Friday, February 28, 2014

Generation "LIKE" - Please LIKE Me on Facebook?

   I've had the privilege of meeting Michelle Krill through professional networking at the Lincoln Intermediate Unit in New Oxford, Pa. Michelle is a dynamic technology coach who recently shared a post about Frontline's special entitled "Generation 'Like'". The program can be viewed HERE, but beware--you will come away with a sense that you had no idea what has been going on in the world of corporate interests, social media, and kids.
   Essentially, corporations have ingeniously (?) manipulated social media and the teens who use it into working for them by advertising and promoting their products. What's more is that social media has forged a new pathway to fame (and fortune, apparently) through self-promotion and networking. It is a brave new world of rising stars, corporate marketing strategies, and social media. It will also lead you to regard the "LIKE" button on Facebook or YouTube with far more gravity than before. So, view this--a must for all parents and teachers--and think about the complexities of a generation of kids who seek to collect "likes" on social media as a prospector pans for gold, creating a divide between how we as parents and educators view social media, and how our kids (and corporations) are using it. I promise you will be enlightened!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Increasing Engagement in the Flipped Classroom: Infographic from EduCanon

   I came across the following infographic developed by Educanon, a website service that allows a teacher to embed a variety of interactive questions directly into a video. This feature enables an educator to create instructional videos that are no longer passive; student engagement and interaction with the video is required when questions and prompts are embedded directly into the video.
   Again, effective teaching practices should drive the use of instructional videos, and creating engagement and interactivity through tools like www.educanon.com is a step in the right direction.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Flipping Out: Avoiding Common Misconceptions about the Flipped Classroom

  "The teacher isn't teaching anymore!"
  "We just watch videos at home and do homework in class."
  "I don't like the flipped classroom. I'm not learning anything."

  If you or your colleagues have explored the use of the flipped classroom model, chances are that you've heard some of these complaints coming from students or parents. Quite honestly, they can be valid concerns, especially in a classroom where the flipped model is not implemented with fidelity or is viewed as a means of saving the teacher time or extra work. Let's put that notion to rest right now. If you are going to look at flipping your classroom, you need to expect that it will require more time and planning than you might think. Thinking otherwise is simply a result of misunderstanding what the flipped classroom really is.
   In its most basic, fundamental form, the flipped classroom is the practice of providing instruction outside of class time--most traditionally in the form of videos--so that class time can be used for more meaningful and engaging activities that build upon, apply or extend the instruction that was provided outside of class time. According to Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, authors of Flipping Your Classroom: Reaching Every Student in Every Class Every Time, this basic understanding of the flipped model is referred to as "Flipped Classroom 101". Fortunately, most teachers who employ this method quickly move past the "101" level as they discover the true power of utilizing technology to augment instruction so that class time can be allocated for pedagogical choices other than "lecture".
   The "flipped classroom" might be a new term, but the concept itself is not new. Good teachers have always provided outside resources to build context for class activities. Reading a chapter in a book or watching a VHS clip prior to the next day's class discussion, for instance, or reviewing a worksheet with procedural directions for the next day's biology lab follow the same idea. The idea of  "pre-teaching" the content or preparing for class by completing exercises or activities outside of class is not a novel concept. What's new is that the term "flipped classroom"also refers to the use of transformative, powerful digital media to convey that content. These tools offer choices that educators didn't have a decade or two ago and now teachers are required to curate this powerful content to enhance student engagement and learning.
   The real power, say Bergmann and Sams, is that today's selection of digital tools empower us to respond to the following key question: what is the very best use of our (teacher and student) class time together? The model forces us to reflect upon our selection of instructional strategies to determine how to most effectively engage, support, and facilitate student learning during class time. Unfortunately, many students (and even more likely--the parents), see the absence of the lecture model as evidence that a teacher "is not teaching". To them, teaching means the ability to sit passively with nominal engagement while the teacher drones on and on at the front of the room. It's not necessary to go into the body of research demonstrating how ineffective a persistent lecture model is, let alone the fact that it allows for very little differentiation of instruction to meet student needs. But here is where a teacher needs to be careful. If you are no longer the "sage on the stage", what do you do with class time if you are making content available outside of class? If you see this model as an opportunity to simply provide video lectures so you can kick back while students do worksheets or homework during class time, then you are doing a disservice to your students, your self, and to others who effectively employ a flipped classroom model. So what should you be doing?
   First, the rich selection of quality instructional media--yes, even videos--should not serve to replace your role as the content expert. In many cases, teachers employing the model actually incorporate videos of their own direct instruction to sustain the trust relationship between teacher and student. Should you choose to provide instruction outside of class, then be prepared to respond to the key question which is, again, making the determination as to what the most effective use of class time really is. It is not watching students work on activities while you grade papers or check emails. Second, flipping a class should empower you to work far more closely with your students--individually or in small groups. Activities should be purposeful and meaningful, requiring students to utilize higher order thinking skills to apply what was taught to authentic or real world problems. While they do so, you should be fully engaged with your students during that class time, conducting formative assessments, guiding, mentoring, facilitating, measuring, and clarifying as you monitor students in action and determine where greater support or instruction needs to take place. No longer the "sage on the stage", you are now empowered to roll up your sleeves and "meddle in the middle" (credit forthcoming) of student learning while it takes place in your classroom. Finally, the placement of resources and instructional support within a content management system like Moodle provides students the opportunity to go back, review, and relearn material when needed. Finally, flipping a class affords the opportunity to differentiate instruction and meet more student needs. As you monitor progress and evaluate your formative assessment feedback, you can structure activities and yes, even additional instructional videos, to meet the unique needs of your students.
   The flipped classroom model provides a framework for making the best use of class time with your students. You are not only a content expert, but a digital curator of educational resources, an ongoing diagnostician of student performance, and the creator of prescriptive strategies designed to meet students where they are with the goal of moving them forward. While the concept behind the flipped classroom is not new, we have never had such an abundance of resources available to radically transform how--and when-- we teach. The key will be convincing your parents and students that "teaching" no longer means talking at the front of the classroom for the entire period, all day, every day.

For further exploration, check out these links: