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!


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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Enjoy the journey because the destination can change

This post will not completely be about flipped classroom, but rather a look back at my teaching career and life, which has been an interesting ride.  I'm sorry if you get bored reading this, but I consider this blog to be a great release of thoughts and I ideas and I feel this is a story that people may appreciate So, here we go:
Part 1-college.  Being a high school science teacher I have many opportunities to talk to students about college and what to expect.  I often tell them that I transferred from the University of North Dakota to the University of Wisconsin-Superior after my freshman year because I made a career change decision.  I tell them, and others, that I hated my first months at UWS for one reason, it wasn't UND.  I loved UND!  This was the place that I was bred to go to, and making the decision to leave was hard.  So, 19 years yesterday, October 24, 1996, I emailed UND to get an application to return to the place I felt I was meant to be.  Things changed the next day, October 25, 1996.  On that day I met the women who became my best friend, my soul mate, and for reasons known only to her, my wife.  Once I met Amy I had no desire to return to UND because I knew I wanted to be with her, and I began to look at things differently and really enjoy where I was and had a great 4 years at UWS.  We did great things and really got everything out of a college experience we possibly could.  We travelled a lot, representing UWS across Wisconsin and the midwest, and we did travelling as a couple for fun.  We learned a lot from each other and it was a great time.  We graduated, got married, and attempted to enter "the real world"
Part 2-getting into education.  I loved my student teaching experiences and thought I was doing a good job.  I graduated from UWS in December of 2000 and by March had my first long-term sub position.  I thought I would be teaching right away the following year so I looked forward to interviewing and beginning my career.  Twelve interviews later and we were into September and I still did not have a full time teaching position.  Needless to say, this was huge blow to my ego and my plans.  But, just like in college, I had Amy there to help and be the rock for me to hold onto.  Then, lucky number 13 came when I interviewed at St. Francis High School.  The committee saw the spark in me and gave me the opportunity to teach.  A choice I am still amazed by.  I remember after the first year asking for a letter of recommendation because I didn't think they would be hiring me back and my principal looked at me and said "If you were not coming back, we would have told you by now."  I luckily have never heard "you are not coming back next year."  Honestly, I don't know what I would be doing professionally if they had not taken a chance on me.  And I'm shocked that this will be my 15th year being allowed to teach at St. Francis High School.  I have been able to teach physics, a subject that I had not taught before this, and love the topic, to create two difference classes and the administration has seen to allow me to teach a college level physics class.
Part 3-roadbumps and swift kicks in the butt.  In 2004 the rock of my life, my beloved Amy, suffered an injury which ultimately led to her not being able to work full time.  This was a huge blow because I was still early in my career and she was the primary income provider.  After the initial blow and shock and fear about what we would do.  We knew we could not have children, which was a big blow, but this blow was one we were not ready for.  These things led me to making a great professional decision of going back to UND to get my  Master's degree in the program that initially led me to UND out of high school.  In 2011, after much pain, a long time commitment, and much research, I graduated from UND with my Master's in Science Degree in Space Studies.  At that time I was the first member of my family, both my mother's and father's side (all aunt's, uncle's and cousins) to earn a Master's degree.
That pride in accomplishing a goal was gratifying and has really made me look at education differently.  It also was part of what led me to the flipped classroom.  During this time Amy stopped working for a while and ultimately made me the primary income provider.  This was not something I was prepared for.  We had hard decisions to make during this time.  I was looking at possibly working for NASA in their Education Division.  This was part of my dream.  To work for NASA would have been an amazing opportunity!  I was even offered a position with NASA!  An opportunity most people jump at.  Yet, when I was offered the position I had to sit and think about if I really wanted to change what I was doing and move along to another adventure.  As a linear thinker I made pro and con lists about the entire process.  But my final reason for not going was "it didn't feel right."  Not a very scientific reason, but it was the truth.  It was a decision I never regretted and opened up other opportunities for me.
During this time of turmoil I saw an opportunity to be involved in professional development in our district.  When asked why they decide to jump into these type of leadership roles most people say "because I want to further my career" or "I want to help others succeed."  For me my answers were "I like talking to people about education and how to do it better", but my main reason was "because I need the bump in money to be able to survive financially.  Honestly, if I had not gotten this professional development opportunity we probably would have filed for bankruptcy.  This is not the reason I like to give but, just like when I started at St. Francis,  I needed the job, it was the truth.  Now in my fourth year of professional development I really enjoy working with all of the different people.
Also during this fun time I was coaching basketball, a sport I had been involved with since 1988!  I really enjoyed working with the kids and the coaches, both on our team and the other teams.  But one day we were told that our staff was going to be no more and if we wanted our jobs back we were going to have to reapply for them.  This, like everything else that has happened, made me take pause and re-evaluate what I wanted to do and where I wanted to do them.  I first decided I wanted to stay in St. Francis, but quickly decided that for many reasons I wanted to be out of the athletic sports area.  So now I am in my third year of coaching speech and debate.  There are many similarities and differences between activities and athletics, but I really enjoy the change.  This change came at the perfect time for me.  Amy told me she saw my stress level decrease dramatically when I stopped coaching sports, which is something I drastically needed.
Part 4-the future:  With all of this going on, I find myself looking at where I want to go in the future.  Amy's health is stablizing, she is able to work a little more, we are in a much better place financially, and Amy is still my rock.  I'm trying everyday to be her's, but often times I feel that I don't quite live up to the role of "primary care provider" that I should.  I really don't know what or where I am going or what I am going to do.  I enjoy what I am doing at St. Francis but I find myself thinking "what else can I do"  which leads me to....
Part 5-my flipping road:  So, if you read this far, congratulations and I hope you are ready for some more!  Here's how I got to flipping my classroom, and how I want to continue moving forward.  In high school I was part of distance learning for calculus.  I liked this idea, but in the early 1990's it was not easy exchanging work.  Fast forward to my interviews with NASA.  I got to see the interactive programs NASA was producing and what, if I would have taken the position, I would be doing.  I loved the idea of interacting with professionals.  The big lead that led me to the flipped movement was my Master's Degree.  You may be thinking how does a master's degree in Space Science lead to wanting to flip a classroom?  Well, my program was an online program, where we did many different activities such as watch videos online and discuss them, have chat sessions online, and complete assignments online.  During this program, that I loved and still want to continue with research, I began to look at different ways to incorporate technology into my teaching.  This program, along with technology professional development about moodle, led me to the beginnings of my flipped experience by using message boards.  Then I was lucky enough, mainly through my increased work at St. Francis, to go to an ISTE conference and hear more about this process.  This may not have happened if all of the above had not happened.  I have been able to share my excitement of flipping the classroom with many in professional development areas, and with teachers in my own building and district.  Everyone I tell about this seems interested and I hope they at least try this approach.  Now I am in my fifth year of flipping my classroom and am enjoying it more every year, because I get to lead the students down new and exciting roads.

