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What? Science is Cool?

I don’t know if my students really understand what MIT is, or how big of a deal it is. I don’t even know if my students really understand how awesome they have the potential to be, when they want to be (or subconsciously want to be but try to be cool about it). I do know, however, that last week my students were pushed, and they excelled beyond my hopes.

A few months ago, I got a text from an old classmate, Kyle Webb. It read,

Happy Saturday. How interested are you in taking science class to the next level?

Little did I know that those 14 words would have such a profound impact on making school awesome for 45 fourteen-year-olds.

After I responded excitedly (that might be the understatement of the year), Kyle hooked me up with Mark, an Engineering post grad student at MIT who is working in/on environmental policy. Aside from my shear excitement to be working with someone who is as cool, if not cooler, than Howard from The Big Bang Theory, I was more excited to get to have an awesome teacher moment.

I hyped it up with my students. They were unimpressed. They were wondering what this whole MIT thing was, as apparently MIT doesn’t sound like a real university to a 14-year-old. I left it at that, but I maintained my excitement for a few weeks.

I had a few family things come up in the days leading up to when I planned on having Mark Google Hangout with our class. This turned out to be a good thing. We were working on designing the most ecofriendly house we could conjure up. The students grouped themselves up, and they worked somewhat diligently for a week, but they were frustrated. Their presentations, while alright, were nothing like I had expected or hoped for. They were kind of limp to be honest. Enough to meet what I sort of wanted, but not what I knew they could do.

The started on the extension of the project, designing the most ecofriendly community (after all if one house is good, couldn’t an entire town be better?). I grouped them this time, and they had a few days to work on this. Then Mark hungout with us.

Originally, I planned on him hanging out for about 35-40 minutes, then giving my students the rest of class to apply his ideas. I asked them all to come to class with a few questions, and they were all supposed to ask one question, but many students thought it might be “lame” or something.

What really happened was far more incredible. After some fun internet-related issues and about 3 power outages the morning of, we connected and Mark introduced himself. I quickly summoned a few students who had questions ready, and they began asking questions.

I have to admit, I was terrified. I didn’t proof any of the questions. I wouldn’t have been surprised if something inappropriate came up. But it didn’t. Even better, the students ask REALLY GOOD QUESTIONS. All of them asked really good questions. Even the students who had been struggling with this project. Even the students who had been disinterested with the project. Even the students who don’t like science. It was awesome.

Mark hungout with both of my science classes. Same setup, same Mark, but two completely different sets of questions. I have a total of 45 students. There was not ONE duplicate question. To be honest, I thought some of the questions were a bit outrageous when I first heard them, but Mark handled them with ease and proved that some of the most outrageous questions were some of the best questions.

As class was ending, a student stopped to pack up his binder. After his classmates were gone, he looked up and calmly said, “Miss Thibeault, that was really cool.” Then he wandered off to his next class, as content as could be. I don’t want to get to Hollywood on you or anything, but it was definitely a moment that was Oscar-worthy. I couldn’t have paid a student to have a better reaction.

Oh, did I mention that their ecocommunity presentations were awesome? They incorporated ideas from their discussions with Mark, adapted some ideas, and canned others. They poured their hearts and souls into them. And it was awesome.

**********

Would I do this again? In a heartbeat.

What can I make from all this? It was a lot to digest, and it has taken a few days. What I’ve taken from this is that the greater audience is important, but his greater audience has to be visible, it has to have importance, and it has to resonate with my students. Mark did just that — he was cool, he was young, he was on the SmartBoard talking to them (woo!), and he conversed at their level.

Another important piece I pulled from this: the internet is great for having a huge pool of knowledge, which isn’t easy to navigate. There is still significant value in connecting with experts and asking questions. I didn’t give any students any questions. They thought of them themselves. One question sparked another from a different student. This kind of collaborating and feeding off of one-another just can’t happen in the huge google pool. They wanted to know and they wanted to learn.

The last thing I’ll speak to is me. I have no formal science education training. I was almost terrified (but up for the challenge) when I saw Science 9 on my timetable last June. I do, however, have the ability to help facilitate my students’ learning. I need to draw on resources, like Mark, that enrich my classes in ways that I will never be able to. This isn’t solely in science, but in math, career education, or any other subject I end up teaching. It could mean face-to-face, it could mean via Google Hangouts, it could be over twitter, or it could be something else. I owe it to my students to let them learn. After all, they proved that they really wanted to learn (even if a few of them kept it a secret so they could look cool).

“Miss Thibeault! I Have to Tell You Something!”

I hear that a lot lately. It is not limited to bad jokes, either.

I have been teaching Career Ed since September, and every term (half semester) I get a new class. I’m currently teaching my third Career class. I have to say, third time’s a charm!

I started my first class out with wordpress blogs, but my students found them confusing, and I had a hard time finding/orchastrating them. I was actually quite surprised at how difficult my students found it, as I was expecting them to have a better grasp of the technology than I did.

In my second go around, I moved over to Weebly (and completely overhauled my course). This solved a few problems for me. Firstly, it allowed me to create the usernames and passwords for my students, which solved the “Miss Thibeault! I don’t know my username or password” problem. Secondly, it had a better drag-and-drop-style interface that my students liked using. Once their sites were up and running, things went really smoothly. Lastly, it also let me move my class websites to one location. Previously, I’d been using wikispaces, but weebly seems to make more sense. I now have several pages that I use to keep track of daily work, as well as other classes. I’m still developing my site, but it is certainly user-friendly.

Now I’m on my third batch of Career 9 students. I reorganized my course even more than I did, and I also booked into the computer lab. I am trying to run this class without paper. I goofed and printed out a course outline on the first day, so I am on a mission to not printout another thing. We’ve even done tests without paper!

What is really inspiring about this though is the ownership this third class has over their sites. I give them their assignments, and they quite often do not have homework. However, a handful of students go home and post their own stuff on their sites. I now get a report from excited students the next class (it usually goes something like “Miss Thibeault! Did you read my blog last night??!?!?! I posted about this really cool thing! [Insert explanation almost word-for-word of what they posted]). I usually haven’t had a chance to check out their blogs the night before, but I always make a point of stopping what I’m doing to go see what they’ve been up to.

On of my students is into video games and animation. He asked me what my favourite animation program was. I really can’t say I’ve ever animated, so I told me all about his favourite sites. He and a partner used xtranormal for a presentation (they made it in under half an hour). He did a review on his site about the pros and cons. I have to say, it is pretty cool.

These conversations really drive how we are learning in the class. For instance, his xtranormal presentation got me thinking about how we can use that sort of technology in a productive, meaningful way. We are now going to be doing a mini-project recreating a video I have about resumes and interviews. I bought the video at Dollarama, but the quality is, well, AWFUL. What can you expect from a $2 movie? The information, however, is invaluable. I think I’ll split my class into small groups and get them to remake parts of the film (condensed), then splice them together to make one awesome video!

I am so grateful for my very engaged class. They are certainly making my job a ton of fun, easier, and more creative!

Infographics In the Classroom

As awesome as an infographic about infographics in my classroom would be, I think it will be easier to just write about it. Here goes..

In my undying enthusiasm as a first year teacher, I decided that we should make infographics in my Psych 20 class as our last project before finals. All in all, I’m happy with the result, but I wanted to dig a little deeper so that I can figure how to do it better next time.

Background

My Psych class was not a “testy” class. The curriculum was very broad, so we covered a lot of ground quickly. Each unit left great opportunities for student to dig deeper into a specific topic of interest. I never had two projects on the same topic even. We had four units, and with a couple mini-projects and a major project with each unit, my students did it all. They made commercials, they conducted research, they made posters, they made game boards, some made social networking pages, some made powerpoints,… well you get the picture. For their final project, I was starting to feel exhausted as I was writing up their assignment. I was dreading marking 25 things, and I really didn’t want them to just write an essay. After staring at my computer for probably 30 minutes, it hit me: INFOGRAPHICS! I quickly googled some infographic sites, found a couple great resources that I posted for my students, and found some infographics on making infographics. We had a quick lesson on what an infographic was, and then I set my students free.

