Thursday, December 20, 2012

A 20% Success!

Meet Kacy (not her real name).  She's a student of mine.  She's a fairly typical student.  She is bright and capable, but also has her difficulties.  She is a quiet kid, at least to adults.  She is cordial and polite when I talk to her directly, but rarely asks questions on her own.

During the whole process of completing her 20% project, she changed directions 3 or 4 different times.  She finally settled on learning to play a song on the guitar.  She didn't keep up with her weekly blog, so it was difficult for me to monitor her progress.  Since the project isn't really graded, I concerned myself more with helping her in other areas of need and hoped she was making progress on her 20% project.

Then yesterday happened.  The students began presenting their 20% projects to the class.  Coincidentally, another teacher got unexpectedly ill and couldn't find a sub.  So, I took one of her classes in my room so she could leave.  Therefore, the audience was larger than just their classmates with several students that had no idea what our 20% project was about.

I let the students volunteer their order of presenting.  Some were excited to be first or second and take center stage.  As volunteer after volunteer jumped up, I could see her make anxious eye contact with me.  She seemed eager to go, but apprehensive to volunteer.  Finally, we had a moment where no one volunteered and I said, "Kacy, are you ready to present?"  She jumped up with excitement, but then, like many teens, tried to play it off like she wasn't excited.

She went to the corner of the room and grabbed a guitar case she had left earlier.  In her presentation, she talked about her difficulty in deciding on her project.  She discussed how she decided to learn to play a song on the guitar and the process she went through.  I limited their presentations to 5 minutes.  At the end, she sheepishly asked if she could play her song even though it would go over her 5 minutes.  Of course, there was no way I could say no.

Then she sat down, and began playing a Taylor Swift song.  She also sang the lyrics which surprised us all.  She made a mistake part of the way through and had to stop and re-position her fingers.  She began playing again and made another mistake.  This time, she put her head down in embarrassment.  Then, the class began encouraging her on.  Multiple students told her what a wonderful job she was doing.  And the tears began to fall.  But they were tears of joy.  She finished the song to roaring applause. She was clearly uncomfortable with the attention, but was proud of herself at the same time.

When I conceptualized the 20% project for my class, I never imagined this. I thought many of them would learn something valuable to themselves.  I hoped some of them would be proud of themselves and maybe even inspire others.  I never expected tears and such a bonding moment for my class.  What a wonderful gift heading into our holiday break!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Musical Flip

Two years ago, I took on the wonderful, but time consuming task of directing our school's Spring Musical.  These are middle school kids very few with an interest in doing serious theater in the future.  So, rehearsal time needs to be very efficient and focused or it turns into chaos.  And, believe it or not, I am also the Yearbook Adviser and our Yearbook goes to the printer 1 week before the Musical Show.  The more production I can get out of each rehearsal, the fewer rehearsals needed!

Last year, I recorded our rehearsals when choreography was taught and the students were expected to review the videos later and continue to practice.  This year, I had epiphany.  Why not flip the rehearsals?  This year, I am appointing a small team of Dance Leaders.  I will teach the choreo to this small group and record them doing the number.  Then, cast members will be expected to watch the videos prior to rehearsals so they have an idea of what the choreo will be.

I was going to put one of the videos here as an example, but my top notch choreographer copyrights her material and doesn't want it pilfered from YouTube.  I respect that.  So, I just put up photos of last year's cast (mainly because I'm super proud of them) and am looking forward to this years show!

Monday, November 19, 2012

How I improvised my 20% Project

My head is all abuzz from the night I just had....and no alcohol was involved.

Tonight, I had my "final presentation" for my personal 20% Project.

In the past, I've blogged about the 20% Project I have my students do. It is a great experience for them and I'm saddened when a student doesn't take the opportunity to learn something meaningful for them. This semester, I allowed my students to work in groups and some chose the group over their project. In other words, they sacrificed doing a project they really wanted to do in order to work with a specific person or group.

As I was brainstorming how to inspire them next semester, I thought, how could I model the process for them. Then it hit my own 20% Project. I kicked around some ideas and decided there was one thing I really have wanted to learn for a long time, but never had the courage to do....Improv Comedy!

