Sunday, September 3, 2017

So many questions......

Question Mark, Question, Response, Search Engine

This image shows exactly how I am feeling in so many ways.  I hope this post helps you think about things and may be possibly willing to help answer some of my questions.  Here are many of the things I have been considering for almost the last year:
1.  How do I find balance between enhancing my professional PLN and enhancing the life I have away from electronics?  I have constantly struggled with this.  Some people, I think, see the world of electronic connection to be their life.  While I want to learn from people online to improve my professional life, I also know I have not spent enough time with the ones close to me offline and this has not been good.  So, if you're reading this, I would really like tips on how to strike the balance.  Thank you in advance.
2.    Working on ways to enhance my flipped classroom experience.  I am entering year five of flipping my classroom and I know there are many areas for change.  One area I am going to attempt to implement this year is to, I believe, attempt to really do flipped mastery.  I am going to attempt to do this in a couple of ways.  The first way is I am going to attempt to make my flipped classroom more like a standards based grading classroom.  What I am going to do is to continue with the google forms for formative assessments.  To show mastery I am going to require students score 80% on all google formative assessments before they can take the chapter test.  Also, with each assessment I am going to change  how I have the students do a summary and ask questions from the video using a great piece of technology I discovered this summer:  flipgrid!  If you have not used it yet and are a teacher, I really encourage you to visit: or search for #flipgridfever on twitter and see what this tool can do.  I really want to use this more and am just scratching the surface of what it can do.  
3.  Flipgrid is mainly used on handheld devices and I really want to have the students use handheld devices in many ways in my classes.  In my physical science classes I am going to use the camera and possibly flipgrid for data sharing.  In my astronomy class I want to have them really use flipgrid and use the phone for constellation and moon trackers for some projects.  In my physics classes I want my students to use as many of the features as possible to gather data.  I am going to try to use the Physics Toolbox Suite in many labs to collect data and possibly use flipgrid for data analysis.  I will also use google forms and a lab template one of my PLCs is working to make.  I hope this will all help the students express their understanding and show the students that their electronic devices can be used for educational purposes and not just for entertainment.
4.  I have often struggled with the question "what do you like to do for fun?"  I have been trying to determine this for a few years.  During the school year between teaching my classes and coaching my activities it seems like I don't have time for real enjoying things to do because I typically do "school stuff" from 6:30 am until 6:00 pm Monday through Saturday.  Sunday has turned into a recovery day.  I'm trying to find ways to decrease the time I spend on my profession, but that leads to guilt about not doing enough to help the kids.  I enjoy running, but it's not a constant thing.  I have spent so much time devoted to my teaching career that I've kind of lost sight of who I am and what I want to do.  I have been spending more time with my wife and doing many things we enjoy, but I'm still looking for that one thing. 

I'm hoping to use this blog more often this school year, but I can't promise it.  I hope that if you read this you try flipgrid and may be able to offer your thoughts about my blog.  Thanks for reading.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Lessons learned this week

I feel that often times adults in education, if they are paying attention, learn more than our students do.  This week I learned a lot about my teaching, myself, and students in general.  Here is the list of things I learned:

1.  I need to remind students that learning is a personal journey and that one size doesn't always fit all.  We had conferences this week and I had a lengthy conversation with a student about the flipped classroom model of instruction.  She told me she was not really a fan of the method because she doesn't like to attempt to learn from videos and feels more comfortable reading and having lecture.  I told her I respect her telling me this and that she doesn't have to watch the videos and if reading was her preferred way of learning, she should do that.  This caused me to remind all of my students they can either watch the video or read the book, whichever helps them learn.  This reminder led to renewed conversations this week in class and rejuvenated the energy level in the classroom.

2.  I learned that when you do three really fun and engaging lab activities in three different classes in one day, it's not as stressful as it sounds.  I teach three different classes this trimester (traditional physics, college in the schools physics, and physical science) and Thursday was a lab day for all of them, which meant three different labs.  On many occasions I have dreaded these days for the large amount of work that goes into them.  This one was different.  Why, because all of the activities led to great exploration and learning!  My college physics students built egg drop landers, which they dropped Tuesday.  Thursday was data analysis day.  After we got through a couple of technology glitches it was really fun watching them have discussions about what the data was telling them and if it matched what they thought they saw.  This was a lot of fun.  I required a parachute because we were looking at terminal velocity, and they found clearly on there data when the parachutes deployed and their new terminal velocity.
     In my traditional physics class we are looking at lenses.  They did a lab where they were given the focal length of a lens and had to do a series of experiments to see if the experiment gave them the same focal length as was given to them.  They did the first set of data collection and started doing the math and many groups determined the math was not getting them the correct answer.  Many students would simply say "I don't get this, I'm giving up" not this class.  When I recommended simply doing more trials and looking for patterns, they jumped in and really enjoyed doing multiple trials and finding out the human errors involved.  This was a great learning process on many levels.
     Finally, my ninth graders are building cars and relating them to Newton's Laws of Motion.  Watching them discuss with their partners how to build the fastest car, watching them struggle with the calculations, and the teamwork they showed in the learning process, made this another fun activity to watch.
     I left Thursday exhausted but excited from watching the different levels of learning that happened.

3.  I learned that "average" may not be "average" anymore.  I know we all tackle grades and the issues with grades.  Grading has changed over the years and my opinion has changed over the years.  I gave a test yesterday to my 9th grade physical science classes and the combined class average was 72%.  I liked that average because it was an "average" test score based on what I know.  As a teacher I hope for higher, but understanding where my students are this was a good average score.  This average score would not have been acceptable for other classes, such as my advanced physics classes.  These classes have class averages in the 80's.  I'm not sure what to make of the different averages.  Part of me thinks it's different expectations, but part of me is not really sure.  Any comments on this would be greatly appreciated.

4.  I learned this week that devoting my life completely to my career is not where I am anymore.  My wife and I, for many reasons, have not been able to have children.  We attempted to do the foster system route, but that did not work out well.  This year, as I have mentioned before, we are hosting a foreign exchange student.  This has caused me to change me schedule in terms of my teaching.  I used to be one of those teachers that was the first one in the building and the last to leave, because I get up early and can leave and my wife worked later and I could get home later.  This year, driving a teenager has really opened my eyes to the benefits of time management.  I am not spending as much time at school and except for a few days when I have an hour to set up 3 labs, it has gone well.  I have even gotten away from the constant social media lifestyle and have found I find better information for my teaching when I am actually purposefully looking for it, rather than just mindlessly scrolling through the screen.  I know many of you have learned these lessons before, but it's new to me.

We are still trying the gofundme for a hopeful trip with our exchange student.  If you are interested in helping out, here is the link again:   Thanks for looking at the campaign, we appreciate it.

Looking at the length of the post, I should probably stop now.  Thanks for reading and please contribute in the comments section.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Change is the only constant

Happy New Year!
You may think the title is about the change of a new calendar year.  To be honest, that was the beginning of it.  But it is parts of many things.  The kicker to make me write this was: 30-days-blogging-challenge post by AJ Juliani.  I have been making the change to blog over that last 2 years, and it has been fun seeing people actually reading what I post.  The more I thought about other changes I came back to the quote that is the title of this post.  A retired colleague of mine told me that this fall and the more I reflect on it, the more truth I see in it.
The change in my teaching is what caused me to write about this blog.  As mentioned in earlier posts I started flipping my classes because I wanted to do more in my science classroom than lecture and labs.  I have noticed the change in my students because they appear less bored, ask more questions, and their test scores are higher.  My approach to flipped has changed over time as well as I learn about it and my students.  When I first started flipping I gave my students not sheets they needed to fill out and bring back.  This has changed into google forms with videos and questions that I call my "Video Assessment" which is simply a formative assessment to see where the students are at.  I have also changed the google forms to make them "quiz" forms so the students can see their scores right away.  This has had great results in that the students see their scores and want to improve their scores so they go back and do the video assessments again.  Continual learning!  With the classes that the students see their scores I gave them a score sheet where they need to write down their scores and things they learned from the videos.  This form needs to be completed and turned in before they take the exam at the end of the unit.  Once the students realized this was made to help them they did not fight the process.  This process worked so well that first trimester, which was the first trimester I implemented the score sheet form, the students had the best initial score average and final exam score average of any of my conceptual physics classes over the 4 years I have taught the class!
I also created three different classes with the flipped model, which is a big change.  My college class does not have the questions in the video assessment, but they do have summaries and they need to ask questions based on the video.  This has had positive responses as well.
Change has happened in our building as well.  We are still in the early stages of PLC's in our district and I believe it is going well.  Our district also has faculty facilitated professional development, which encourages staff to try new things in their classroom in order to stretch what they do.  This has been interesting because not only can we as teachers take professional development from our fellow teachers in our district, but we can also go outside the district and find our own professional development to help our personal goals.  Like any system their are positives and negatives to a system and it has changed a lot in my 15 years in the program (more change!).  I have learned and changed so much from these opportunities!
The final education change to think about is what you are reading this post on, technology.  This is the first education "technology" I remember using:
Image result for apple 2e computer
There was a lab that had a bunch of these and we played fun games like number munchers, Oregon Trail, and other games.
When I started teaching 15 years ago the technology in my classroom consisted of the original Ultrasonic Motion Sensors and the Universal Lab Interfaces:

