Posts in Firefly Classroom

Creative Play and Genius Hour

Recently, my school was honored to be selected to be a new chapter of the Imagination Foundation with me being the chapter leader.  While I’m still learning all the perks and training that goes along with the chapter status, I have been thinking a lot about how the work that the Imagination Foundation does applies to my own practice.

For 5 years as a classroom teacher, I implemented a 20% Time Project similar to what many people know as  20 Time or Genius Hour. Each semester, I would tweak the process to meet the needs of my students and find out what works best to get the most from them. If you aren’t familiar with Genius Hour or 20 Time, it is simply a project wherein students are given class/school time to learn anything they want. I am also a doctoral student at Indiana University and one of my research interests is finding actionable models or frameworks for implementing 20 Time and Genius Hour in any classroom or school setting.

This school year, in my role as Director of Innovative Teaching at a K-8 school, I am embarking on a journey to build this concept school-wide. I will be working with 3rd-8th graders directly and K-2nd graders with their teachers to implement a Genius Hour project as a “special”.

I’m lesson planning and coming up with inspirational videos for multiple grade levels, while at the same time reviewing the Imagination Foundation materials and I became very interested in their concept of the Process of Creative Play. As they describe it on their website, “In this process, kids open up their minds to what’s possible, take chances, solve problems, collaborate and become better creative thinkers and doers. ” This is exactly what I’m striving to achieve with Genius Hour and 20 Time.

The five components of Creative Play are Inspire, Imagine, Build, Play, and Share. Their provided infographic explains it well.

Source: Imagination Foundation

I always tell my students the best projects inspire someone else to want to do the same. As I examine the components and think about how I can purposefully implement them with my students, one piece really resonates with me. The Share component is vital because that is how students can inspire others….by sharing. This idea of sharing to connect I  got from following the work of George Couros and Rusthon Hurley.  The epiphany I had today was that the process was cyclical.  I want my students to be inspired, to imagine, to build and play, and then ultimately share so that they inspire someone else to begin that process.  How can I do this? Through Genius Hour and Creative Play!

 

Featured Image from gfpeck

8 Reasons Why a Flipped Classroom Works

Many people ask me why Flipped Learning works and so I came up with 8 reasons why it worked for me.

1. Individualized instruction

It is amazingly rewarding when I can sit down with all my students and discuss their work one-on-one. I can invest the time in each student because I now have the time. I’m able to focus more of my attention on every student.

2. Community

In a flipped class students have more time to collaborate with each other. My students are constantly reading and revising each other’s work, brainstorming ideas together, and making the working process communal. They want to work together and help each other. They are all invested in each other’s success. My students became a community!

3. Self-pacing or Guided-pacing

I do have deadlines that must be met, so I call my class “guided-pacing”, as opposed to totally self-paced. However, what students work on when is up to them. If their creativity isn’t sparked that day, they work on something that may require some lower level skills like watching a video or completing some grammar exercises. Others will storm into my room beaming with energy. They are enthusiastic to get working right away because they just can’t wait to get these ideas out. When I see a student with unbridled enthusiasm, I can release the reins and let them run with it. When I see a student with motivation problems, I can discuss and problem solve with that student. The students aren’t bound to wait for me to give any direct instruction and I am not either.

4. Choice in activities/alternate assessment

The ability to individualize instruction also gives the ability to individualize assessments. I can offer my students multiple options in how they show learning. When I teach concepts, students aren’t constrained to one way of showing me understanding. My requirements are objective-based and not assignment-based. The student’s goal then is to show proof of understanding the objective. Many will choose the assignment I’ve set up for them because that is what years of schooling has taught them. But, not all will. Students always surprise me with their creativity.

5. Focus on the “fun stuff”

We may have said it once in our career, “Students, I know this is boring, but we have to get through it.” Let’s hope we’ve only said it once. Put this material on video. Now, I’m not saying your videos having to be boring. For me, the “fun stuff” is the activities we do. The application of the material and watching the students grow and make deep connections to the material. With a flipped class, very day we do the “fun stuff”.

6. More Effective Grading

After flipping, I take significantly fewer papers home to grade at the end of the day. I don’t want to say that I don’t still work hard. I just work harder in different areas. When I assess students’ work, many times I’m able to read it in class with them. I can give them feedback immediately. If I want more time to digest it, I’ll make myself a note to look at it again later. And, since I’m not reading stacks of papers all in one or two sittings just to get them a grade, my feedback is more targeted and richer

7. Efficiently use time

Some skills can be taught in a relatively short time frame. Other advanced skills cannot. While I can teach the basics of MLA formatting in a few classes; teaching proper research skills takes much longer. Now, I shorten the time needed to teach these skills. I’m sitting there with the students as they’re doing research. This contact with each student allows the entire class to move through the content more efficiently with deeper understanding. But, saving that time is not worthwhile if the students aren’t learning. I can confidently say that they are more engaged in the process and learn it much better at a level I didn’t see before flipping.

8. Autonomous learning

A flipped class is student-centered and can create very autonomous learners. With the model,

teaching students how to learn becomes a big part of the instruction. Teachers can now spend the time to talk with their students about choices they make in their own learning process. Students have a larger responsibility to manage their own time and, with necessary support, can learn crucial time-management strategies.

Because of these 8 reasons, the freedom and rewards I now feel as a teacher are because of the environment flipping has helped me create. It constantly evolves and gets better all the time. I can’t express emphatically enough how much this change has revolutionized my teaching.

Image credit: Moise Nicu

Fun uses for Thinglink in the classroom

Sometimes you hear about a great tool and then end up forgetting about it. That’s what happened with me and Thinglink. I had heard about it at a conference maybe 2 years ago and thought it looked like a good tool to make some multimedia resources, but subsequently forgot to try it out.

Recently, I saw a post on Twitter from Lisa Butler giving some packing advice for ISTE using Thinglink. I thought it was a clever idea and was reminded about how interesting Thinglink can make resources.

Lisa Butler’s ISTE Packing List. Linked to Thinglink.

I had been intending to make a packing inventory for an upcoming month-long trip to Asia I have planned, so inspired by Lisa’s packing image, I made one of my own adding some text and links to websites.

My Asia packing list. Linked to Thinglink.
Linked to Thinglink.

You could use this for class trip or camp packing lists in the classroom.  Another use I thought of was to include resources connected to a map.  So, I made an example using my upcoming trip.

These were really very simple to do and everything I did was available in the free version. There are some upgraded educator versions that give you a bit more versatility in your content.

I could see classes using this as video messages to parents or another classroom around the world linked to the students’ image. You could link flipped videos to visual representation of the content.  You could create virtual fields trips. The possibilities are endless.  What fun uses do you have for Thinglink?

Different Models for Flipping Your Class

Many teachers are surprised to find there a different models emerging of the flipped classroom. This is because flipping isn’t really a model, but more of a guiding principle of how (and when) to deliver direct instruction.  In my book, I identified 5 different frameworks of flipping and have since been introduced to a 6th.  I’ve divided them into First Iteration and Second Iterations because, in practice, teachers tend to transition for their First Iteration to their Second Iteration, with the later being more student-centered.  I used a mixture of all.  Don’t feel constrained to one model. The best part about flipped strategies is that they are flexible.

First Iteration Flips

Traditional Flip

This is the flip you hear hyped in the media. The Traditional Flip is frontloading a video of content followed by problems, activities, or writing in class.  It is the entry point to flipping for most teachers.  It is still a teacher-centered model, which gets it criticism. However, for the teacher that is struggling with innovating their classroom or who want to be more student-centered, this is a good place to start as they develop the skills to move on.

 

Writing Workshop Flip

Another way many teachers, English teachers especially, start in flipping is to modify the Writers Workshop made popular by Lucy Calkins. This is not surprising since many principles of the Writing Workshop are shared by flipped teaching. The Writing Workshop starts with a direct instruction mini-lesson (which is a flip video), followed by writing time in class, and finished with class sharing.  I started with this model because I didn’t have long enough classes for the full Writing Workshop process. Taking mini-lessons to video freed up more class time for students to write and share.

Second Iteration Flips

These are the flips that teachers move into once they’ve decided to move their flip to a different level.

Explore-Flip-Apply

This model is inquiry-based derived from the work of Ramsey Musallam and is a variation of the Explore-Explain-Apply model. The framework consists of the learning cycle beginning with an Exploratory activity. This activity is designed to introduce the topic, evaluate prior knowledge, and instruct through inquiry.  Once the students have reached a point they cannot progress without some direct instruction, a flipped video is made and assigned to help the students.  After sufficient inquiry and practice, the students are moved to an Apply stage which is an assessment.  It could be a project, a writing task, or other forms of skill or content application. If students have the knowledge or are gaining the knowledge on their own, there is no need for the teacher to intervene with flipped instruction. The videos in this model tend to be shorter and more focused on specific content to the needs of each inquiry group.

Flip-Mastery

This model was Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams second iteration of their Flip. The Flip-Mastery model combines flipped videos with mastery instruction. In this model, students can self-pace through the direct instruction content and move on based on mastery standards determined by the teacher. The determination of what qualifies as mastery is the guide for assessment.

Mastery learning is more easily identified in Math and Science classes, because many times there is an explicitly correct answer. When I did Mastery-type units, I used more guided pacing as opposed to full self-pacing, allowing students to work at their own pace but with all the same deadline for assessment completion.

Peer Instruction (PI) Flip

The Peer Instruction model was developed by Eric Mazur at Harvard in the early 1990’s.  He, along with Julie Schell, have advanced the model to also include video instruction.  In the process, students watch a pre-class video or reading.  At the start of the class, the teacher asks a question based on the pre-class video.  The question should be ambiguous enough to spark debate.  Students are then paired with someone that believes a different answer and they are tasked with convincing each other which is correct.  Once the student pairs commit to answers, the teacher reviews the correct answer with the group.  The flip could also come as the explanation piece of the cycle depending on the complexity of the material.

Gamified Flipped

This is a new flip that has emerged over the past year or so.  Teachers are taking elements of gamification (a badge system) and combining it with Mastery-Flip.  Students progress through flip videos and assessments at their own pace, earning badges and levels.  This is still a developing area as not many teachers are using it.  These teachers are using quest-based LMS (3D GameLab) making it easy to insert videos.

The spirit of a Flipped Classroom is innovation and individualization. With that as your guiding principle, there is no limit to the evolution of your classroom.

Image credit: Chris Devers

Curate or Create Content in a Flipped Classroom

Many teachers make the decision to flip their class, but don’t know where to start. Choosing how to provide content to your students can determine the success of your flipped class.  You certainly can go between curated and created content, but generally it is better for the students if you are consistent with one method.

Curate

The movement for Open Educational Resources (OER) has made a significant amount of content available to learners that haven’t had access to it in the past.  Curating that content to pick the best for your students is a popular way to flip your class.

Advantages

  • There is content that is free and available to all.  Teachers could eliminate expensive textbooks from their syllabus and provide content that is rich and dynamic for their students.  
  • Much of this content is produced in a digital format to allow for easy distribution.  Some tools, like EdPuzzle, not only provide an easy way to curate that content, but also set up simple ways to distribute that content.
  • The content can come from a variety of sources. You can find high-quality content made by professional filmmakers, very specific content made by experts, or even very relatable content made by students.
  • Curated content can save time for the teacher. Flipping can be time consuming and hard-work in the early stages, so finding ways to be efficient with your time can help.

Disadvantages

  • Curated content isn’t always specific to your curriculum or what you want to teach. That can be confusing to your students or leave you with gaps in learning that need to be filled.
  • Sometimes finding just the right content can take more time than anticipated. Sometimes it’s just quicker to make your own.
  • Curated content can seem impersonal to students and even lazy practice. A good practitioner is teaching in the classroom everyday with personalized instruction and valuable activities. Unfortunately, there are some people believe that if students can learn from already created content, there is no use for a content teacher in the classroom.

Sources

  • EdPuzzle is one of my favorite tools that allows you to search a variety of created content and provide a tool to remix and distribute that content.
  • TedEd is a good source for dynamic professionally created content and has some interactivity by adding a quizzing feature.
  • Khan Academy has the goal of “providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” While initially a source for math and science content, they are quickly adding more content for other subject areas and grade levels.
  • Mathtrain is a wonderful resource by teacher Eric Marcos for student-created math content.

Created Content

The past few years has seen an explosion of tools that make it easy for teachers to create their own video content even with limited technical ability.

