Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Pedagogical Flips

This week I have been reflecting and focusing on how I will be teaching my class in the 2014-2015 year.  I have flipped my classroom, but now want to incorporate personalized learning and project/inquiry based learning.  I truly believe in these three approaches and see the many benefits, but I did not know how or what this would look like in my middle school science classroom.

I was introduced to the flipped classroom in Fall 2012.  This is the practice of taking what is traditionally done in the classroom, like lectures, and flipping it with what is traditionally done at home, like practice problems.  This practice allows for more interaction with the students, collaboration, labs, etc.  I researched and watched many videos, but initially struggled with the idea of letting go of the lecture.  It was all I knew!  Then, one day it clicked in my head.  My students were not learning material from the Cornell Notes that we took in class, they learned when we applied those concepts in labs and activities.  So, my first flip occurred and I flipped my class.

In Summer 2013, I read the Flipped Classroom book and attended a session at ISTE by the authors of the book.  At the end of the summer, I began thinking about the flipped-mastery approach.  This model allows students to move through the curriculum at their own pace and demonstrate mastery in a variety of ways.  I was not sure how to implement this and how it would look in my classroom, so I held off.  At the beginning of the school year, my principal shared that we would be applying for a personalized learning grant and I became part of the team that would plan for our school.  I quickly found that personalized learning was a lot like flipped-mastery and again, I was sold.  I created a personalized learning / flipped-mastery unit for my 8th graders on astronomy and they loved it.  The feedback I received was extremely positive.  They could move through the curriculum at their own pace and do the assignments in whatever order they wanted.  I was able to have actual, meaningful conversations about the content with each and every student.  I had never done this before and in reflecting, I realized I had my second flip.

This summer I read about project-based learning, which introduces a project at the beginning of a unit and the students learn the material as they progress through the project.  Now, my dilemma is how to include all three techniques that I believe in into one classroom.  Tuesday, I received my new book, Flipped Learning from the authors of the Flipped Classroom.  In the book, they transform from the idea of the flipped classroom to flipped learning.  Flipped learning is when direct instruction is delivered individually and the group learning space is used for interactive learning by applying concepts and engaging creatively.  As I was reading I came across a quote that connected it all for me.  "Flipped learning provides a viable method to escape the tyranny of content-driven instruction to the land of projects and inquiry...This type of learning is more organic and values the passions and interests of the students without denying the value of content knowledge."  And it clicked for me again.  Flip number three.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

OC GAFE Summit

This weekend, I attended the GAFE (Google Apps for Education) Summit in Orange County.  I just had my 2nd baby, Nolan, and have been out since May 12th.  I have not been officially working for almost 3 full months.  Yes, I have been on Twitter, I read a book about PBL, and did a small amount of planning, but nothing like I have done the past couple of summers.  This summit was two days of intense training and amazing keynotes.  Talk about getting back into the game!  In my last session, the presenter stated that she believed every teacher should blog and she challenged us to start blogging.  Challenge accepted!!!

This morning's keynote speaker shared her story and the way she's been so innovative in her classroom, which was truly inspiring.  She had her students creating videos, screencasts, music videos, interacting in Google hangouts, writing grants, and so much more.  Talk about authentic engagement and active learning!  At one point, she talked about how excited she was about technology and she would want to share both her enthusiasm and the new technology, but some teachers would literally run away.  I think  that I am a lot like her in this aspect.  I get so excited about technology, but I have to remember that not everyone is as excited as I am.  For example, when I flipped my classroom, I read about an entire high school that flipped and saw some major changes in the percentage of students passing classes. I was sold and suggested we flip our entire middle school.  If a high school in Detroit, MI could do it, why couldn't a middle school in Riverside, CA?  My very wise administrators said no and told me to take baby steps.  Start with one colleague, then go from there.  I am realizing that teaching your colleagues is no different than teaching your class.  The keynote shared this as well.  I really want my colleagues to embrace technology like I have, but I have to remember that they are individuals and need to be invested in order to fully embrace and learn, just like our students!

 She ended the presentation by stating that these innovations did not just magically happen over night.  They took time and there were lots of failures.  She also stated that we should get out there and present.  So, as I drove the Ortega Highway home, I made a goal for myself to present at a conference within a year.  I don't know what I will present or how, which makes me nervous and anxious, but that's my goal.  Hopefully, my name will be in the program of ISTE or CUE or some other conference and I, Ashley Fulmer, will be a presenter!