The Students

The students were pretty open to whatever I threw at the all semester. They were a little leery of this, since it was uncharted waters for all of them. They found a couple of sites online, and hovered over their computers for a few hours over the course of the week. A few students opted to make one by hand (I even received a 3D infographic), but the majority of the students went with the online option.

I could tell that they were happy to not write a paper, but they were frustrated with the technology. The sites were slow to load with our internet connection, and the netbooks we had were a little bit too tiny to work easily on.

On the whole, they were happy to have a new medium to deliver their content, but frustrated with the newness of the task and the technology.

The Technology

The sites my students used were okay. They were good about getting a basic layout, but they certainly didn’t lend themselves to really branching out. My students didn’t find them overly user-friendly for customizing, and their publishing options were blocked by our school firewall. I would not recommend using pikochart or infogr.am if you have a slower connection. Piktochart had more freedom, but was significantly slower to load. Infogr.am loaded better, but it was more rigid in design.

Since the students couldn’t publish their work, they ended up giving me their username and changing their passwords to the one I assigned the class. That way, I could access them without having the students log in. It was pretty cumbersome, and changing passwords took up 20 minutes of classtime.

The Products

Once we got through all the barriers, I have mixed reviews over the quality of the infographics. Since the design was pretty rigid, a few students opted to take the easy way out by throwing down five interesting bullet points and picture.

Several students listed off several interesting facts, a few pictures, and some citations at the end. Good content, but not the execution I was looking for.

A few students really dug into this project, and I got some great results. They included data, pictures, and developed a logical argument visually. They did a great job, despite the tech challenges.

I had one student in particular who was away for the last part of the project. She emailed me her link, and it was outstanding. She chose a topic that was really meaningful to her, and she just went to town. It was outstanding. If I could have, I would have given her 500% over the 100% she received. I could see that I found something that she related to (both the medium and the topic), and she gave it her all. I got choked up reading it, as I was so proud of her.

The Marking

Marking was a breeze, but frustrating. Since it was a psychology class, I tried to limit what I was marking solely to psychology, but it was hard to not get distracted by the flash that some infographics had. Some of the bullet point/picture mixtures score higher than the ones where the student clearly put in extra time at home to add flash and jazz. I’m glad I stuck to my guns, but it was hard. I know that I wanted my students to learn about psychology with this assignment, but I also wanted them to learn how to make infographics, as they can be a really useful way of getting a lot of information across in a compelling, efficient, and visually pleasing manner.

Final Verdict

I’m glad I used infographics in my class. I will do it again. I will definitely keep looking for better creating sites. I will also remember to book the computer lab rather than the netbooks. I think I will also go through more examples of what makes a good infographic (tells a story, follows a logical flow, proves a point, etc.), as well as what a bad infographic looks like (now that I sadly have some examples). Hopefully infographics will continue their rise in popularity so that they will be more common place when I try it again.

 

Motivated?

I’ve been teaching now for nearly six weeks. It feels like a lot longer, but I know that I still have a long way to go on the never-ending journey of becoming the best teacher I can be. Love the clichés? Sleep deprivation + reflection = awesomely overused clichés.

I’ve been thinking about the last few weeks and the common thread in all my frustrations is motivation. I have students who are very motivated by marks, a few students who are motivated to do a good job because they want to, several students who are quite bright but “just aren’t applying themselves,” and even more students who just don’t seem to care.

In an attempt to change all that, I did what I am calling a flip-flopped classroom in my Workplace and Apprenticeship 20 course. I know that many of my students don’t care to do homework (hey – I didn’t either), so I abolished it. I still wanted to have a chance to be doing a flipped classroom-style learning experience, so I recorded my videos in less-than-five minute segments. I simply broke it up into manageable sections. I gave them enough information to get the jist of the topic and a few easy questions. I posted all the answers in the back of the classroom on my AWESOME “Problems? We’ve Got Answers!” bulletin board (I know what you’re thinking… I am so pithy or very lame! I’m still undecided on that one.). They check their work after each assignment, then watch the next video for the next lesson. It has a “short sheet,” which is basically a couple of questions they need to answer during the video to make sure that they understand what is going on, and, more importantly, to make sure they actually watched it. I usually broadcast one of my videos on the smartboard each day, depending on where the majority of the class is.