So, hopefully you enjoyed reading about my interesting journey with many twists, turns, roadblocks, and challenges.  I think of my journey like the theme song from my personal favorite Star Trek Series, Enterprise.
I am learning to enjoy the ride, enjoying more the amazing wife and travel partner in this journey who allows me to be who I am, and helps lead me at times and stands by me at others down this long road.
I hope you enjoyed reading this.  I know many people have similar stories, but I wanted to share my story with you.  Please feel free to comment and ask me questions.  Thanks for reading this.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Communicating with parents in the flipped classroom

This week for my #flipclass twitter chat we were asked to talk about the ways we communicate with parents and families.  I really enjoy this topic because I also work with professional development within my district about school home communications.
I like to start the term by sending home a letter or brochure detailing rules, procedures, and ways to communicate with me.  I also have a parent video describing my flipped classroom and what parents can expect (https://youtu.be/e_hTSBxa_3o).  This helps clear the air and answer many questions about the flipped classroom.
I also encourage students to have their parents do remind texts, if they want to.  Many parents vary in their communication preference.  Some like email, some like texts, some like calls.  My plan this year is to have parents fill out a google doc to look at communication (I am planning on giving students points for making sure the parent fills out the form).
I also like to send home weekly emails to parents showing them what is coming up the next week. What day homework is due, tests will be taken, etc.  I also get great response from parents with this.
I also encourage students to visit my website for more information, along with also viewing my youtube videos with their students.  I have gotten great communications with parents from the video.
I really believe communication is the key, especially for me this year when  my key thought will be something from flipped classroom guru John Bergmann:  Focus more on who you are teaching rather than what we are teaching.

