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!