Here’s the beauty of this plan now. I have the entire class to be circulating. It gives me way more time to be helping students out, and it gives me way more control over classroom management. My back is never to the class, I am always milling about. I can catch problems before they arise. More importantly, the little goof-ball that brought in a laser pointer no longer has anything to point his laser at. Since I’ve implemented this, I’ve been so much happier with how smoothly my class has gone.

I also am loving the no-exam model I’ve created to accompany it. I have them do skill checks, as I’m using standards-based grading with this class. They get a skill checked twice on predetermined dates. These are basically like an exam, but chopped up into manageable, small portions

It’s not perfect. Not by a long short. I still have unmotivated kids. I still have kids off task. I still have hours from [insert insane place you’d like to avoid] where I’m run off my feet and feel like there is no hope for the upcoming generation. But, I have to say, it is better. I can catch more shenanigans before they become problems. I have students who are working hard and are ahead of the class (which means I have to keep ahead of them – not an easy feat some days!). I have most of my students working at the pace I set. I do have a few students who are behind, but since there is no exam looming, I don’t mind giving them a few days to get their act together. At the end of the day, I want them to learn, even if it s a few days later than I had originally hoped.

My favourite part of this is that I can have a unit assessment project. It’s not worth very much (SHH! Don’t tell the students!). It’s worth 10 marks out of 60 for the unit (5 marks per skill, with ten skills in total). It ties everything together and it is open-ended enough to let the students explore something that they care about and could see in their future.

I’ll end this post on one last happy note. On Friday, I asked the students what they thought of the change. Unanimously, they agreed. They all had good advice, like that I needed to get their marks up sooner for better feedback. I knew that one, but I’ll be a little bit more diligent from now on. What hit me was one student who has been a particular pain in the you-know-where (I bet you’re thinking of an ankle bone right?), said that I taught the lessons on my videos really well. The class then started clapping for me. I didn’t cry right then, but I’m certainly shedding a tear now. I can honestly say that even two weeks ago, I would have told you that I would likely never be shedding a happy tear due to this class. Gosh! I’m so glad I was wrong.

Kids have a remarkable ability to be wonderful. Just when you think all hope is lost, they do something that reminds me why I teach. I’ll have to remember this when I’m in the depths of despair next time.

So How Did I Do? My ECMP Self-Evaluation

One of the hardest things I’ve been asked to do all semester is self-evaluate. For my Technology in the Classroom class, we were given the freedom entirely self-evaluate ourselves. Initially, this seemed like a pretty sweet deal. What could be better, right? Wrong.

If you’ve never visited my blog before, I’ll give you a quick heads up — I’ve been doing a lot of rethinking this semester. I haven’t really come to terms with grading and evaluating. I’m all for assessment. I love assessment, but numerically evaluating someone’s work just doesn’t quite sit right with me. This is compacted by self-evaluation. We’ve all been there — the stress of marking one’s self. You know how it goes… the students who put in a ton of work are really tough on themselves, while the students who put in the bare minimum give themselves outstanding marks.

I suppose part of my anxiety of this whole thing is that I know what grade I want. That’s the part of me that is so marks-driven. The other part of me worked to my advantage though too. That part of me saw an opportunity to learn, and, free from rubrics/grades/scary stuff, I learned for the sake of learning. I can honestly say that if I was being graded on my blog, it wouldn’t be half of what it is today. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but I guess it has a lot to do with me doing this for me, not for anyone else.

My mission today: honestly and fairly grade the last four months of my progress.