So, for the past 8 weeks, every Monday night I met with 10 other aspiring improvers and learned games, practiced techniques, developed scenes, and had a wonderful time. I even used some of the games with my students to teach some aspects of storytelling and purchased a book about improv games in the classroom.

Tonight, we ended the class with a public performance attended by about 25 of our friends and family. Fittingly, it was our best performance in the 8 weeks. After the show, several of us went out for a celebratory dinner. One of my classmates asked us all why we took the class to begin with. We all had different reasons; One person wanted to be a profession improv comedian, a couple wanted to improve on public speaking skills, and some just thought it sounded like fun. But, whatever the reason, we all had that internal motivation to learn something new whether it had a practical application or not.

I know it sounds cliche, but I really can't put into words the effect this class had on me. I do, however, know I want my students to experience the same rewarding feeling I had. I'm going to share with my students about my journey these past 8 weeks and let them see the enthusiasm that is created by learning something for the sake of learning.

The Level 2 class starts in January and most, if not all, of our makeshift troupe plans to continue this journey together. I challenge anyone considering or doing a 20% Project with their students to do one of their own. The personal fulfillment was so much more than I anticipated. Now, I just need to get the courage to take the next step in this adventure....inviting students to my next public performance.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Using YouTube's New Quizzing Feature

I've seen quite a lot of tweets lately about YouTube's new quizzing feature currently in beta format.  All the tweets I see link articles that give me the same "press release" announcement, so I wanted to try it out for myself. This isn't really a review, as the feature is in beta and not meant to be full functional.

The first trick is activating the feature.  It doesn't just automatically appear.  You need to go here and opt-in to the beta for your YouTube account.  Once you've done that, it is available in your YouTube channel.

To use it, go to the video you want to add the quiz to and click "edit".

After that, click on the "Questions" tab.

From there, it is pretty self explanatory. Just click, "add question" and you get this screen:

It's really that simple.  Much easier than adding several Annotations to make your own quiz feature.  There aren't many options to make the questions more appealing.  But, I'm guessing they may add that in later.

Now, for the analytics...
Remember, this is in beta, so I didn't expect it to be perfect yet.  With Annotations, the analytics tell you which annotations were clicked, by how many people, etc.  With the quizzing analytics, at the moment, it just tells you if an answer was chosen or if the user closed the video.  Not much detail at the moment.

Also, another limitation over annotations is that your can not jump to different videos or a different part of the video based on the viewers answer.  If they answer incorrectly, they are prompted with a hint and the video remains paused.  If they click correctly, the video just starts playing again.

I like the promise of this feature, but since it is still in beta, it doesn't have a lot of functionality yet.

Here is the video I added the quiz to if you want to see how the quiz looks and operates. The quiz is 23 seconds in:


Please note this is just a simple practice quiz and not intended to be something identical to what I would use with my students.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why I'm Apprehensive About Sharing My Videos

That inevitable questions always seems to come up...
"Is there a place where we can see your videos?" 

I'm asked this question every time I present to an audience of new flippers.  A substitute at my school even asked the other day because she wanted to show them to her daughter.  And, every time the question is asked, I cringe a bit. I'm hesitant to tell them my YouTube Channel has over 70 videos public and nearly that many private or unlisted. I couldn't understand why that was my initial reaction. I'm not ashamed of my videos. Some people are embarrassed to have their face seen by strangers. Others worry their content isn't "up to snuff". I got over that a long time ago. There isn't anything a stranger can say about my videos that my brutally honest middle school students haven't shared. So, why the apprehension?

Then, last night while I was working on my presentation for NCTE in November, it hit me.  I was thinking back to a conversation I had last year at NCTE with a well-respected teacher that was anti-flip. His biggest complaint was that flipping was just bad lecture on video. He asked if I could share with him what I thought was my best video.  I told him that was difficult because the video is not the biggest piece of the flip. What happens in my class time is the key component.  So, my best videos are the ones that complement what the students do in class and allow them to receive small bits of content efficiently and asynchronously. Replaying the conversation in my head made me realize that is where my apprehension lies. If my videos are viewed isolated from the entire learning cycle, they aren't that special. Letting strangers view my videos independently gives them an incomplete picture of what is really happening in my class.  My hesitation then is not because I don't want them to see my video, but rather I don't want them to have an incomplete understanding of what #flipclass is and judge it based on that.

For those that want to see my videos, here is my YouTube Channel. But, if you really want to see what my flipped class is all about, you need to visit my classroom, talk to my students, and see our pre- and post- video discussions to really grasp what is happening.

Added Note:  Visit a Flipped Class in your area on one of the Flipped Class Open House days. You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Using Google Docs and Explain Everything to do Video Writing Feedback on an iPad

I like doing video feedback for my students so they can not only see the suggestions I make, but also hear my suggestions. A goal of mine this year is to find a more efficient way to do this so I can give more feedback to each student.

Since our school is a GAfE school, I wanted to find a way to incorporate Google Docs into the process. I knew of some apps on the iPad others were using to make quick videos and so the following is the process I came up with.

Using Chrome (although it is possible with other iOs browsers) on the iPad, I open the students' Google Doc and take a screen shot of it. If you don't know how to do a screen shot with an iPad, it's simple. Just click the home button and the sleep/wake button on the top at the same time. You'll hear a click sound like a camera taking a picture and you're done.
It will look like this:

Next, I open Explain Everything. An app that costs $2.99. You could also use ScreenChomp or Educreations, which are free apps. The biggest decider for me was that Explain Everything allows direct uploads to YouTube where the others do not.

In Explain Everything, I select the icon for new project and get the options below:

I choose "Import from photo" and select the screenshot I took of the student's work. Once in Explain Everything, I size it to fit the way I want and then record my critiques as I also write them using a stylus pen.

You can also pause the recording and re-start in order to prevent dead air and wasted time. After the recording is finished, I select upload to YouTube. I could also email the file and it send it as an mp4 file. I chose YouTube instead so as to not have to worry about if students had a computer able to view mp4 files.

That whole process takes me 4-7 minutes per students. I think that is reasonable to give students feedback on one page of their writing. You also have the option to import from Dropbox and use a full pdf of the document.

Now, this is where the process slows down significantly. Once I hit upload to YouTube, Explain Everything must first compress the files, then goes to another screen to "finish compressing", then goes to another screen to upload to YouTube. This process can take 15 minutes or more. Fortunately, I don't have to sit at the iPad while this is happening. It would nice to have a batch upload option. As it is now, I set it to upload and check on it every 15 minutes. I then hit the next one to upload.

After it is uploaded, you have the option to send via Email which I do and then the students have a link to a private video critique of their work.

And the process is over. Like I said, the critique process doesn't take long. It is the uploading process that is time consuming. If I find a better way, I'll let you know. If you know a better way, please share.

UPDATE: I found a quick way to compress and upload video.  Under the the export menu, select "preference" and change the video settings.  When I changed the resolution to 640x480 and the quality to medium, it still had enough resolution to be read fine, but significantly lowered the video size.  The upload time for these are less than 5 minutes.  Now we're getting somewhere!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My 20 Percent Project Revisions

Last year, I did a 20% project experiement with my 7th and 8th graders.  I blogged about the start of it here. I've been spending the summer reflecting and discussing with other teachers Kate Petty (@techclassroom), Amie Trahan (@amiet731), Cheryl Morris (@guster4lovers), and others, trying to decided how best to proceed.

The issues I ran into last year:
Issue #1.  Accountability.  I didn't grade the final product.  I asked them to blog weekly on their progress, but didn't assess it in anyway.  I checked their blogs and had a discussion with them frequently about their progress, but had no consequence if they weren't making progress.  I wanted the students to focus on a learning objective and not a grade objective.  I knew some students would take advantage of that and not produce anything, but I wanted to see exactly how many.  In the end, I had about 20-30% of the students complete very little to nothing.
I go back and forth on this one.  The reason we require accountability in schools, as I see it, is to make sure they learn certain skills.  As I was evaluating this process, I realized I need to determine what it is I want them to learn.  I need to tie this project to a skill or standard.  Then, I don't have to focus necessarily on holding them accountable, but more what I want them to learn.  Therefore, I determined my goals for this project best fit all or part of 5 Common Core Standards:
SL1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
SL1-c: Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others’ questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas.
SL4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
SL5: Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.