This equipment had to be connected to older computers and was a pain to set up.

Now, I use Vernier probes in many of my labs, but now the students bring their own sensors to class in their smart phones as shown in this post:

These are just a few of the many changes in education.  If you have read this far, I thank you.  I would like you to look at one more change our family has had this year.  We became foreign exchange host parents and want to show our exchange student a different part of the country.  We can't afford to go where we want, so we are asking for help (with gifts) to fund the opportunity.  Here is the link for the gofundme site:  Thank you for helping or for sharing our link with others.  We appreciate it.

Thank you for reading this post.  I appreciate it.  Happy change!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Flipping into the holidays with many things on my mind and on the horizon

Well, today's the coldest day today we have had in Minnesota in the last few years.  Because of the cold weather I have had a lot of time to think about what is going on in my classroom and looking at the future in my classroom and out.

Here's what has happening in my classroom:
I am teaching 2 physics classes in the flipped classroom model and they are doing well.  My college physics class is learning about the flipped classroom and is coming ready every class period with questions, which lead to great discussion.  Unlike my other classes that do a formative assessment along with the video, the college google document is the video, a portion where the students write a summary, a portion where they ask any questions they have, and a portion where they choose learning targets (called test prep questions) that lead to discussions in class.  Here is an example of the form they complete:  They are learning how to study in the way I do things and are doing well.  I have had fun getting to know these students and am confident they will do well in my class.

My regular physics class, which is a traditional level class, has a wide variety of motivation in flipped classroom completion, but their test averages are still over 80%, and they are doing many labs that are challenging them and causing them to learn.  Here is an example of the physics google form, for comparison with my college class:

I know in the future I will be changing and modifying my videos this summer to enhance my flipped learning experience.  I have been touting the successes of the flipped system in the improved test scores of my students.

My physical science class is not being taught in the traditional flipped classroom style, but the energy they have has led me to modify how I do things with them with more hands on than some of my peers, and that has worked well.  They are doing well and grasping information, as evidence by the good first test score and the very high scores they got on their weekly formative assessment Friday (for those of you are are wondering, the score for the formative assessment is just for analysis of what they know and will not be in my grade book at any time).   They will get to take their next test Wednesday, and based on the formative assessments, will do well.

Here's what's happening with my professional development I get to facilitate:
I also had the opportunity to introduce the professional development group I facilitate the idea of flipped classroom.  I introduced them to the ideas through google assessments that are similar to what my students do.  Here is an example;
I think they enjoyed the information and hopefully will use it in their classroom.  They asked the almighty question about how much time it takes to go to this method and I left them with these thoughts:  1.  Don't do this all at once (something I should have listened to).  2.  If you know what want to make a change in your classroom to do things better, you will take all the time you think you need to make the change for the benefits of the students.
The professional development happened during a very stressful time for me.  My mother was in the hospital with what was diagnosed with severe viral pneumonia.  She was in the hospital for 9 days and thankfully is now home and recovering.  I left her hospital room and went to conduct my professional development session on the same day, and the facilitating of information was just what I needed.

As I mentioned in my last post my wife Amy (the strongest and most positive person I have ever met) and I are hosting a foreign exchange student from Kazakhstan and we are trying to show him a different part of the country, but funds are tight.  I know this is a busy time, but if you would be willing to visit our gofundme page at: and support our effort, it would be greatly appreciated.  If you make a donation you will be receiving a token of our appreciation.  Thank you in advance for the help, and thank you if you would be willing to share this with someone else.

