Tag Archive | educational technology

Can I PLEASE do my homework?

Recently, Ms. Proch and I took two huge steps: we flipped our Pre-AP ELA 9 classes and we also implemented Outcomes-Based Grading (Standards-Based Grading for my American readers). Needless to say, we’re really excited, but I’m also a little bit hesitant/nervous/anxious/terrified. I’ve done both before, but not in an English class. Math made some much more sense to me when it came to exactly what my class time versus homework was going to look like, but English is a whole new kettle of fish.

Today is the first day where I noticed a huge difference in what my class is like. I assigned some prep-work (the work my class will do the night before a class) last night for my students to do. (You can check out my class website for the resources mentioned.) Their job was to watch a short video on Shakespearean Insults and to do a little reading about how to paraphrase when reading Shakespeare. Today in class, we took our knowledge about how to read Shakespeare and applied it to how to write like Shakespeare. They were tasked to act as a “secret admirer” to another student in my class and write them a kind letter. In theme with Valentine’s Day this week, this letter could be romantic (not required) or platonic, whichever the students were comfortable writing, so that I can pass them out anonymously on Friday for a little Valentine’s pick-me-up (some of them were super sweet–I almost cried reading how kind-hearted my students are).

Here’s where my students were struggling with the flipped concept: they were working, but not very hard. I reminded them that the assignment was to be completed by the end of class. They had more than sufficient time to complete this work if they were working diligently, but many of them were not. As the deadline drew nearer–fifteen minutes left, ten minutes left, five minutes left–the students began to panic more. Several students put up their hand at the five minute marker, and asked if they could take this home for homework.

Normally, I would be OVER THE MOON if a student willingly volunteered to take work home so they could complete it and “do a better job,” but I’m in the process of retraining their thinking on how class works. I said no, and they were dismayed. I took time to have a “teachable moment” and explain that they need to be maximizing their class time or we aren’t going to accomplish anything all semester. I’m lucky to have a spectacularly motivated crew, so they were on board with actually being productive. I am also fortunate that I get to keep my class all afternoon, so we dipped into some of fifth period to get the letters done to their satisfaction.

All in all, this was a great learning experience for me: I need to be grateful for my very eager students, I need to be more diligent with managing class time, and I need to reinforce the difference between prep work and class work (and the absence of homework).

My question to you, as readers, is what strategies do you use to help your students to transition their learning habits from a traditional classroom to a flipped classroom? 


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.


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.


Blogging and Twitter… But Wait! There’s More!

Lately, I’ve been loving the PD I’ve experienced through twitter and this blog. You can read my timely post about it here. In my ECMP 455 class, we had the opportunity to listen to Chad Lehman (@imcguy) as he spoke about free professional development that is all available online. Here I thought that I was rocking PD with twitter and my blog, but I can’t wait to expand my development with some of the great tools he introduced.

I’m not sure I can do all of these justice, but here are a few that really stuck with me:

Every year, K12Online holds a conference for teachers. Why is this so remarkable? Because it’s online, that’s why. They also archive all of their conference materials and presentations, so anyone can go back and find what they need to. The lovely blend of synchronous (for those that have a schedule that matches up, which I hope mine does for this year) and asynchronous (for those of us who can’t “make it” to the conference) makes it easy for anyone to experience professional development.

The next thing Chad spoke about was Classroom 2.0 Live, which is available on iTunes. I would never have guessed that I can get professional development on my iPod. Also available on iTunes is iTunesU. If anyone has any advice on these specific tools I would love to hear from you. From my understanding, they are resources that have many different podcasts and videos on different educational topics. They are all professionally done. Needless to say, I am excited to start exploring.

I’ve been watching TED talks for a while now, and I took TED breaks during marking while I was doing my internship. Now that TED is launching TED Ed, I am even more ecstatic. Aside from TED Ed (say that ten times fast!), TED has literally thousands of videos to watch. This can be daunting, but with some handy searching, finding some good talks isn’t all that hard. I’ve found some of the best TED Talks aren’t “on education,” but rather I can relate something they speak about to education or my life. Sometimes, taking that step back or going at it from a different angle puts things into perspective

iLearn Technology Blog was also given as a resource for us to use. You can never get your hands on enough info about technology. It’s an edublog that focuses on integrating technology into the classroom. It’s great because it doesn’t stay too focused on one thing — it really surveys all different technology available.

Similarly, FreeTech4Teachers.com has regular posts about different types of technology available. It focuses each post on a different technology, sort of giving it a review, with practical applications and how it can be used. I appreciate that it looks at some sites/technology that don’t necessarily directly market to education, then gives places/spaces to integrate them into the classroom/staffroom/school.

My eyes have been opened yet again. My PD is about to get a whole lot better. I’m finding that I’m also getting more efficient with my professional development. I know I should be using something like delicious, but between Google Reader and my browsers bookmarks, I’m keeping track of my favourite sites, as well as sites I know I’ll need to refer back to. I’ll be starting a “PD” tag in my bookmarks starting… now!

Thank you Chad for joining us on Monday!

UPDATE: Courtesy of Chad, I present to you his slides from Monday evening. He tweeted me the link, so I thought I better share it with everyone. Enjoy.