This may be my shortest blog post.  Thanks for reading.  Please comment below.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Finding my personal and professional tribe?

In my #flipclass chat this week, we were asked to blog about how we experience community outside our classroom.  This has been a large area of growth and discovery for me this last few months.  I saw this image earlier and thought it best describes me.  One of the quick areas of community is chat sessions like #flipchat.  I really enjoy chatting with the like minded individuals on there and getting great new ideas.  I really believe any professional, not matter what field, would benefit by finding a twitter group and communicating with them.
I have also learned to stop looking at the number of followers I have one twitter because I post things on twitter I think people would be interested in, and that I am interested in, so if they choose not to follow me I hope they follow someone who sparks there interests and curiosities.
Another community area I have recently learned about is google communities.  I know I am late to the party on this one, but I really have found this to be a great way to share information and communicate with people that share the same interests as I do.
While electronic communities are great to globally expand communities, I love meeting groups in person and talking to them.  It is great meeting people in your "virtual community" in person so you can have a good conversation in more than 140 characters.
Personally this question is really hard for me because although I love to talk to people I really do not create a community around me very well and really struggle with that.  I feel like I hop between groups, but have not found "the group" for me.  Maybe that's a good thing. I'll keep reflecting on that.
Thanks for reading!  If you would like to be part of my "tribe" follow me on twitter @Ldg32, I would appreciate it and look forward to chatting with you!



Saturday, July 11, 2015

Things I have learned this summer......

This summer has been a great learning experience for me, and it is only July 11th!  This is a long list, but here are some of the many things I learned so far:

1.  EdCamps are wonderful events for quick, yet productive PD and networking.  I attended the EdCamp Central Minnesota in June and really enjoyed it.  Took away a lot of information and, like with any PD, met some great people.  Some for the first time, and some who were part of my PLN on Twitter, shout out to Amanda Meyer!  I'm looking forward to the next EdCamp.  Also, Global Edcamp is online July 31-August 1.  You can find information here:  http://edcampglobal.wix.com/edcamp

2.  Google communities are great for personal and professional growth!  I know I'm coming to this late, but this summer I've really started to read and enjoy the google communities.  If you have not looked into them yet, please do!  They are a great source of information, networking and, as I found out, people who are eager to share information and help with questions.   I have been thinking about changing up a couple of things in my flipped classroom this year and posted questions and got quick responses back from people in the fields I was looking for.  This is a great tool for collaboration!

3.  Twitter is good and evil.  I love following along with things on twitter, but there is an overload point that I have reached a couple of time.  As I am writing this I somehow have 301 people following me on Twitter.  Not sure how that happened, but it is cool!  I have got a lot of great information from twitter and hopefully contribute to great information being shared from my point of view.

4.  Even if you don't go to ISTE, which is a wonderful conference, you can get a lot of information from Twitter and Google communities.  I did not intend to virtually attend ISTE this year, but got sucked into the Twitter feeds and the google community.  As a result of this, and because I knew ISTE has so much good information, I created a google spreadsheet with links of information I thought was good and important.  What I thought was going to be a small document turned out to be a 210 item document broken down by days.  Here is a link to the document for your review and use, if you find anything that can be useful to you:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1JRuKD6VOowhAziysJrFgV7SvtIEU2ytT6x9Gt0tapiE/edit?usp=sharing

5.  I like to talk to people about teaching and learning.  I have found at EdCamp and from the online areas I really enjoy talking with people about education and teaching.   This has led me to doing PD in my district, which I am now entering my 4th year of teaching other teachers in my district, and also doing other presentations.  I am doing presentation on Aug. 5 for a Central Minnesota technology conference called Lake ECMECC, where I will be presenting on Using Google in the Flipped Classroom and one on Using Tech for scientific experimentation.  If you know people in central Minnesota who use ECMECC they can register for the conference at:  http://lake.ecmecc.org/home  I am looking forward to this because I get to keep spreading the word about flipping and using tech for good in classrooms!