L4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
L4-c: Consult general and specialized reference materials.
W6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others. 
So, that was my first change.  Now, as I assess (for my own purposes, not a grade) their progress, I can refer back to these objectives to make sure they are on their way to mastering these skills.  The project could meet other standards, but I choose to focus on these in this project.  Unfortunately, showing creative initiative isn't a CCSS.

 Issue #2:  How do you guide without deciding for the student?  I had some students that were stuck in the deciding/planning stages way too long.  Or, they would begin one project, then change, then change, etc.  This goes back to accountability somewhat.  But, I need to find that balance between pushing the students to move forward and allowing them the freedom to explore.  I like Kevin Bookhauser's reference to The Done Manifesto and to Facebook's creed: Done is better than perfect.
The other part of this issue was that some kids are so grade-driven and/or teacher-pleasing that they want to know what I expect from them.  I kept telling them, I just want to see a creative project.  But, they wanted to a visual, an example, of what is "good".  I combated this by praising every idea or acting genuinely excited to see the outcome.  I believe that freed some students up to take risks they might not have tried before.
 The change I made here is I've decided I'm going to have to give some "checkpoint" deadlines.  Adding in a proposal stage early on to make sure they're on target to move forward.  Adding an adult mentor to the equation in order to have one more accountability piece.  And, adding a presentation at the end gives them manageable deadlines, but forces them to make progress on something.

Issue #3:  A whole year or one semester?  My experiment lasted one semester.  I've considered making this a year long project like others do.  In the end, I decided, for my students, I think one semester is best.  That way, they can refocus on a new project the second semester and correct decisions they made first quarter.  If a student is really into their project, they can continue on and make it even better.  However, this gives them a fresh start to regroup and improve.

Here is how I plan to lay out the project to my students (note: this is borrowed heavily from Kevin Bookhauser and Kate Petty):

    1. You may work alone or with a small group. Choose your group wisely. It is not acceptable to abandon partners mid-project.
    2. Choose a project that is new to you and something you wouldn't normally do in another academic class.
    3. Choose an adult mentor with special knowledge related to your project and set up a schedule to meet with them regularly (in person or via Skype). Mentor must be approved by Mr. Cockrum before the proposal is due.
    4. Write up a proposal and pitch it to the rest of the class that includes a purpose, audience, timeline, and resources you will need to complete the project.
    5. Reflect on the process once a week in your blog. Posts need to be 200 words minimum.
    6. If at any moment you feel lost, overwhelmed, or uninspired, you must set a meeting with me to find a solution.
    7. At the end of the semester, you will present your project and reflect on the process in a five-minute TED-style talk in front of other students, teachers, and community members.

      The proposal will be a completion grade.  If the student has a proposal that addresses rule 4 in the proposal they get credit.
      The blog posts will average out to a completion grade.  I put all their blogs in Google Reader and I can check to see how many new blog posts they have.  If a student is not keeping up, we can have a discussion about why or a different way they can document their progress. 
      The presentation at the end is a completion grade.  Give a presentation about a completed project and the student gets the grade.

      The point totals will be enough so that the students take it seriously, but not enough to really hurt their course grade if they don't do well.  I don't want them afraid to take risks. 

      I am also considering ways Amie Trahan and I can get our classes to collaborate on projects, so I may revise slightly based on that. However, these are the changes I plan to go with this year on my 20% percent project.

      I'd love to hear about your 20% projects.

      Tuesday, July 24, 2012

      My real-world #flipclass lesson

      Spending a week along the Gulf Islands in Alabama and Florida, I was watching for a chance to do something I've wanted to try for a longtime now: standup paddle boarding (or SUP). Yesterday, I found Onboard Fitness near Fort Pickens and set up a time for this morning.

      I spent a lot time on the Internet learning about SUP and how to do it. Surely, that was enough for me to be a seasoned paddler, right?

      When I arrived at the site, I surveyed the water and noticed a strong wind heading west-to-east. Being an experienced kayaker, I knew to paddle upstream first, because returning downstream when you're fatigued is much easier. I guessed the same strategy applied here. Once I checked in and got my board, the attendant told me the same thing. He suggested I start into the wind because the return would be much easier. Awesome! I had used previously learned content from another discipline and applied it here. I was well on my way.