I’ve been sort of keeping track of my learning from this class on an excel spreadsheet, just to keep myself on track. Dean gave us a list of assignments that we needed to complete this semester. Each assignment is to be weighted no less than15%. How we distribute the marks after that is up to us. To make the math simpler, I gave myself a mark out of whatever percentage I had each category weighted at. He also asked that we justify each mark. Since I’ve become a reflecting maniac, that’s no problem at all.

Assignment: Weekly Blog

Grade: 29 / 30

Justification: Our blog was intended to hold weekly updates with reflections about our class, as well as its presenters. Over the last four months, my blog has grown into a regularly updated (usually a couple of times per week) blog. It has stuff not just from this class, but from other classes, as well as anything education that pops into my head. It’s become a platform for me to think about ideas, gain insight from others, and network. I’ve used to do reflect for the sake of learning (not just because a class told me to), publish projects, write a mini-blog series about WestCAST, post my philosophy of education, and so much more. I do regret not commenting on my classmates blogs nearly as much as I would’ve liked to. However, I did develop the confidence to start commenting on other blogs of the professionals I look up to. It also opened the door for me to have conversations via twitter with many teachers world-wide.

Assignment: Teach Us Something

Grade: 14 / 15

Justification: This was interesting. I decided to present about the flipped classroom unit that I was working on for this class, as well as my Math Ed (then Moral Ed for the assessment). I really wanted to talk about the website Sophia, but part of that meant explaining a flipped classroom. I figured that to really talk about a flipped classroom, I needed to flip my presentation. I couldn’t exactly do that, since I wasn’t able to get the Sophia Tutorial (as recorded on Jing) done in time for the class before. Instead, explained what a flipped classroom was, showed the tutorial video, then talked about how I was using Sophia for my flipped classroom. Aside from how chaotic it was to use Jing to record a tutorial about Sophia in order to talk about flipped classrooms within a 10-minute time frame, I thought it went fairly well. I did find it kind of bizarre to be presenting to a class, but have no indication of whether or not they are listening, engaged, or even in the room. It was certainly more nerve-wracking than I thought it might be. I did have some technical difficulties while using Elluminate at the beginning, but once things got going, I powered through. Overall, I’m really proud of my Teach Us Something presentation.

Assignment: Virtual Internship

Grade: 9 / 15

Justification: I have to say, I really dropped the ball on this one. I was in contact with one of my mentors and ended up being involved in her classroom for their celebration of the 100th day of school. It was very cool. Being a secondary math major, seeing how math looks in a grade 1/2 classroom was eye-opening. I couldn’t get over how capable the students were! They were so inquisitive. I did plan on doing lesson with her class again, but the end of the semester caught up with me and I wasn’t able to. Being one to keep my promises, once my semester calms down, I would like to reconnect and teach a lesson! No reason for learning to stop just because I’m not paying tuition! While that mentorship went well, I can’t say the same for the other. Between me not understanding time zones, getting overwhelmed with homework, and procrastinating, I only skyped with my other mentor once. She taught philosophy in a private high school. While it sounds like a fantastic class, it really wasn’t my cup of tea. I had all the good intentions of the world of getting involved, but I wasn’t as motivated to do so as I thought I would be. I’m really disappointed with myself for this one. I know I’m not that type of person, but I seriously dropped the ball.

