12 September 2011

More Reflection on the Flipped Classroom

Found an infographic today about the Flipped Classroom (or reverse instruction). I thought a lot through it last year in this post, and still wish I could make it a reality for my own classroom. Last year one of my problems was inequity among my students of internet access at home, which I'm perceiving is less of an issue this year. But, with three preps this year I feel like the load of online lecture creation is too heavy to really make it happen.

I have had a measure of success this year with Edmodo.com getting my kids logged on to ask me questions, share resources, and complete some assignments. The kids have gravitated to it much more than I expected. It largely replicates what I share on my class facebook page, so I thought kids would use that primarily to avoid having another website to login to, but perhaps the fact that its NOT facebook is the appeal.

Here's the infographic - check out the failure rate decreases cited toward the bottom.
The Flipped Classroom
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

30 August 2011

AP Stats Teacher Advice (from a vet, not me)

As a part of my can't-believe-I'm-teaching-ap-stats preparations, I signed up for the electronic discussion group via the College Board's website. Following along with the discussion via my email inbox makes me feel oh-so 2002, but there have been a few helpful nuggets of advice, discussion, or desperation that have given me better perspective and preparedness.

Doug Tyson, of Central York High School in York, PA offered up this advice today on the EDG for me and my fellow first-years.

 Subject: Are you a new AP Stats teacher?

If no, then read no further.

If yes, I will break one of my long-standing rules in order
to write this message.  That rule is "Never offer un-asked-for
advice."  Although it has served me well over the years,
recent posts on this group have prompted me to offer 1 or 2
thoughts.  You are warned that these come from my very
own mind - read with eyes wide open...

1) Don't be afraid to admit to yourself, other AP teachers,
and your students that some of the material is subtle and
that you're still learning Statistics.

2) Real data are subtle and often break rules-of-thumb.  Be
wary of inviolate rules in Statistics, as they are often really
rules-of-thumb in disguise.

3) Think deeply about the ideas.  Get your students to do the

4) Ask questions on this EDG. It's a safe place to learn.
There are lots of really knowledgable people here - I know
some of them, and they're really nice people.  And they
were all new Stats teachers at one point in their lives.

5) Read everything about Statistics you can get your hands on.

6) Develop a sense of wonder about the world around you.
Develop the same in your students.  Statistics (in one view)
is about understanding the world based on measurable evidence.
The world is your laboratory and playground.  Have fun!

(former new AP Stats teacher) 

The EDG isn't as handy for me as Twitter, but I can't bring myself to unsubscribe.

24 June 2011

Browser-based Interactive Whiteboard Software - Desmos

Have you ever...
  • Panicked because your interactive whiteboard's software stopped working?
  • Wished you could edit your whiteboard lessons from home without installing more software?
  • Wished you could share/email your whiteboard lesson to a parent or student with the same interactivity they would have with your file in class? (NOT a pdf, .doc, or ppt)
  • Wanted to embed your lesson content on your class blog or website?
  • Wanted an easy to use graphing calculator online?
Web start-up Desmos recently presented at TechCrunch Disrupt with a browser-based solution to interactive whiteboard software that is not dependent on any branded hardware OR software.  Our district uses SMART Notebook and can port those lessons at express.smarttech.com, which I've used this summer on the laptop I'm projecting from that doesn't have the software installed.  It's better than nothing, but its functionality is scaled down dramatically to basically opening files, inserting text, and drawing freehand.  You can't even insert images.

The software is still in alpha testing (as of the end of May), but I've applied for an account and hopefully will be able to play before the new school year starts.

Oh, BTW, I haven't even gotten to the graphing calculator that IS already live! (Which may end up being an even bigger deal; color-coded, cartesian and polar coordinates, zooming, sharing, integration with the whiteboard app)

Here's some video:
Graphing calculator -

Desmos founder, Eli Luberoff, at TechCrunch Disrupt -

You can read the original article from TechCrunch here.