6.  My to do lists for what I want to change in my classes are huge!  I know as educators we are supposed to be reflective, but my reflective list has grown this summer to the point where it could be another full time job just to make the changes I want to make.  I have had to prioritize what I want to change and hopefully get everything done eventually.  My main goal is to get my videos done for a college in the schools physics class.  I am working through that process and, I am happy to say, my video creating skills are getting better.  I am really looking forward to teaching this course!

7.  Relaxation is a good thing!  This summer, even with everything I've been doing, has really showed me that relaxation is something I need.  My school year is so busy with teaching, coaching debate and speech, and doing PD facilitating, that I really don't get a lot of time to relax.  Amy (my wonderful wife) and I have taken time to just get away from home and do fun local things that get us away from the technology and relax.  I really needed this time to recharge my batteries.

8.  I am an educator and that's ok!  This is something I came by kind of by force.  One thing I've been trying to discover this summer is what my hobbies and interests are to relax me.  I have a strong interest in science and astronomy and really enjoy reading and learning about these fields.  But I also find myself really looking at education materials and being drawn to books and materials on this subject as well.  At first I struggled with this because I wanted to read something away from my "job" and wanted another escape.  Then I remembered my first teaching class at UWS with Dr. Cecila Schrenker who said "If you stop learning, get out of the profession."  I hope I am doing her proud by realizing not only am I a constant learner in my science fields, but I am also becoming a constant learner in the art of education.

9.  Getting outside is a great way not only to relax, but also to think indirectly!  I really don't think I need to go into detail on this.

10.  Things change, sometimes for reasons you have control over, but most of the time for reasons you don't.  One thing I was told about education is that it is always changing, and if it does not always change something is wrong.

Thanks for reading this post.  If you like it, please share it, if not, I am sorry.  Please comment below.  Enjoy your summer!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The flipped physics year in review

Today marks the end of my 14th year of teaching and my 4th year flipping a classroom and it is time for reflection.  First, what worked?  I still love the fact that I am not lecturing to the students and wasting their time by lecturing at them and letting them work on material.  I really enjoyed showing the students their real time results and focusing the conversations in class on the questions they asked on the videos.  I also liked that the students really were accountable for their learning and could not just sit and go through the motion of listening to lectures.  The students really appreciated the fact that they were not lectured to and were given the information they needed to know.  They liked not having to listen to the "fluff" that many of us enjoy, but is not always worthwhile for the students.  I also liked to see the overall positive results of the students who put time and effort into the video assessments and did not just go through the motions.
So, what did not work?  Many things did not work.  The first is many of my students lack of ability to ask questions about the materials covered in the videos.  I really need to do an activity on the first day to get the students analyzing and asking questions at multiple levels.  Also, I did show the students the questions they asked and answered them.  I did not emphasize them enough and, unfortunately, did not hold students accountable to higher level questions.  I want to work on questioning strategies with the students so they feel comfortable with questions.
Another area that did not work as well as I was hoping was the information retention of the students when they came back to class.  Many of them simply flew through the videos and did not take time to retain or take notes on the information.  I did provide the answers to the video assessments, which the students asked for, but not all students took advantage of this.  Next year I really will emphasize the process of the videos.  Again, the students who did pay attention and used the process did great.  When talking to other teachers, I cam to the conclusion that the students need to be shown the reasons to take responsibility for their learning and have to be retrained.  I don't think I retrained them enough to the flipped model.
So, what will I change for next year?  I mentioned some of it above.  I will emphasize questioning and the process more.  Also, I want to incorporate more problem-based/STEM activities with my class.  I will admit that a group of my students previous records of not so good behavior scared me away from this process.  I have made the decision I am simply going to set high expectations and help the students reach them.  I am really looking forward to getting more engaging activities and engaging more students.  I need to help the lower end students more to continue to be engaged not only in the hands-on process but also recognize the learning process as well.
Reading this post you may think I had a bad year, but my nature is to be hard on myself and look at what needs to be changed more than what worked.  I continue to love the flipped class model and the flipped learning model and will never go back to full time lecturing because it bores me and my students.  Even though a couple of them told me they prefer the lecture method, and their reason is simply because then they are simply told what they need to know.  I want to continue to encourage the students to learn on their own and keep questioning everything.
Thanks for reading my posts and I would enjoy any questions or comments on this post.
Have a great summer!  Enjoy the outdoors and explore the wonderful world around you!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Researching in Physics