      The attendant pushed the board into the water for me and explained a few last minute details like how to find the center of the board. "Blah, blah, blah," I thought. "I learned all this on the Internet. Just let me get on the board." The attendant adjusted the paddle to my height, which I wouldn't have known how to do. "That wasn't on the Internet."

      Then the time came, I got ready to step on the board and realized I had no idea how to get on without immediately falling off. The attendant held the board in place while I climbed on. I guess I needed him a little bit. Later I watched a more experienced person get on her board and learned the proper technique for launching a board yourself. Oh yeah, and that more experienced paddler was a 12 year old girl.

      I paddled around the bay learning different skills as I glided across the water. Since you can only paddle one side at a time, I was inefficiently going in a zigzag line. After about 20 minutes of this, I realized if you lean your weight to one side while paddling, you can keep a relatively strait path.

      My feet were getting extremely sore. I realized I was too tense trying to keep my balance with my feet. I knew from surfing, you need to relax your feet and balance with your core. So, I tried that.

      Again, I knew from kayaking that you can turn tighter if you paddle backwards. But, it took a turn almost running me into a buoy before I remembered that detail.

      I had the board for 2 hours, but returned it about 30 minutes early because my feet were cramping, I was sweating from the sun beating down on me, and I was just finished.

      So, what did I learn about #flipclass from this adventure?

      1) Although I thought I knew a lot from reading on the Internet, the was a lot I would never have learned without getting on the board and actually doing it. How many times prior to me flipping did I ask students to use material learned without them actually doing it first?

      2) I wouldn't have gotten on the board successfully with the attendant's help. How many times do students need our help just getting on the board? If that was my SUP test, I would have failed. Not because I didn't know at least the basics of SUP, but because I didn't know how to get started.

      3) Previously learned content from another discipline was very helpful.

      4) I knew not to paddle with the wind, but the attendant advised me anyway. Had I not known and he not said, I most likely would have take the path of least resistance, literally, and paddled too far out of my ability to return safely. Some things just need to be said to avoid almost certain failure.

      5) I returned early because I was too fatigued to continue and I was satisfied with my outing. How many times has a student turned in incomplete work and we thought the to just be lazy or apathetic? With a flipped class, I can see the student is fatigued and satisfied at the moment what he or she completed.

      6) Once I returned, walking was difficult because of the tenseness in my feet. What would happen if I had to go paddleboard another waterway for an hour immediately after? I would certain not succeed. How many times are kids sent home with mentally taxing homework and once they finish, they have to start on another mentally taxing assignment?

      I gained a lot of knowledge in the short time I was on the board. I was given the freedom,with minimal instruction, to just get on the board and practice. I remember a surfing lesson I took several years ago that spent nearly an hour of on the beach instruction telling me how to surf. Once I got in the water, that instruction was useless. And, each time I fell, I paddled to shore and the instructor would tell me what I did wrong. I didn't truly learn how to surf until I rented a board and just tried over and over again until I found success.

      If I was graded on my SUP experience, I probably would have earned a C or B-. Good thing this was only practice.

      As I was leaving the SUP rental dock, the attendant told me, "We also have onboard yoga every morning!" Unless this is going to be on the state standardized test, I have no interest in advancing my skills that much.


      Thursday, July 12, 2012

      Reading at Home Discussing in Class Part II

      I consistently hear Flipped Class speakers, presenters, proponents, and even some opponents make the statement, "English teachers have flipped for years. They have students read at home and then they discuss in class."

      I blogged on this last October, but recent events have compelled me to blog again. My previous blog post convinced some to stop using that example. However, at ISTE and the Flipcon, I heard it more often in a few presentations and discussions on Flipped Class.

      I am bothered by that assertation because I believe it doesn't fit the core basis of what is a flipped classroom. Here's why:

      1) Reading at home is usually not a lower level processing skill. In a flipped environment, we offload material that takes lower level processing skills and place it in a technology that can be consumed at a time and place of the students' choosing. Unless my students are reading for purely entertainment value, they need to be processing what they've read using reading comprehension skills and making connections to previously learned content. In other words, they should be applying what they've learned at this point and not simply consuming information. If they are unable to do this, I need to be assessing why that is and how we can fix that, which is difficult if they are reading at home.