Things you might also be interested in:
Other online graphing calculators:
graph.tk - HTML 5 grapher.  Color-coding, zooming, screenshots
Graph Drawer  - color-coding, point and function plotting, save as .png, not as user-friendly

Other whiteboard tools:
express.smarttech.com - Create basic SMART Notebook files and open any previously saved
www.dabbleboard.com - Doodle freehand and make shapes, insert images, sharing

16 May 2011

Open Source (everything)

I found an infographic via a Twitter follow about open-source textbooks from onlineschools.org. (Graphic to follow) The people at Flatworld Knowledge offer free e-books with extra options for self-print, black and white copies, and full color copies.  Much to the tune of any other open-source project, the info is reliable (if you generally believe in the reliability of open-source projects), and DRAMATICALLY cheaper.  I don't imagine that any of my EdTech books for my upcoming last semester will be available, but they've got several business titles, so anyone steering toward an MBA route is going to have more options.

I'm interested to see where these go.  (Only one math title to choose from for now.)
Open Source Textbooks
Via: Online Schools

02 March 2011

The Day 2nd Hour Functions "Got" It.

Contrary to some teachers worst fears (and, I suspect, most "old-timers"), I long for the day when students and their parents figure out that I don't have all of the math knowledge they could ever need in their lives.  I try to promote this by encouraging my students to search YouTube.com, BrightStorm.com, or khanacademy.org when they're at home and need additional tutoring, and by also encouraging them to help each other.  I even introduced a new standard in my gradebook this semester that aligns to peer-communication and presentations.  (Although I have yet to make good on my promise to use it).
Tuesday was one of those days where the "sage on the stage" was behaving quite un-sage-like.  I wasn't very well prepared for the lesson because I had needed to have a conversation with our precalc teacher before school about the necessity of one of the lessons I was thinking of doing this week in terms of preparing my students that will be going on to him.

After probably 10 minutes of word-stumbling and some ineffective instruction, one of the kids said, "Hey, why don't we just get a YouTube video?"  Ding!  "Great idea!" I said, as a ran over to the computer to search the channels of some of our favorites.  The rest of the period went much, much better as we watched a few videos and I served as expert tutor/guide instead of guest lecturer mathematician.

Thinking back to those "old-timers"...  ...maybe they would just say that I need to have my lessons more prepared and that this was proof of the ultimate teacher #FAIL, but I see it as evidence of learning.  When the sage on the stage paradigm fails, my learners are finally free to explore and trust their intuition.

Update: 4/25/2014
When I wrote this post three years ago, I was so very excited for my students because I knew that they not only knew that there were other resources, but that many of them had the initiative to go and get them. The "peer communication" standard I referenced above was directly inspired by one of my students that was constantly asking for more resources she could use at home, and then went home and used them.

I'm feeling nostalgic for this class today, because I have a hand full of students this year that refuse to take any initiative to look up things for themselves. Basic, DOK 1, reference type things. I had a student stay after school yesterday to work on our Google SketchUp project that was moving on to finding the area of the swimming pools on his design. In the span of 10 minutes, I think he asked me the area formula for a circle 3 times. While he was sitting right in front of a computer with a Google search tab open.

So to answer the question on the graphic above, when your students think that you know "everything" and can (or must) be their only source of knowledge, they miss out on any ability to explore their world! Think back to the first time you found an encyclopedia and just sat on the floor, reading some, looking at all of the pictures. As that small kid, I remember feeling like I now knew everything, because I could look it up. I (thought I) could explore the answer to any question I could think up, and this was pre-Internet!

Is this student an isolated case, or do some "digital natives" take the collective knowledge of the web for granted to such an extent as to IGNORE it?

24 January 2011

Flipping the Classroom (Week 1)

(or,  to YouTube, or not to YouTube...  That is the question.)

The first thing I learned this week  is that that is probably a correlation between the quality and clarity of the materials I create/share online for my students and their likelihood of having those materials prepared when they get to class.

That brings me to the trouble of time. It seems ideal to create my own videos so I can control the content, elude to events from class, and point students to more resources, but to create a worthwhile video takes me at least an hour at this point after I am done filming/screencasting, editing, and uploading.  Creating my own content also makes burning to DVDs or CDs much easier, which is important for making a flipped classroom feasible for my students without web access.  This almost seems manageable for one course, but getting it done for two courses at the same time, right now, seems daunting.  My first solution is to compile playlists of the best videos, which is mostly what I did for last week.  When chosen thoughtfully, I think a playlist of others' videos is almost as good, and kind of has me feeling like I have a co-teacher.