As we are entering the winter break time I wish all of you time to spend with your families, time to relax and laugh, and to do things that truly make you happy.  Happy holidays and I hope you have a good end to 2016!  Thank you for reading my posts.  Please comment if you like, or share with friends if you like what you read.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Exciting First Trimester and News!

This is going to be a little bit of a lengthy post, but there are fun and exciting things I need to share:

1.  I thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read this post, I greatly appreciate it.
2.  This trimester I continued to refine my flipped classroom model, not quite to flipped mastery, but I'm working on it.  My conceptual physics class, which is made up mainly of juniors whom I was told is a very challenging class, had a trimester of class like I have never seen before.  I had made it my expectation that they could not take an exam until they watched the videos and completed the assessment that went with the videos.  This year I added a "reflection/note sheet" that they had to fill out.  All they had to do was fill in their score, something they learned, and a question about the section.  I'll admit most have not filled out many questions, but they are filling in scores and summaries and a very large rate.  The result of this?  No student failed my class and I had a 75% pass rate on my final exam (last years pass rate on the final exam was 63%, for comparison).  I'll take that as a win!  Also I had many students say they didn't want to put their initial score down and went back and watched the video again for review!  Instant reteaching opportunity!  Win again!  I'm looking forward to continuing the flipped model and trying to push into more flipped mastery.
3.  My beloved Chicago Cubs won the World Series!  Still can't believe I get to write that!

4.  My wife and I have the honor this year of hosting a foreign exchange student from Kazakhstan.  We want to give him the opportunity to see different parts of the country but, due to many things, we do not have the financial means to do this.  So, we decided to set up a go fund me account to see if we could get some help in this adventure.  If you would be so kind as to visit our page at:   We would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks for reading this!  Please send any feedback you have about the post!

Monday, January 11, 2016

The way I do things

Tonight in our flipped classroom chat we were asked to discuss our work policy/pedagogy, etc.  Here's how work is turned in, corrected, ect:

1.  The students in my conceptual physics class can't take the test until they watch the videos for the particular chapter.  This ensures the students they are exposed the content.  The video assessments (here is an example: have multiple choice questions that are often on the tests at the end of the chapter, and I use the video assessments to drive our discussions in class.  Also, we discuss all answers to the work the students do, so if they are paying attention in class they have the answers to the homework.
2.  The "book work" and worksheets the students do in class I provide them with answers so really the concentration is on learning the material and being confident to ask questions about what they do not know.
3.  For my regular physics class I don't allow revisions or retakes because I allow the students to have a notesheet, or what I call a cheat sheet, that they can use on the test to help them with any information they can write.  For my college in the schools class they are allowed to use the AP physics formula sheet to help them with the math questions on the test.  I figure with these aids the students have the support they need.
4.  For my conceptual physics my students have the option to do a "test buy back" where they can answer the questions on the test up to the next letter grade higher than what they had.  So, if they got a D on the test they can find the correct answers, either by consulting their returned work, talking to classmates, or talking to me, to go to the next letter grade.  The students like this option and take advantage of it.

I know this is not a perfect system, but it seems to be working for me.  If you have any thoughts, questions, or ideas for my class structure please comment below.

Have a good week!

Monday, November 30, 2015

What I have learned & want to learn! Oh, the list could be so long

This week I am looking forward to teaching my three levels of physics classes in the flipped classroom model.  For many reasons I spent our first trimester not flipping my classroom and now I am back and ready to go!  I have learned so much since I last flipped my classroom that here are just a few things I have learned about flipping:
1.  Modeling & practice are key!  I am doing this tomorrow.  The students will be modeling how I want them to flip and take notes.  This will help me with students knowing what I want.
2.  Encourage and encourage more and more questions.  This is something I want my students to improve on.
3.  I am doing a bold experiment this year where my students have to come up with something they are interested in, generate a list of questions for an "expert" in that field, and have an online conversation with an expert.  I have a grand plan with this, and am looking forward to it.  I will be keeping you posted on how this goes.

Well, here is my shortest blog ever.  If you have any questions, thoughts, or ideas about what I am doing, please leave a message!*