      2) Discussion isn't individualized instruction. As teachers, we use discussion to create connections and deeper thought on a topic. I think we've all had students that are very good at manipulating the "system" to make it look like they comprehended the reading. Whether they are mimicking others' comments, talking a lot on the easy questions so they can avoid being called on for other questions, or reading spark notes right before class to get enough of an understanding to BS their way through. And, the kids that clearly aren't getting it aren't getting the 1 on 1 attention that would be helpful for them. If some content is not understood by the group and the teacher must derail the discussion for a lesson, that usually become direct instruction. I'm not saying we should never do whole group discussions. I'm just saying they don't make for a flipped classroom.

      Here's an example:
      I use Lord of the Flies to teach about symbolism. I send my kids home to read and then we discuss the symbolism in class. What if my students don't know the definition of symbolism? Then I need an instructional step, maybe a video to explain it. Now, they know the definition, I still can't just send them out to read. Because, as we all know, knowing the definition and even understanding what symbolism is, does not mean a student can identify it. So, I believe I need to get my students to at least the identifying stage before I can comfortably send them home to read on their own. Then, class time can be used for analyzing and evaluating the symbolism. Ultimately, I'd like to get them to the creating stage of using symbolism in their own writing. If I can't get them to those higher level stages in class with me, then simply reading at home is not a productive use of their time.

      I suppose one could argue that reading at home is creating a desire for the tools necessary for understanding and the discussion is the application of that understanding. In that regards, that would appear to me to be Explore-Flip-Apply (EFA) without the flip. In that regards, we're missing an instructional step in the learning cycle.

      Why does this matter?
      Well, as we progress with the Flipped Class movement in Language Arts, we want a clear understanding of what Flipped Class is. We can agree it looks different in every class and there is no prescriptive model, but oversimplifying to the point where people believe that reading at home discussing in class is a flipped model is detrimental to our growth. We will lose potential supporters and future flippers. We minimize what it is we do and how hard we work to create a student-centered environment. I want people to know I do a lot more in my class than send kids home to read and discuss it in class.

      I'd love to hear your opinion.

      Thursday, July 5, 2012

      English Flippers Summit Announced

      The date has been set for Tuesday, July 10 at 8 pm Eastern.

      I'm seeing a need and now I'm trying to fill it......
      At last year's (2011) Flipped Class Conference, I met 3 English teachers out of approx. 150 attendees. So, this entire past school year, I have been searching for English teachers using a flipped model in their classroom and haven't found many at all (probably less than 10). That doesn't mean they aren't out there. They just weren't active in blogging or tweeting or presenting, etc where I could find them. I envied the math and science teachers that could collaborate on videos, bounce specific ideas off each other, and commiserate together. I took what I could from the math and science folks and customized it to my class. But, when I would turn to them for some very specific implementation advice, I commonly heard, "Well, I really don't know much about English....." Not that they wouldn't help me, they just didn't have the experience to help me in that situation.

      At NCTE in November, I searched and searched for English flippers again and blogged about it. There were no sessions on flipping. I heard one presenter mention that she was planning to flip her class during her presentation. Everyone I talked to or tweeted during NCTE gave me one of three responses: "ummm....what's flipping?", "I like the concept behind flipping, I just haven't done it and am not sure where to start", or "you can't flip an English class." I'm oversimplifying their responses, but that is mainly what I got.

      Then came this summer....
      I presented at the Flipped Class Conference (2012). There were 300+ attendees. My session was one of the first sessions after the opening keynote. There were approx. 40 people in my session and I asked how many were English teachers. About 30 hands went up!

      In addition, many people began actively tweeting about being or becoming an English flipper. Cheryl Morris, Erica Speaks, Carrie Ross, and Andrew Thomasson are just a few of the tweeps starting to come out. In true flip fashion, it appeared a grassroots movement was taking off.

      In private conversations with all these different individuals, it appeared to me that since this English flippers movement was growing, we could benefit from a common direction. We all had a lot of the same questions and were piecing together answers. I was thinking during a morning run one day, "Wouldn't it be great if we could get all the current and new English flippers together and discuss our common concerns, questions, and intentions?" Then, it hit me.....through the power of the internet, we could.

      So, introducing the first English Flippers Summit (if you have a better name, do share). I crowd-sourced the idea at ISTE12 and decided to try an open webinar. The date has been set for Tuesday, July 10 at 8 pm Eastern. The summit can be found here (I will tweet out the link closer to the date as a reminder). We will cap it at 1 hour. If we are still going strong at 1 hour, we'll plan another one. I want this summit to be an opportunity to "meet" each other and generate some English flipped dialogue. Where it goes, I do not know. I don't know if we'll solve anything or if we even need to solve anything. But, with so many new English flippers out there, it would be nice to connect with resources. It's free. If it turns out to be worthless, it will only take an hour of your day.

      Stacy Roshan told me once, as a math teacher, she used to walk by English classrooms and envy those teachers because of the exciting activities they could do in their classrooms. Because of the flip, that has flipped (pun intended). Let's figure out a way to make those math and science teachers envy us again!

      Friday, January 20, 2012

      What does Apple's Announcement Mean for the Flipped Class

      I'm sure most tech savvy educators have heard about Apple announcement Thursday regarding iBooks 2 and iBook Author. I received an email from my cousin, who works at an Apple Store, early on Thursday highlighting the announcement. I got the impression from his email that he was buying into the Apple hype that these products would revolutionize education.

      It's still early and all the details aren't fleshed out yet. Initially, I wasn't particularly impressed. Sure, a multimedia textbook on an iPad can be more engaging than a traditional textbook. However, from my perspective, in the past 5 years, I've used my textbooks a total of maybe 10 times. That doesn't mean I don't follow a curriculum and meet standards. I just don't believe the textbook is the best way to do that. Would iPad textbooks change that for me? I believe, as Jac de Haan of Technology With Intention said in a recent blog post, "It is still a one-way delivery system." Or, as Ronnie Burt of puts it in his recent blog post, even with iBook textbooks, "(s)tudents are still thought of as 'content consumers' in this scenario as opposed to active participants."

      I had this discussion with a Middle School math teacher at my school. He has joined me this year by flipping his class, but he uses textbook publisher provided video tutors. He still sticks strictly to the content provided by the textbook. I asked him, or rather challenged him, to see if he felt he could teach his class without a textbook. He wasn't sure that he could.

      I expressed my concern to him that this announcement by Apple didn't revolutionize the way education would be delivered. It just revised how textbook teaching could/would be delivered. My co-worker made a good observation. He pointed out that, when it comes to infusing technology and a student-centered learning environment, I was ahead of the curve. He speculated that the ability to have pre-packaged content on a device like the iPad could pull more teachers into a better teaching environment. Maybe? Maybe not?

      I have an iPad that I use personally and a classroom iPad the kids share. I also have laptop carts that creates almost a 1-to-1 environment. I've implemented a small BYOD program and approximately 15% of my students bring their own device. So, I certainly have the ability to use multimedia textbooks. Given Apple's history though, I do have concerns about the cross-platform compatibility of the iBooks textbooks.

      As I read another Jac de Haan post, I began to think about the use of iBook Author with my Flipped Class. Currently, I used Google Apps for Education to organize my classroom content. I am very happy with the ease of the management system I've developed and the students and parents are as well. However, there is an outside possibility I could move to a 1-to-1 iPad environment next school year (those who know me personally, please don't start speculating or spreading rumors). That aside, I am intrigued by the possibility of using iBook Author to, in essence, create a textbook for my class. This "textbook" however would be populated with content that I have created for my Flipped Class along with other resourceful content that ties in. In addition, I could place in assignments, interactive elements, etc. specific to my class. I still need to explore this idea more in order to determine all the applicability of this process. But, I'm thinking it could become a Classroom Management System of it's own.

      In addition, if I'm distributing my content via iPad, I could, in theory, shoot my video with the iPad, and even edit content with my iPad if I choose, making everything more streamlined and compatible. I can see a not very tech savvy teacher that is hesitant to flip his or her class finding this method appealing.