This week in our flipped classroom twitter chat we were asked to talk about researching, the good, the bad and the ugly.  From my first year of teaching I have always had my students do research.  I started with having the students answer questions from Discover magazines "12 Unanswered Questions of Physics."  Most of the questions were not able to be answered at the time and the students needed to do research and form an opinion, based on research, and present it in a research paper type format.  These questions have changed over time.  I have asked questions about current events in physics and science, like dark matter, the large hadron collider, and other trending ideas.  I find this helps the students research abilities and it gives them access to concepts that are not covered in traditional classes.  I have really enjoyed this, and the students ask a lot of questions after the writing.  They lead to good discussions.  In the area of sources for research I have always not allowed the use of wikipedia as a source.  Initially the students fought this, but I have gotten less resistance on this over time because I think the students are know being taught by teachers in lower grade levels that wikipedia is not a reliable source for good research.
I strive to bring in new scientific announcements in my class to show the students new items and encourage them to also look at new information.  I am amazed that every year students come in and show me links to new information and research they found.  It leads to great conversations on many levels.
The main issue I am having with my students in research is creating citations.  They really struggle with this skill, even when directed to use citation websites to help.  Showing the students what is a good citation has become more time consuming than it used to be.
A small area of "research" I have also used is the option for students to find a YouTube video about topics we are covering that has to be longer than 3 minutes.  This may not seem like a true scientific research, but the students are expanding their research and learning.
So, in conclusion, I love having my students research information, bring in new information and explore areas they may not have looked at before.
Thanks for reading and please ask any questions below.
Have a good week and enjoy the end of your school years!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Metacognition and Physics, a fun duo

     This week for our flipclass chat session is about how we incorporate metacognition, or think about how they think.  I like this topic because it is something I feel I do quite well.  I have always verbally modeled this in my classes even before I started flipping.  I would verbalize how I do all of the math problems.  I would also make mistakes in some of the problems and hope the students would catch me.  They did and really enjoyed watching the process and trying to "catch" me making mistakes.
     Another thing I have always done is at the end of lab activities I have asked my students the following questions:  1.  What did you learn from this activity?  2.  What did you like about this activity?  3.  What would you change about this activity?  When I ask these I tell the students to be honest because I listen to what they suggest and will use their information in future years.
     When I started flipping the classroom it led to more time for in class conversations which extended on my previous questions.  I ask the students to reflect on the essential questions of a video, basically the learning targets, and discuss the targets the students have the most questions about.  I also was introduced to the STEM model which encouraged more redesign of the project during the process, which also increases metacognition.
     Another way I use metacognition, which is a lot of fun, is finding students who have different answers and have them discuss, with the class, which is right and which is wrong.  The students what me to tell them what the right answer is,but I find the conversation between two conflicting answers brings out misconceptions faster and fosters an environment for more open communication.
     I think that having students think about what they learned and what they would change and why is a valuable skill and one that I am working on improving and enjoying working on it.  I would be interested to see how others use metacognition and what strategies they use.
     Thanks for reading my post.  I would enjoy a conversation about this topic with other knowledgeable educators.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The homework monster

This week for the #flipclass chat we were asked to blog about homework and how homework has changed over time.  Being a high school science teacher I did what I was taught and trained to do, which was "go home and do these problems and read the book and come back with the problems done."  I did this method, and did lectures in class, for the first 12 years of my career.
     I started to notice more and more students becoming more and more bored in my class, no matter what I did.  So, I decided it's not them it's me that needs to be changed and I started flipping my classroom.  I know from professional development I teach, that we need to make homework meaningful and not just busywork that cannot be done in class.  So, I started by having my regular physics students read a section at home and participate in a chat room on our districts moodle site.  The "lecture" session of class would simply be answering the questions the students had.  This morphed into the students asking if they could answer each others questions.  I loved this idea because it fostered the communications between the students that I wanted.  Then I attended an ISTE presentation about the video idea and I loved it!  I initially gave the students a note packet to fill out with four basic questions:  1.  Write a 3 sentence summary about what you watched  2.  What were the main terms of the presentation and the definitions?  3.  What were the mathematical formulas in the section?  4.  What questions do you have from watching the video?
     What I learned from this was the students are really bad at asking questions because they don't like to think about what they don't know, and these notes were too vague.  So, I tweaked the video sheet to be more topic specific.  As I analyzed this I realized this was mainly a note sheet, so I gave the students Cornell notes packets and encouraged them to use them.
     This system worked well, but what I really wanted was a quick assessment of the students to see what the students picked up from the videos, so I started using forms like this:  http://goo.gl/forms/yiA3ODGDta
I have learned things from this:
1.  Students who did not work hard on traditional homework do not work hard on this.  They, like me when I was a student, will fly through an assessment if given the opportunity.
2.  I need to keep asking questions that pertain to the students and catch them.
3.  I need to teach the students how to ask questions for discussions.  My upper level physics students are good at this, but my conceptual physics students not so much.
     Now my students do the traditional homework in class.  I like it because now I can see what problems the students have and we talk about that.  I like the flipped model so much more because I get to work with the students and what they are working on at home and the students can work on advanced work at home, other than when they are spending the 20-25 minutes to fill out the video assessment.
     So, I went from a traditional homework method to the flipped model, and I really like it.  My students seem to like it.  The grades have improved from when I did this before, although I don't know if it is simply the kids.  The students now know that I know what they are constantly doing and are more open to ask questions.
    I would love to hear others thoughts, comments, questions on this topic.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fun at conferences

For this weeks twitter flipchat conversation we were asked to discussion thoughts and memories about either presenting or attending conferences.  Since I started flipping I have had the honor of presenting at 4 conferences and have had a great time at each.  However, in relations to flipping, my most memorable conference experience was at the ISTE conference in San Diego when the keynote speaker said "if the students are bored and not learning, it is you not them."  This struck me as so true and was my main thought in changing my classroom to a flipped classroom.  I have really enjoyed attending each conference I have had the honor to attend, both in my science field and education fields (mainly technology education conferences the last few years).
As a presenter I have really enjoyed talking to people who were in my sessions afterward and getting to hear what they do, things they've tried, and challenges they have.  I really enjoy that conversation.  Also, like in my classroom, I also learn something from the attendees at my presentations because they try things a little differently or look at things differently than I do.  This has been really fun.   I can think of many conversations with attendees who have said they have learned something in my session and will take that back.  I think the best feeling as a presenter is having someone email you weeks after the presentation and ask you questions about the presentation.  This makes someone like me, who has not presented very much, feel great that they are giving worthwhile information.  This last year at ISTE I had the opportunity to do a different type of presentation in a poster presentation.  This was a fast-paced presentation, but I really liked it because I was able to directly connect with more people, answer more questions, and talk about more specific information that in a normal presentation.
The best part of being a presenter at a conference is doing the presentation early and then having the rest of the conference to relax and attend the quality presentations that are at the conference.  If you do not attend professional conferences I would highly recommend them because you learn a lot of great information and you can connect with many people. Also, if you don't communicate with people on Twitter or other social media arenas in your field or areas of interest in education, I encourage this as well.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Ever had one of those weeks?

This last week has been one of the most stressful of the school year.  Crazy busy from 6 AM until 8 PM almost everyday, coming home and doing school work, and having to be a care provider to my beloved wife.  During this time, I'll be honest, I thought about simply going back to the old "stand up and lecture" method because it's easier and I felt like I could just use a couple of days of simple conversation.  Then I got to school and looked at the kids working on problems they would not be able to do if they had not been in a flipped classroom and that all changed.  That, and talking to my students and hearing them say "we are happier when we have a chance to talk through problems than in a normal lecture class."  This only happens because I anticipate the questions the students have from the video lecture, based on their questions, and go from there.  This was the motivation I needed.  Also, during my non-math based class I decreased the amount of Q & A time for one class and gave them more hands-on activities and reversed it for the other section of the same class because that is what the students in those classes wanted.  Again, this is not something that could have been done in a traditional lecture class.  I have also given back in to having the students in my lower physics class watch videos in class and do work afterward.  This helps the students who are not as motivated stay engaged and the students who work ahead by watching the videos the night before, can get ahead and do other things.  This has been a god send that would not have been possible in a traditional lecture class and a realization that saved me from the easy fall back to lecture trap I nearly fell into.
Also, in my other position I had the opportunity to observe teachers and talk about how their classroom works.  While I absolutely love this opportunity it did take my prep hours away, which needless to say added more stress to my week and an additional half hour to my morning.
So, you would think this would be enough but I am also the primary care giver to my beautiful wife.  She has numerous disability issues and, while fighting through them all, is the most positive person I know.  She has been struggling with her independence lately and I am trying to be there for her, along with attempting to do all of the other things in my professional life.  Thank goodness I have started jogging again so I can find some time to relax and reflex.  This will be a constant battle ground I must tread and hopefully I won't set off too many mines.
So, if you finished this post I thank you for reading my ramblings.  Please feel free to comment.  Thanks for reading!