But here's the dilemma.  Many students that don't have web access at home make the wise choice to use their lunch or other free time in the building to go to a lab and view course materials and check their online grades when they can.  My students could have viewed their notes from last week this way IF YouTube was not blocked for student accounts.  The advantage of YouTube is critical mass of content.  When a student views one of my videos or one I share, if he wants to see a different video, the largest library of related content is on YouTube.  There is related content on unblocked sites like Vimeo or TeacherTube, but just not as much.  Something I need to work out.

Assessment of Week 1:
We were off Monday for MLK Day as mentioned in the last post, and then had snow days on Thursday and Friday, so there's really not even enough experience to grade.  Informal early reports suggest that my older students were more likely to have accessed the content from home.
Things to Change for Week 2:
Not a whole lot to adjust yet because half of my content/lesson plan from last week is still on the table.  I did not call/email parents to let them know notes/videos were available, which I know should be one element of success, but that was partially because I was not totally pleased with what I was offering last week.  I already had an email attachment debacle a couple weeks ago during a snow day, so I did not want to lose some parents by pushing crap out to the masses.  However, I will...
  • email/call parents
  • focus on ONE of my courses to improve quality of content
  • put some videos on Vimeo (can those uploads be linked to YouTube?)

18 January 2011

Flipping My Classroom (Initial Thoughts)

Tomorrow's the big day!  Sort of.

As with when I jumped into trying to implement standards-based grading with little more than a day's preparation last January, tomorrow I begin my week-long pilot of flipping, reverse, backwards classroom.  I really like the idea of it, and watching videos here and here, and following @drezac was pretty motivating and they seem to make it work, but I know that I am going to run into some difficulties.  If I could, BRIEFLY, go through the ADDIE model to digest what lay before me, I will.

What initially turned me on to the idea of "flipping" my classroom is that I felt like I was spending a lot of time covering examples and giving notes that my kids needed, but was severely lacking in helping my kids and coaching them along.  I built a "co-teacher" standard into my evaluations this semester to encourage the spirit some kids will inevitably foster of helping their peers and doubling my efforts, but I want to do more.  "The Rage" as we like to call it at North most often comes out toward me when the kids are just frustrated.  I hope to increase my one-on-one time with students and small groups of students.

On Friday I gave all of my classes the heads up on my intentions for this week and informally polled the class on who did not have internet or a smartphone to potentially watch videos and only ran into a few that (admitted) to having a problem with those capabilities.  I actually expected for more of those situations from my experience last year, so I'd been racking my brain, colleagues, and PLN trying to come up with alternatives to online videos.  I KNOW that most everyone has a DVD player at home, so ideally for those students without internet I would burn DVDs for, and secondarily would put the files on a CD/DVD-ROM for kids to open the files on an offline computer.

Last week we had a snow day and I emailed all my parents and students about a video I had posted and I got at least 1/4 participation, so I'm optimistic about levels of participation at home and support from parents.

I started making my own videos for my two courses today.  The advantage to making my own is that I can make for certain that everything on there is concise and tailored to where I'm going, and also makes the content easily transferable to DVD.  The disadvantage, obviously, is that it takes a LOT more time than using someone else's video.  Another limitation for me at home is that in order to get clean audio, I need to either be away from my 1 yr old or she needs to be sleeping.  That was not an option for me today, so uploading my own to YouTube was awash.

The new challenge, for me then, is how will I get notes and instruction to my offline kids without having my own content to push to them?  For those that are online, I ended up making two playlists on YouTube for their respective subjects for the week and embedded the playlists on Edline, our district website server.

I'm a little disappointed about not exactly coming out on top of things on the preparation side, but that's more acceptable when adopting innovations for one class versus an entire organization.  There are fewer consequences to adoption on smaller scales.  I was pleased with coaching my students last week, and am pleased with my lesson plan for tomorrow to get things rolling.

I wonder what the other math teachers will think...  I DID get an endorsement from @aunthattie on my DVD burning idea.