Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Implementing the Flipped Classroom

So here goes my second post.  After weeks of pondering what to write, I decided to document my journey into the Flipped Classroom model.  I'll have to say that the decision to flip the class was easy.  After years of becoming frustrated with the daily "how my class functions" routine, I was ready for a change.  I was either ready for a change or ready to get out of education.  It had grown that bad.  I teach at a private school and compared to my experience in teaching at a public school, one would wonder why the frustration.  I have great kids in my classes. Overall, they are more dedicated to school and parent involvement is great.  It wasn't the kids I was frustrated with, it was me.  It was school in general.  Standing in front of class day in and day out, expounding on all MY infinite knowledge while students sat bored and disengaged grew frustrating.  I "power pointed" them to death.  I was frustrated that they wouldn't pay attention.  However, I knew that if I was them, I would be bored too.  Heck, I was bored doing it.  I looked forward to lab days because the students were busy and enjoyed what we were doing. I hated lecture days.  Then came the realization that I could flip the class.  I found that a teacher could record lectures, let the students watch them on their own time (for "homework") and then we could work together, in class, on the assignments.  I could TEACH.  I could be a helper and a mentor.  I loved the idea!

So I flipped the classroom.  I started using other teachers' vodcasts (video podcasts) until I could get time to make my own.  I started off by trying it the last two units of the school year last year.  The students loved it.  They like having an excuse to use their computers and cell phones to do "school work".  They like having time in class to do the work and they really liked that I was there to help them.  The grades on the two unit assessments were considerably higher than previous years. I had found the great solution!

Over the summer, I started recording my own lectures.  I spent WAY too much time editing and including music and other things.  My vodcasts were WAY too long.  I found out quickly that there is some work involved in making quality lectures.  It also made me realize how much I talked.  I can imagine just how boring my class lectures must have been!  Then, before I knew it, school started and I was already behind.  I struggled trying to get video lectures prepared in time.  I had students that were moving faster than I could get the materials ready. The good thing is that while I struggled during the first semester, the students were performing well. This new group liked the videos and like having class time to complete the work.  In fact, I ran out of "stuff" for them to do.  I found I needed more activities for them.  This was a "problem" that hadn't happened before. There was never enough time for labs because I spent too much time lecturing.  Now we had time to do other things.

For the second semester, I decided to use videos from other teachers.  Mainly I adopted the videos from Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams .  I also used videos from and others.  This lightened the load quite a bit and I could focus on other aspects of the class such as preparing activities and working on the Mastery side of conducting class (which I'll cover in my next blog).  This semester has been better for me.  I will will strongly emphasize that flipping the classroom room is not a magic bullet.  I was going to address this more in this blog however, Jon Bergmann in his latest blog said everything I wanted to say and better. See the March 15 post .  I can echo that it still takes a dedicated teacher to have success.  I still have students that refuse to do the work.  They refuse to watch the videos.  They copy worksheets.  They do not pass tests.  In other words, they do not take responsibility for their own learning. Flipping the classroom, while encouraging students to be more engaged, does not fix everything.  However, because I have significantly more time to work with students during class, the number of students I have not doing well has decreased.  I believe this is because I can spend more time with them on an individual basis and they can not longer "play school." They have to do their work and they have to master the material to succeed.

Again, a long blog with my ramblings, but that is my intent.  Next post I will discuss more about implementing the Mastery Method of instruction into the class.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Beginning of It All

Well, I am entering into the 21st Century and the realm of Social Networking.  While I have been a Facebook junkie for two years now and a Twitter user for one year, I have never delved into the world of blogging.  After all, I am certainly not a professional writer (as these blogs will show) and I never thought that most folks would care much about what I had to say. So why spend time writing. However, as the past year has gone by I have come to the conclusion that I do have opinions about things education related and perhaps some people will relate to the topics I  bring forth. So here goes another step into the Digital World. A World connected by social and professional networks. I think the ride will be enjoyable.

So a little about myself.  I am a 47 year old chemistry teacher working for a private school located in downtown Dallas, Texas. I have been teaching at this school for 10 years and have been teaching overall for around 13 years. I have recently become a convert to the Flipped-Mastery method of instruction that was pioneered by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams. ( I won't go into a description of the model now as their website does a better job of explaining than I could ever do here. But in short, it has revolutionized the way I now think about education. I was frustrated, bored and disengaged from the learning process until I accidentally stumbled upon these two professionals and their vision for how teaching students can be done in a way that motivates students. The model takes the role of the teacher and transforms it from being one who disseminates knowledge and performs daily through lectures to one that mentors students, helping them to become actively engaged in their own learning rather than being passive observers. I am teaching them to take responsibility for their own learning. I probably spend as much time now teaching them how to learn as I do teaching them chemistry. Chemistry is the tool I use to engaged them in the learning process.

My goal in writing this blog is to share my triumphs and frustrations, my ramblings as I choose to call them. I hope to point fellow teachers to resources that I believe will be a help to them and to openly discuss various topics that impact us in the education field. This blog is not intended to be a one way communication. I welcome and encourage comments and open discussion on the topics presented. I believe in order to improve ourselves and grow as professionals, we must have open dialog. We must become Educators of 21st Century Students.