Ways to avoid procrastination

This week in our flipclass chat in twitter chat:  https://twitter.com/hashtag/flipclass?f=realtime&src=hash
The topic is how to curb procrastination for big projects.  This is something I have been struggling with and find this topic very interesting.  This problem really showed up in my class with a car design project I gave the students one month to build.  I would ask for an occasional check-in to see how the students were doing and, no surprise to me, they procrastinated until the end of the time limit to finish the project.  When I asked the students to tell me one thing they would change about the project they told me they would change the amount of time they were given. They said the time frame was to long an the extra time did not serve many of them.  So for the next project I shortened the time frame and the students said they appreciated the shorter time frame for our egg-drop 2.0 project.  I have found that students, no matter 9th grade, 11th grade or 12 grade, need and want to be checked on so they feel appreciated and able to ask questions.
The one project I have that lasts most of the trimester is our research project about an amusement park ride.  For this project the ultimate part of the project is to design and execute an experiment on an amusement park ride.  This project begins by the students doing research on the history of their type of ride (roller coaster, spinning ride, circular ride, etc).  The second part of the project is for the students to discuss the physics topics their ride covers.  The third part of this project is to create a rough draft of their experiment (which gets checked in class and discussed).  The students then get to conduct the test on the ride.  After the experiment they must finish their final project.  I check in with them and make sure they are on track to complete it.  This project is a large scale project and something I am working to incorporate into my smaller activities.
Please feel free to share comments or ask questions.  Thanks for reading this post.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Getting out of my rut

            When looking at my teaching looking at getting out of a rut I think that getting into flipped classroom got me out of my rut.  During my first ten years of teaching I taught according to the traditional lecture model.  I thought I was pushing students because of the high level questions I was asking the students and the responses some of them were able to give them.  As I looked at my overall student experience, however, I noticed that although student test scores were remaining about the same the level of student engagement was decreasing.  In fact, I noticed more students sleeping during my lectures.  No matter what the class, be it physics or astronomy, I noticed more students nodding off during what I thought were educational and exciting lectures.  I came to look at this as me in a rut and began thinking it could not be me, it had to be the students.  This foolish idea led me to get out traditional lecture model of instruction and change how students will learn the information.
            This led me to a search for better ways to communicate with students or, as I came to see it now, get out of my professional rut.  I looked for was to deliver instruction.  I first had the students read a book assignment and ask questions for me to answer in class via a moodle message board.  This led to great conversations in class and allowed me to really see what was confusing my students.  This also led to a new level of excitement in my class because my classes varied from hour to hour in the level of questions and, in my opinion, forced me to enhance my knowledge of the material.  This created a more positive outlook on my part and most of the students enjoy this education where they are responsible for their learning.   This change has led to a renewed enjoyment in my class and has led to me sharing this technique with many teachers, some of who are jumping into the flipped classroom world!
            This has also led to another rut of doing too much work at home and has unfortunately led to additional work at home.  My wife has started calling me out on my work at home, which has forced me to look at the rut I was getting into.  This has led me to finding ways at home of forcing myself to find ways to getting out of the work rut.  This has led to me working out more and finding distracting activities like puzzles and channeling my inner child and working with the increasing amount of legos, yes legos.  These techniques have helped me relax and have given me an additional way to escape the rut.

            So, when I get into my rut, I get out of it by taking me time and looking for new and exciting things to do!