Assignment: Create Your Own Assignment

Grade: 24 / 25

Justification: This assignment that I “created” flowed really nicely from my Teach Us Something assignment, my Math Ed project, and my Moral Ed project. I decided that if I’m really going to dig deep into something, I may as well dig as deep as I possibly can. I decided to completely flip the polynomials unit in the Math 9 Curriculum. How I justify putting that project in this course is that I know I put in the effort for more than three courses worth of work (if that makes sense). I specifically justify it in that I used technology for everything for this project. I learned how to use Sophia. I learned how to make a good screencast/tutorial. I learned how to reach out to my twitter network (and build a bigger twitter network) to aid my research. I primarily used blogs for my research (I didn’t use on theoretical, scholarly journal article, since I wanted my research to be grounded in field-tested, real-life classrooms). I used my blog as a platform for publishing my project, reflecting, and networking with other teachers. Lastly, and most frustratingly, I learned how to negotiate Movie Maker when it doesn’t want to cooperate. I spent nearly 14 hours trying unsuccessfully to get it publish my video reflection for the Moral Ed portion of this assignment, so I tried to play it on full-screen mode with a screen recorder. Eleven different software programs later, and still no luck. Magically, it began working again, so my project saved. I then learned how to compress a wmv file down to a mp4 file, then adjust the compression settings to keep it under 500 MB. Needless to say, I feel pretty tech-savvy right now. All in all, I am beyond happy with how this project turned out. It really pushed me to re-establish my beliefs, it’s changed the way I feel about education, and it’s changed the way I want to teach. Because I didn’t have a grade looming over my head with this project, I had the freedom to take it as far as I could, and I certainly did. This project will forever evolve and it will never be complete, which is the beauty of publishing it on a blog. All I can say is, “Stay tuned, folks!”

Assignment: Final “Exam”

Grade: 14 / 15

Justification: Little did I know, but I was learning about my learning while I created my video reflection. It went a lot more smooth than my Moral Ed video did, but it was still a learning experience. I am not a short-winded person (my word count right now is at 1390… oops), so summarizing an entire semester of learning in 5 – 7 minutes was like pulling teeth! I had so much to say and so little time to say it. I can honestly say that I did stay within the time requirements. That in and of itself was a victory. I decided to combine video, audio, and visuals to enhance my reflection. I spoke somewhat candidly to the camera for part of my reflection, but for other parts, I recorded myself in Audacity to make a kind of a podcast that I added visuals to (screenshots and photos from flickr). For ambiance, and to make it seem more professional, I went on a hunt for some soothing music for the background. I initially searched through FreePlayMusic, but I couldn’t quite find what I was looking for. I tweeted out my conundrum and got a few responses of different websites. That’s where I found “6-26-11,” as song by “Easy Listening Section” on Sound Cloud. I messaged him, and he was quite flattered to receive the message asking for his music. It was so cool to get in contact with a complete stranger all for this project. I am so in awe of what I’ve learned to do. Never would I have guessed that I would experience that. My only regret is that it wasn’t done the night before. I finished editing it and publishing it only a few hours before class, so many of my classmates didn’t have a chance to watch it prior to class.

Overall, I have been pushed, challenged, and amazed throughout this entire course. I don’t know what I would do without Google Reader, my Twitter feed, or my blog. It’s really helped to change the way I look at education.

FINAL TOTAL: 90 / 100

How do you think I’ve done? Leave some comments for me — I’m always up for some input.

Flipped Classroom – EMTH Reflection

*Please be advised: this is not a new post. It is the reflection that used to be on the “Flipped Classroom – Math 9 Polynomials Unit” Page. I just needed to reorganize a bit.

For my final project in EMTH 450 with Rick, I had free range to do anything I liked that pertained to education and math. The possibilities were endless. I changed my mind about 1,000,000 times. I finally settled on what I figured to be a manageable project of creating a set of videos to “flip” a unit in the Math 9 Curriculum. During my internship, I had the opportunity to teach Math 9 for the full 4 months, and I loved every minute of it. While for the most part, I liked what the textbook had to offer, I was not particularly impressed with how it delivered Polynomials. They came packaged in two clunky, non-consecutive chapters. I knew that I needed to avoid using the textbook, so I went hunting for some resources and made up my own work-package for the students, as independently from the textbook as possible.

Since Rick gave me free range to do whatever I fancied (within reason), I decided that I wanted to revamp the way I taught polynomials. Little did I know, that this project actually helped revamp the way that I want to teach in general. I’ll say it one thousand times over — my internship was great. Now, I think I can be more than that. I can see it, so I decided to push myself with this project.

This unit is entirely flipped. There are eleven video lessons, eleven worksheets, a “What Can You Do With This?,” and a project. The assessment is an outcome/indicator-based assessment guided by a learning contract. There is no unit exam. There are no formal quizzes. The closest thing to a quiz is a “skill check.”

