Monday, January 11, 2016

Flipped Classrooms: Understanding the Technique

Flipped classrooms are big in education right now.  But what does it mean really?

A flipped classroom is one where the student gets the information traditionally presented in class at home via the computer.  This means the teacher provides students with video lectures, PowerPoints, etc as "homework."  Then, in class the following day, the student does hands on activities or practices the skills that were taught the night before.

The idea behind this format is that students should be working with the material while the expert, the teacher, is near. When we have students do homework etc without an expert nearby we can't catch their mistakes, re-teach on the fly, or assist them should questions arise.

Flipped classrooms are not just putting everything online. Online or blended courses are not inherently "flipped."  However, blended or hybrid courses do lend themselves to a flipped model quite easily.

I love the idea, but it takes time to build up a collection of videos and lectures.  So I've gone partially flipped.  Some of my lectures/lessons I provide online.  It's not as hard as you think.

There are a few tools I use.  One is just plain old PowerPoint. I record my voice over the slides right in the program and I upload the file for my students to view. Another option is to screencast your PowerPoint.  I use Screen-Cast-O-Matic online and it records everything on my screen and my voice.  This works well if you have presentations in PDF form.  You can also use this to show students how to use certain sites etc. And, sometimes, if I don't think they need a lot of side commentary from me I just provide them with the presentation itself or a handout to review.

I have recently bought a green screen and plan on trying to do some actual videos as well.

Once we're in class I may give a quick quiz on the information from the night before or a formative assessment and then we get to work.  I'm trying to have my students do more of their paper writing in front of me so I can catch mistakes early.

If you've written a blog post about how you've put your lectures/classroom activities online to be completed before you see your students face to face then please link up and tell us all more about how you've "flipped" your classroom.

Thanks for reading! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

What I Learned in 2015: Thoughts from a Post-Secondary Teacher

The end of a year is a time for reflection. I've linked up with Secondary Sara and many other secondary bloggers to hopefully let you learn from my experiences this year.

One thing that I'm really proud of making progress on is my organization. I've started utilizing my outlook calendar much more (though I could just as easily use google calendar.)  I've color coded all my appointments, classes, office hours etc.  I'm even starting to block out time to work on specific projects/grading and more! I also use the "task list" feature to keep track of emails I need to respond to and items I need to do as well. I just started this in the last month of the semester so I can't wait to see how much it helps me if I use it from the start of the semester through till the end.

I tried several new things with my classes this semester. Two of which were very very popular with my students.  First, I had my students conduct H.O.T. book talks (higher order thinking).  Group leaders were given sheets to come up with 3 questions each of varying levels of difficulty using the concept of Bloom's Taxonomy. During the actual discussions I said nothing. Well, once in awhile I reminded the class as a whole that several people hadn't spoken yet.  But other than that it was entirely student led. It was interesting to see which topics they gravitated towards.

The second activity that students seemed to really like was the last assignment of the semester.  I randomly assigned them controversial topics and had them research them.  Each student had to write a 2 page position paper for AND against their topic.  Then, in class, I told each of them whether they'd be "for" or "against" and had them do mini debates.  Several students liked that they had to consider both sides of the issue.  Especially as the election draws nearer I think it's important to show  students how to look at multiple viewpoints and make educated choices.

As I prepare for spring semester 2016 I plan on improving upon my online course delivery.  I also hope to continue to find innovative lessons that engage my students while helping them master important skills. 

Thanks for reading!