      I'm still holding out judgement on the ramifications of this announcement by Apple. I'm not sure the iBooks textbooks are a huge game-changer quite yet. However, the ability to create a one-stop Classroom Management System for Flipped Classroom teachers in the form of a textbook could be a real bonus, especially if you're already working in a 1-to-1 iPad school. In the meantime though, I'm certainly taking notice and plan to begin experimenting more to see the potential of iBooks Author.

      Where do you think this could go? Could this development help or hurt the Flipped Class momentum? Feel free to weigh in.

      Monday, January 9, 2012

      My Google 20% Project

      This summer, I got to attend the Google Teacher Academy in Seattle. I came away with multitude of ideas for my classroom. I had one idea inspired by Google's "20 Percent Time" policy. If you aren't familiar with Google's 20 Percent Time, in a nutshell, it is that Googlers can spend 20 percent of their work time (and resources) on a personal interest project. The idea is to give their employees more autonomy in their work environment and foster more motivation/inspiration for creative work.

      With that in mind, I wanted to motivate my students in the same way. I was implementing too many other new concepts/projects in the first semester to add this into the mix. I decided to work the project through in my head for a few months and introduce it in the second semester, which began last week. Coincidentally, almost the same day I introduced my project, AJ Juliani blogged about his 20% project.

      I introduced it to my 7th and 8th grade Accelerated English classes as a "20% Project". Initially, I didn't cover the Google part (and, for the record, Google isn't the only company to do this, nor was it the first company to do it) right away. I explained to my students that they can do any project they want related to English and use 20% of their class work time (or 1 day per week) to work on that project. The other 80% of their time should be devoted to assigned work. Since these classes are also flipped classes, having plenty of in-class work time would not be a problem.

      I didn't say how the students would be graded or even if they would be graded. I told them I only ask that they blog about their progress weekly. I gave them no rubric, no accountability lecture, nothing. Just said that I'm hoping to get some creative and unique projects from them.
      My 7th graders were the first to learn about the project. Tons of questions began to fly. What do you mean any project we want? I threw out a few ideas (screenplay, documentary, etc.). How do we tie it to English? My answer was, "Why don't you just decide what it is you want to do for a project, and I'll help you tie it into English?" I didn't want to tie their hands at all. There were a lot of questions about what they could do, but not one single question about grades, points, rubrics or anything. I was surprised and impressed that my students were already embracing the idea.
      My 8th graders had the same initial response. Really? You mean, we can do anything we want? Yep! Finally, a student asked, "How many points is this worth?" I just responded, "I'll get to that." and moved on. The question didn't come up again. Later in class, while the students were working on their current assignment, I pulled the student aside and explained to her why I don't want her focused on a grade. I just told her to focus on the project and have fun with it. She got it once I explained "the research" behind it. Quite simply, I told her, I want this to be an outcome or learning goal and not a performance or grade goal.

      My 7th graders have really taken to it. As a matter of fact, they are spending more than 20% of their time on their project right now. I'm allowing them some time to develop that balance. I love to see them excited, but I don't want them to forget their assigned work.

      My 8th grade was a slightly different story. About half of them were immediately excited to get started. The other half were working diligently on their poetry anthology due at the end of the week because they were behind on their work. During class today, there was a group of 3 girls looking at a laptop screen and one said, "He's so cute." I wandered by and saw a Google Image Search of the boy-of-the-week. I reminded them to re-focus on their work and one of the girls blurted out, "20% project!" I treated it light-heartedly this time and said, "I'm confident you'll come up with something better."

      I'm sure this will be a problem for a few of the students. And, I can probably tell you exactly which ones will try to take advantage of the freedom. How I will handle that yet, I don't know. If it becomes a problem, I will have specific conversations with those students.

      I'm excited to see what projects the students come up with. I'm also hopeful the students will learn to balance their time between multiple projects. They already do that with my flipped class, but this will add a level of independence they've not had the opportunity to explore. So, as I take on this adventure, I'll blog more updates. I may also share some of my students' blogs, with their permission, down the road. In the meantime, I'm going to sit back and enjoy the show!