Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Flipping again

I've been trying to figure out how to flip my class this year, after a hiatus of a year.  They've had homeworks of viewing podcasts the past few days, but today was the day they got started on the real demonstration of learning!
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The unit I planned is laid out here.  I tried to give students some choices on their activities--some choices are more artistic while others are more straightforward written assignments.  One of the disappointments of my first time flipping a core course was that most of my ongoing class activities were written ones, and I didn't want that to be the case this time.

So today they got to work.  There seemed to be a pretty even split between those who wanted to pursue the more creative approach and those who wanted to go the more straightforward path.  It was interesting; I felt I needed to keep reminding the students to refer to the rubric as they completed their work to determine the expectations.  I've been raised in an environment of rubrics for assessment and expressing clearly through them the expectations, but I've also been reading a lot about the ways in which rubrics force students to focus on the grade rather than on the learning.  What a conundrum.

Interestingly, I just discovered the work of Dr. Lodge McCammom, and viewed his TED Talk yesterday.  His co-presenter mentioned that she would be completely exhausted after a day of traditional direct instruction (and, presumably, that this is not the case when she runs a flipped class).

I was EXHAUSTED by the end of the day.  I was up and all over the (fairly large) computer lab.  I found that I kept going back to the same students in each section; they had lots of questions and weren't making an attempt to figure it out on their own.  Something to work on with them is that this is a safe space in which to make mistakes and that it's important to figure out things on our own or maybe even with a partner.
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With that said, I got to engage in one of the best things about the Flipped Classroom--I got to engage with each student at least once during the period.  I was able to, hopefully, demonstrate that I care about them and want them to do well.  I think they may have just been happy to not have a test this go 'round.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


I feel like I'm letting myself down this year.

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The last time I taught US History, I taught the second half of it (1900ish to presentish).  I had not taught this course since my very first (very crummy) year teaching and I (and the world) had changed a lot in those 9 years.  I used essential questions and flipped some of my units.  My instruction was very tech heavy.  I think I did a very good job of teaching in a new, interesting, engaging, manner.

Now it's this year.  I'm teaching the FIRST half of US History (Foundings to 1900ish), and I'm struggling to make it into the course I want it to be.  First, I taught this course much more recently (2009-10) and was already starting to be more innovative in my instruction.  I still used lecture and the textbook.

My larger class load than that USII class has me struggling to be creative.  I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water, and the grading hasn't even really started yet. I also am finding that there seems to be way fewer resources for flipping USI; at least that I can find shared and for free.  I just don't know where to start with flipping and what students would actually DO during class.

So I'm doing a lot of the same things I did then, and I feel sort of terrible about it.  We're getting ready to assess the first unit of the course, and I'm looking fondly at the test I used way back when.  I need to find some inspiration, some collaboration, and that spark that lit me up when I taught USII!

With all that said, I mentioned that we were working on a mock Mystery Skype here.  A student wanted some comfort and asked if she could make a "screen" to simulate Skype better, to which I replied OF COURSE!  Here's what she made!  (She cut the frame out of cardboard; not sure why it looks so skewed here.