I struggled with having this flipped classroom avoid direct instruction. Part of flipping for me was to avoid direct instruction. It seemed that it was inevitable, so I decided that if I can’t fix it, I might as well embrace it in a weird sort of way. Instead of making long and boring videos, I decided to keep them short and simple. I did my darnedest to ensure that my worksheets were inquiry-based. My theory behind this was to give a bit of instruction, just to send the students in the right direction, then let them work in-class on exploring each concept thoroughly. Answers will all be posted on the wall (answer keys coming soon). Students are invited to collaborate with one another.

Part of me thinks I may have had a mental back-lash during this project too. During my internship, I found that students felt bombarded with problems, and there was not nearly enough drill and practice. Both have their place, but I felt that problem solving was interfering with the students understanding the concepts concretely. I decided to not include the “token problems” at the end of each worksheet. Instead, I designed each worksheet to act as a set of notes, since the students wouldn’t be taking any anyhow. Each sheet contains what I think are the essential questions/big ideas (i.e. Explain in your own words how to divide a monomial by a monomial), as well as several examples. Because the answers are posted and students have no set “time limits” for each assignment (which was a big pull for me to the learning contract), every student will get every single question right. They have access to their peers and to me, so finding the correct answers is only a matter of effort.

To “address” word problems, I decided to have a unit project. This satisfied the old-school innate need deep down inside to have a unit assessment. “At least it’s not an exam,” is what I told myself. I’m not one to undermine or under-appreciate a good word problem, but at least a unit project ties together all the concepts and involves a “real world” situation. It’s a little bit less contrived. I decided to go with an area-based project, which lead me to think about the areas in floor plans. About ten minutes after staring at my computer hoping it would finish my project for me, it dawned on me. I should do a WCYDWT with a floor plan, and then ask the students to work in reverse by creating a floor plan and designing the dimensions on their own. All of a sudden, the “contrived” unit problem sat a lot better with me (and it squeaked in another teaching strategy beyond direct instruction).

My last word about this project, I promise: I am so glad I opted to work with a learning contract. It enabled me to build an outcome/indicator-based assessment and evaluation system that was free of rigid timelines and stress-(and/or vomit-) inducing exams. One of my initial concerns beyond the direct instruction bit was that flipped classrooms somehow guarantee only 20 minutes of homework per night. What about the student who doesn’t finish the in-class work? Does he/she have extra homework? So much for the nice guarantee. If we stick to the guarantee, then what good does it do for that student? Conversely, what about the student who finishes in fifteen minutes? They now have to “kill” 45 minutes. Yes, I could load them with extra work, but I’m going to challenge them anyway. Why not let every student work at his or her own pace? A learning contract does just that. To keep things reasonable, I will set a time-guideline and a conservative completion due date. Aside from that, every student can be working on what he or she needs to be working on.

As always, I welcome, encourage, appreciate, and pray for your comments to pour in. The more feedback I get, the better I’ll become.

Special Thanks to the following: Dan Meyer, Joe BowerSophia (They have fantastic Twitter Support), Kyle WebbRick SeamanEvolving Classroom, and Andy Schwen

This is my utopia right now. I can’t wait to put it into practice.

Final Reflection

For my Technology in the Classroom class, I’ve been tasked with summarizing my learning from the last four months. This in and of itself is a learning process, since there is quite a bit of reflecting. Why so much reflecting? Well, we have a 5 – 7 minute time limit. For me, this means trying to figure out exactly what is the most important stuff to squeeze into my video reflection. Anyone who’s read my blog before (and probably anyone who is reading it now) knows that I am, shall we say, not exactly short-winded. Part of this meant having to edit down each audio clip and video clip to be comprehensible, seamless, and somewhat brief. Not an easy task.

At the very least, I’ve got everything I wanted to say said, and the majority of it made it into my video reflection. I tried to stray from the traditional “what did I learn”-style reflection, and looked more at “how is this going to apply to my life/career”-style. While I did end up mashing the two together, I’m still happy with the end product.

Enjoy!

PS. Even though this class is over, I’ll still be thinking, learning, reflecting, and blogging.