, I’m being a bit dramatic but it really does feel like a huge shift.

About two years ago my school started a pilot program with chromebooks.  The departments were given carts and we shared them.  We had an opportunity to try the chromebooks and see how they could be used as a tool to help our students learn.  I jumped at the chance to use the chromebooks and hoarded the cart regularly.  They were new, they were shiny, and I didn’t really know how to integrate this new tool into my classroom.  Now we are officially a 1:1 school.  Enter Googledocs!

Here are 5 ways that I use Googledocs with my students and why they work.  Continue reading

The Passion Trifecta

I am a teacher.

I’m also a runner.

I’m also a baker.

These are my passions.

As I look through the many teacher profiles on Twitter, I quickly realize that I am not alone.  There are so many teachers who also run and many teachers who also bake, and plenty who do both!  These are truly passions of mine.   Realizing that so many other teachers share these passions made me want to delve deeper into how these  interests are interrelated.   What draws so many of us to these seemingly unrelated activities?

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For The Love Of Reading. A #TBookC Story

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I discovered as an adult that I love reading.  I was not the kind of kid who always had a book in my hand, like my 5th grader who will one day fall down the stairs because he refuses to take his eyes off of the page.  Suddenly, after college, I was no longer being told what and how much to read.  I realized that reading is enjoyable, informative, and brings people together.  I’ve been active in the same book group for 9 years. We read, discuss, ask questions, challenge opinions in the best possible way, and being part of this group has led me to read books I never would have chosen on my own.    While the focus is on reading, we’ve been through a lot and this group provides unlimited support to one another.  They are like sisters to me.  Right now we are reading Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie, which I am loving!

As a teacher, I often found educational materials to be dry and somewhat tedious.  However, this past December I became involved as a co-moderator of a Twitter chat called. #TBookC.  If you are an educator and are not on Twitter, stop reading this blog post and open a new tab on your browser to create an account right this minute.   After doing that you can follow me, @LisaBerghoff.  If you are an educator on Twitter and have not participated in a Twitter chat, consider this your official invitation to join #TBookC.  Also, you can follow me:)  You won’t regret it.

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In Defense of Year-Round Schools (aka there’s too much left to do before summer)

Spring is in the air! The weather is slowly starting to warm up, little green buds are sprouting on the trees, and my allergies are starting to kick in. Also, this week we began 4th quarter. It’s also known as “the light at the end of the tunnel” for both students and teachers.  The nice thing about 4th quarter is that everyone gets a little extra boost of energy. It’s like when you are running a race and you can see the finish line and you suddenly notice that you actually do have more energy than you thought because you are able to sprint to the end. There is one major flaw with 4th quarter… I feel like we’re just getting started. We’re on a roll, in a groove, and everyone is making nice progress. This would be the perfect time to get involved in some amazing projects, except the end of the school year is fast approaching.  What to do?   Year-round school is sounding more and more inviting!

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photo credit: The Start and Finish Line of the “Inishowen 100” Scenic Drive via photopin (license)

Here is the list of things I’d still like to accomplish this year (and why it would be so much easier if we were in school all year).

1. Connect with a class from another school. 

I think my students could really benefit from using technology to connect with students from a different school.  This would be a wonderful way to practice our digital citizenship skills, get feedback in a new way, and learn about a different place. There are so many options available from mystery skype to edublogs and google plus communities and more and more teachers seem to be jumping on board with inter-class connections.  This project requires long-term commitment to really establish a relationship. Summer is definitely getting in the way!

 

Continue reading