Monday, August 29, 2011

Flipped Class Week 2

Week 2 of my fully flipped English class is now complete. I'm still very encouraged by what I'm seeing. A new benefit of the flipped method seems to jump out at me almost every day. Most of the kids are adjusting well. I've been informally asking kids for feedback. I will do a more formal survey later in the year, probably right after first quarter.

1. Hiding from view...
You always have those kids that are slippery. They always seem to know how to slip under the radar at important times. The flipped method allows me to catch those kids quicker, because I am making 1 on 1 contact with almost every kid every day. I've created a checklist where I record assignment completion as I circulate the room. I noticed today that one student was 4 videos behind. As I thought about it, he would conveniently ask to use the restroom when I got near him, or move to a different part of the room as I worked in his direction, or claim confusion over the topic, ask a few questions, and promise the notes later in the period. Turns out, he was working the system. He had slipped through the cracks purposely. I believe I caught on sooner with the flipped method though than I would have in a traditional system.

2. Note taking skills....
I've always thought I did a poor job of teaching kids proper note taking skills to prepare them for high school. It was always difficult to help kids know what to take notes on while you were lecturing. Sure, I could say, "Write this down." But, if I did, some would write only that down and nothing else. There were also those kids that wanted to write everything word-for-word and kept asking you to slow down or repeat things. Then, holding them accountable for the notes was difficult. I had to try to give value to their notes by making tests or assignments open notes. Some kids are just good at taking notes. Many Middle Schoolers need help though. I didn't really think about this when I decided to flip, but it is a benefit I am pleased to pick up. If anyone asks, I planned it all along. I can now examine each students notes thoroughly. If I am unsatisfied with the quality, I can ask them to watch the video again before I will accept them. I give them partial credit and the opportunity to re-do the notes better for full credit. I can also spend a couple minutes watching part of the video with them and point out content to write down and why. I anticipate, overall, my students will be much better note-takers at the end of this year than they've ever been.

3. Ahead of schedule, behind schedule? Not quite sure yet.....

I'm using many of the same writing projects I've used in the past. I've definitely delivered more content at this point that I would have in the past. However, my writing projects still have similar time frames as in the past. So, I'm not sure I'm ahead of the pace in that regard. As a matter of fact, the students that had my class last year are actually falling behind. Or, I should say some of them, not all. There is a group of these students that hasn't adapted to the fact that things are different from last year. They get behind on the videos and then use their writing/work time to catch up on the videos. Their first big writing project was due Friday. Some were really scrambling on Friday to finish. A few I looked at were poor quality work because they didn't allow sufficient time for revising and editing. I'm hopeful a few will realize their folly and manage their time better heading into the next unit. Some, unfortunately, will not. They are content turning in sub-par work as long as they pass. However, many of those kids did the same thing last year, so I don't believe that is a product of the flip.

4. What don't I like about the Flipped Class....

At Back-to-School night, I gave a separate session on the flipped class. I've been pretty open with the parents, so many told me they felt comfortable with what I have communicated and didn't attend the session. But, I had a small handful of parents. All seemed encouraged, but had a few questions. One question was, "So far, what DON'T you like about the flipped method?" It was a good question that I hadn't even thought about. I told them, quite frankly and selfishly, it was a lot more work for me. The other thing I said was that some days it was hard to resist the urge to lecture. I have to be confident they are getting the content from the videos. I also have to remind myself that even in the lecture format, I can't guarantee they'll get the content there either. At the moment, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives.

5. Creative Commons...

Another question I received was from a lawyer parent that asked how I was protecting myself legally. I asked her to clarify and she said another school could "take" my entire curriculum and then not hire a teacher. She said, "Have you thought about where all this is going? I mean, you could be putting yourself out of a job."
I explained to her a few things. I remembered the discussion at the Flipped Class Conference this summer about the potential to abuse this system. Administrators could use this method to put 60 kids in a class with one teacher or even a "facilitator". Teachers could use someone else's videos and not teach at all. I also explained, as an educator, we tend to want to share and help other teachers. If another teachers asks, I will share. Now, if I put a lot of time into developing a project or unit, I may ask for small compensation for my time. But, even that is rare. I know of some teachers that copyright their videos, and I should probably do that as well. I put many of my videos in the Creative Commons, because I certainly welcome other teachers to use my videos with credit if they want. If you find a way to make millions of dollars off of my work, please share. I really don't think I'm putting myself out of a job promoting the flipped method. If anything, I believe I'm opening up more opportunities for myself.
I also explained to her that the system isn't about the videos. The value is what is happening in the classroom. A teacher that uses all my videos will not get the same results as me because he/she is not teaching in the classroom the same way that I am. It isn't a prepackaged format that any one can just adopt.

6. Staff/Student Feedback...

My principal just asked me to present at our staff meeting on Tuesday about what I'm doing. He said, "People should know what you're doing," in an excited tone. I felt it might be a little too early for that. You never know, I could have a major parent revolt next month and be forced to drop it all together. At the moment, all I have as results from my own class is anecdotal, informal observations. My principal is most excited because the kids are giving him very positive feedback. I convinced one of our Middle School Math teachers to flip as well. His kids are saying that they feel Math makes more sense than ever before and they appreciate not having to spend a lot of time on homework they don't understand. My English kids are enjoying the ability to choose what they want to learn when. Most are also feeling more productive in the quality of their work. (Most, but not all, as mentioned above.) It should be noted that some kids are overlapped in both our flipped classes. The kids that are struggling in both classes (the same kids I mentioned above that are behind on their work), are the kids that have some difficulty being held accountable for themselves and their work. One student already asked to be moved out of her math class to a lower class. Of course, the same teacher is flipping the "lower" class, so she would be in the same situation. It appears to us that she was looking forward to blowing off her 8th grade year and do the minimum to get by. With the flipped method, they have to look the teacher in the face every day and admit they didn't put in much effort. We'll see where that goes.

Those are my thoughts from Week 2. We will be taking our 7th graders to a leadership camp for most of this week, so I won't be in the classroom much. I anticipate having some more thoughts on the flipped though. I'm especially interested to see how my 8th graders manage their workload with a substitute. Through Google Video, I can check to see who watched a video and when. I won't be able to check their notes until I return, but I'll know if they are keeping up with the work. I'm still very encouraged and looking forward to meeting all the challenges (and opportunities) the flipped class presents.

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