Advantages

  • Having students hear your voice or see your face in the video helps you build better relationships with students.
  • You can adapt your content to the needs of your students and teach it the way you want.
  • While OERs can often be remixed and reused, creating your content allows you to own and distribute how you want.
  • It can be empowering to create and catalog your expertise.  At the same time, it can model that behavior to your students.
  • Watching your own content can be an excellent reflection tool to improve your teaching.

Disadvantages

  • It can be time consuming.  Until you develop efficient methods to create your videos, you can spend a lot of time making just a few minutes of content.
  • While it is a great reflection tool, it can be very humbling. Many teachers need time to get used to seeing and hearing themselves.
  • Sometimes someone else just says or does it better and trying to recreate that is not worth the time invested.
  • While there are free tools, some of the best tools can also be expensive.

Tools

  • Camtasia Studio is my favorite tool.  It is a robust screencasting tool that allows teachers to create very professionally looking videos.
  • Screencast-O-Matic is a free online tool that allows teachers to screencast.  It has some limitations, but can be great entry point for teachers learning to screencast.
  • Quicktime is a great tool for Mac users.  It is powerful and even allows you to screencast an iPad screen.
  • Explain Everything is my favorite iPad tool. It allows those using an iPad to create some nice videos and has many output options.  This is the tool I use with my students when they are creating videos.

These aren’t the only tools or resources available, but the ones I’m most familiar. I recommend teachers move themselves to using primarily created content supplemented by curated content on some occasions.  However, curated content is a great way to get started in flipping your class.  Whichever methods you choose, if you keep your students best interest in mind, you won’t go wrong.

Image credit: Nick Saltmarsh

Writing a Book in One Day – How We Did It

The project is near completion.   On May 6, our 5th & 6th graders embarked on a journey to write a book in one day.  Originally, we had 6 other classes that agreed to do it with us.  As the day grew closer, 3 classes had to drop out for various reasons and  one class was MIA on the day of the book.  We set the project up so that we could complete it independently, so, while it was nice to have two other classes still participating, we could have still finished it alone.  Two of the books can be purchased on Amazon: “Tsunami Survivors” & “Shimmer and the Case of Superman’s Missing Dog”.  I’m still waiting for a 3rd class to send me their book for print.  There are also .pdf versions at the bottom of this post free for you to download.

Due to an expected delay in statewide testing, we lost 2 hours in the morning.  While we still finished, that 2 hours would have been nice to have those two hours to breathe a little easier and have more time for editing the final book.  Prior to lunch, the kids were very engaged, asking great questions as they planned their story and collaborated.  We had to conflict manage a bit more than I expected having to solve problems not related to the story so groups could get back to work.

First, we had the class list all the elements (characters, plot, conflict, setting, etc.) they needed in their story.  Then we went element-by-element and had suggestions.   As a group, the students voted on 3-5 choices for each element.

20150507_073502
Here is our brainstorming board after we were finished.

Once the elements were all determined, we divided them into groups to begin writing.  Each group was responsible for one chapter.  Students talked with their group about what direction they wanted their chapter to take but quickly realized they needed details from other chapters.  Although their was some conflict during this process, I was pleased to see the students really analyzing their story.  If a group wanted a character in chapter 8, they realized they needed to get an earlier chapter to introduce that character.  One early chapter realized they had too much happening too soon for the story, so they made it into a flashback to use as character development instead.  A lot of great discernment was happening on how to construct a good story.

We then reconvened every group and had them explain to everyone what plot points they were going to write into their chapter.  As a group, we smoothed out some discrepancies between chapters, made group decisions on the final story and then began writing.

Students collaborated with their group in Google Docs to write their chapter.  We had a plan in place for early finishers, but we didn’t have any of those.  Students were typing and revising up until the final minutes.  Since we had lost the 2 hours in the morning, we asked a member from each group to go into their document that night and give their chapter one final edit and clean up.

I then took those chapters and used Amazon’s Createspace to publish the book.  We would have liked to do a Google Hangout with one of the other classes participating, but I realized we wouldn’t have the time to do it.  We did tweet with the other classes and let our students see the others’ tweets to remind them this project was bigger than just their classroom.  The kids are still asking to read the other schools’ books!

picture 2015-05-12 at 10.06.51 AM

picture 2015-05-12 at 10.07.19 AM

picture 2015-05-12 at 10.08.08 AM

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and we are already in the planning process for next year!

Here are pdf’s of the books:

picture 2015-05-08 at 11.33.28 AM          picture 2015-05-12 at 10.11.53 AMChangeTheWorldVolume1    ChangeTheWorldVolume2

Brief Analysis of Instructional Design theories using EDPuzzle

The following post is a portion of an assignment I did for my graduate class called Foundations of Instructional Technology.  This part of the assignment I am sharing we read :

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-72.

Then we discussed our favorite tool using some of the learning theories we have been discussing the past few weeks.

While I may not be 100% accurate on the learning theories I am using (and please correct me in the comments if you think I wasn’t accurate), I thought sharing some uses for EdPuzzle and 3D GameLab would be helpful to readers of this blog.

I’m going to discuss one of my favorite tools I have found to be beneficial using multiple instructional theories: EDpuzzle.

EDpuzzle allows you to make a lesson using any video you want.  You can place your own video or someone else’s video from multiple sources and remix them in the EDpuzzle interface and then wrap content around that video.

Behaviorism

According to Ertmer & Newby, Behaviorism focuses more on the stimulus than the learner.  The goal is to produce observable and measurable outcomes.  The learning that happens in a Behaviorist design usually falls in the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

In EDpuzzle, a Behaviorist would place a video of simple, observable skills or knowledge and then place a multiple choice or fill in type questions throughout the video.  Students that answer the questions correctly would advance the video.  Students that did not answer the question correctly would be required to repeat the section of the video.

Also from a Behaviorist perspective, the teacher dashboard allows the teacher to see which students watched the entire video and how many times they did.  The teacher can even place restrictions on the video so they don’t have a choice but to watch the entire video before advancing.

Voice comments can be added to videos in EDpuzzle, so a Behaviorist could add voice cues as a stimulus to information transferring.

Cognitivism

A cognitivist would approach this tool with a video having more meaningful content.  The goal with cognitivism, as Ertmer & Newby discuss, is to focus on the mental nature of the learner leading up to response.  A cognitivist would take this tool and add more open ended questions to their video.  They might even ask for questions from the respondents to be used at a later time (maybe for classroom discussion).  A cognitivist might add audio notes to cue previous knowledge or create links between other content.

A Cognitivist would probably also add a video with a bit less direct instruction than a Behaviorist and have some analysis of the content in the video.

Constructivism

Ertmer & Newby describe the focus of constructivism to be the “active application of ideas to problems.”  EDpuzzle recently added a new function to assign a project to students (or at least I just recently became aware of it. I’m not sure how long it has been an option).  So, instead of them watching a video and answering or interacting with the content, students can create their own content.  Students place their own video into the project, or the teacher can specify which video to place in, then they can place their own questions or audio comments on the video.  I saw a High School English teacher have students analyze a video of a scene from a play using this tool. I recently used this as a reflection tool with a group of 6th graders.  They created a video in groups to answer our driving question, then placed that video in their own individual EDpuzzle and explained their choices using the Audio Comments and text comment features.  I, as the teacher, can give feedback to the student within the same EDpuzzle.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on EdPuzzle and/or my application of learning theories in this instructional design.

Answering a College Student’s Flipped Classroom Questions

First years teachers are bad.  The research shows that, but even without research, we know that from experience.  I was a horrible teacher in my first year.  I know that now, but I sure didn’t know that then.  We all develop and grow as teachers and, hopefully, continue to develop and grow.

I mention this because I received an email yesterday from a former student.  This was a student I had in my first 2 years of teaching and she is now in college studying Education. This student was always a very hard worker.  She was also very kind and considerate.  She regularly took the time to help me by cleaning the classroom, filing papers (this was before Google Drive), and other odd jobs. She even pretended to learn something from me now and again. She was one of the reasons I was able to keep my sanity in that stressful first year.  I’m sure she never realized it, but that kindness she showed me throughout that first year is why she stills holds a special place with me.

To the email….Since she is in Education, she had an assignment in which she needed to research the Flipped Classroom and she had some questions for me. If I can make her entry into the profession and provide some solace when she goes into her first year of teaching, I won’t hesitate to help her in any way that I can.  Since my blog is a reflective practice for me, I decided to answer her questions via blog post.  So, here they are:

1. Flipped classroom is a rather new way to teach in the classroom, how did you come across flipped classrooms?

While the term flipped classroom is relatively new, reverse instruction has been around for much longer than that.  Since I’ve flipped for several years now, I don’t remember the exact moment I came across the flipped classroom. What I do remember is that it was in roughly December and I was doing an internet search for something and came across the video by TechSmith (Camtasia) about Aaron Sams.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H4RkudFzlc?rel=0]

I saw this video and thought the idea sounded interesting.  However, since I was an English teacher and was using the Writers Workshop model at the time and didn’t immediately see the benefit to me.  I shared it with a colleague that taught Math and then put it on the back burner. The term kept crossing my path in various social media interactions and I came back to it over the next couple months and did more research.  In the summer of 2011, I attended the Flipped Classroom Conference in Woodland Park, Colorado, still not 100% convinced I wanted to flip.  I met Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, as well as many other Flipped Classroom gurus at that conference and soon realized how valuable flipping my class could be.
2. How effective did you find using a flipped classroom approach?
Quite honestly, the approach saved my career.  When I decided to flip, I was very stagnant and wasn’t enjoying teaching.  This student-centered, personalized approach made teaching much more rewarding for me.
But, me aside, was it effective for the students?  While my students continued to score relatively the same on standardized test scores as they had previously, their engagement was improved, their ability to explore topics more deeply was enhanced, and the overall culture of the classroom changed to one of inquiry, learning, collaboration, and community.
So, while other teachers have reported great gains in test scores, I did not. However, my students gained many untestable intangibles and I could not go back to the traditional model after that.
3. Do you think a flipped classroom benefited  the students, or was it better for the teacher?
In my case, as mentioned above, it benefited both. Obviously, the students are the most important and if they weren’t benefiting, I wouldn’t have continued. But, the majority of students loved the flipped classroom and the quality of work they were turning in was significantly improved.  While initially, the flipped classroom is more work for the teacher, the results are worth it.  As the teacher iterates their classroom, the approach becomes extremely student-centered and the technology we have now allows for very personalized instruction.  So, both the teacher and students benefit.
4. Where there any obstacles that you faced in using flipped classrooms?
I chuckle when I hear this question.  The obstacles seemed daunting at first, but looking back where minor bumps in the road. Many of the obstacles you face with any classroom were still present in the flipped classroom.  If a student struggles to do homework in a traditional model, they will still struggle to do homework in a flipped model.  It doesn’t immediately solve that problem.  You still have a certain amount of reluctant learners in any group of students. The flipped classroom, however, allows you the time to have private, individualized conversations with each of those student and begin working on the solution to that problem.
Obstacles inherent to the Flipped Classroom approach were more technical in nature. I had to make sure all students had adequate access to devices and the internet.  If they did not, I had to work with them to find a way to make the content available to them.
Students who were good at “playing school” at first resisted the Flipped Classroom.  However, they quickly adapted and many enjoyed it within a few weeks.
Time was on obstacle at first.  My students were consuming information faster than I could produce it.  I was running out of content and it seemed like I was always making videos.  Once I found a balance and also learned to pace students by using inquiry activities, time was never an issue.
On a very positive note, the initial obstacles forced me to question some of my beliefs and practices about teaching. Why, how, and when to assign and assess homework came to the forefront on my reflections.  The work of Ramsey Musallam greatly influenced the directions I took (and still take) at that point in my journey.  I really became a sponge of knowledge and teaching pedagogy and the time I freed by flipping my class provided me the opportunity to explore and iterate all kinds of new and innovative ideas in my classroom.  All because of the decision to flip!
5. What advice would you give a future teacher about using flipped classroom?
That’s a good question. I would say explore it deeply and learn what it truly offers you as a teacher.  It is a tool.  You don’t have to flip 100% of your content or class.  Only what fits in your instructional practices.
Once you successfully flip, you’ll realize the flipped classroom is not about the videos you create, but more about the activities you do in class with your face-to-face time.  That being said, the use of video as an instructional medium is only going to become more prevalent.  Learning to produce quality instructional videos would be very beneficial for any future teacher.
Flipped teachers are some of the most reflective teachers I’ve met.  The movement has been a grassroots movement built by teachers searching for better ways for students to learn. Even if you ultimately don’t decide to flip any of your content, adding flipped teachers to your PLN will help you grow as a teacher.
There’s also a very untapped market, if you will, in the flipped models.  Research shows that currently only about 3% of teachers actually flip.  That will only continue to increase.  When I started flipped English, there were very few ELA flippers I could find.  That allowed me the opportunity to be an explorer, a navigator, and an inventor.  I was able to write a book on Flipping English in order to help others.  Teachers entering the market willing to take on those challenges will be highly sought after by good principals.  My job title now is Director of Innovative Teaching.  I get to help other teachers concept and implement innovative teaching ideas. When I watched that Aaron Sams video some 4 years ago and began my flipped journey, I never imagined this is where it would take me.  If that interests you as a future teacher, get on board now!
Readers: feel free to share your answers to these questions in the comments or privately via email.  I want to help my former student have a rewarding career as an educator. Helping her build her PLN would be a great start!

A Digital “Pen Pal” Twist

Our 2nd grade teacher came to me to talk about ways she could do a pen pal type project digitally.  She wanted to cover some of her standards relating to communities and also make some contact with another class outside of our school.

We brainstormed some ideas and I shared the idea out to one of my Voxer groups.  Barb Gilman responded not only with a great idea but also a contact to work with.

Here’s the project:

After a lesson on letter writing, 2nd graders from my school hand wrote letters asking questions about community.  Once the teachers reviewed their letters and helped them revise, they were sent to me to record.  I recorded them reading their letters and took a photo of the letter.  Both items were placed together in VoiceThread.  We sent that VoiceThread to a 2nd grade class in another state that will then respond to their questions with audio comments.

Here is how the first part of the project turned out:

https://voicethread.com/app/player/?threadId=6555315

The other class sent us Tellagamis that they embedded into a Kidblog post.  Our students will then respond through the blog to those letters.

Here is the other classes blog posts:

http://kidblog.org/SSS2nd/tag/my-community/

By doing it this way, we covered many standards relating to community and letter writing, but we also worked in some speaking skills and formed a collaboration with another school that will hopefully continue on.

Change the World? We’re Writing a Book in One Day!

Notice to classrooms around the world, we are inviting you to join us as we write a book in one day.  That’s right….One Day!

Our 5th and 6th grade English class will spend the day on May 6, 2015 writing, writing, and more writing.  We will give the students the title of the book at 8:15 am EST and they will have to submit a publishable book by 2:45 pm EST.  The students will brainstorm what they want to write about, divide up the tasks, and write, revise, write, revise until the book is complete.

We want other classes to join us on the same day at roughly the same time (we understand if different time zones need to adjust).  Each class will write their own book, but with the same title.  The title of our book will be Change the World? Volume 1.  Each class that joins us in the project would be subsequent volumes.  So, the second class that joins would be Change the World? Volume 2 and the third Change the World? Volume 3 and so forth.  At the end, we plan to use Amazon’s Createspace Self-Publishing to print copies of the book.  We will only sell the book at the cost to print.  We will also provide free .pdf versions of each book to be available for download.  We’ll be writing our book in English, but that doesn’t mean you have to.

This is the first year we are doing this, so we are developing the process as we go.  All classes that join us will need to be able to share their book via Google Drive.  All grade levels are welcome. Throughout the day, we’d love to connect with other classes through Google Hangouts and talk about our progress or share resources.  We hope by the end our students learn skills in writing and editing, collaborating, preserving, but most importantly, how they can change the world.

If you’d like to join us on this project, email me here or comment on this post.  I hope you and your students can join us on May 6th as we Change the World?

Update (2/12): Right now, we have committed: Volume 1: Allison Fisher’s 5th/6th Grade Class from Little Flower Catholic School in Indianapolis, Indiana, Volume 2: Steve Auslander’s 5th Grade Class from Allisonville Elementary in Indianapolis, Indiana, Volume 3: Amie Trahan’s 8th Grade Class from Vanderbilt Catholic High School in Houma, Louisiana, and Volume 4: Nicole Carter’s 8th Grade Class from Neil Armstrong Middle School in Forest Grove, Oregon.

Update (2/16):  We have two more classes!  Volume 5: Beth Moore’s 5th Grade Class from Sacred Heart Elementary School in Fowler, Indiana and Volume 6: Sarah Landis’s Class from Pleasanton Unified School District in Pleasanton, California.

Update (3/8): Volume 7 is Ellen Smith’s 4th graders from Glenbrook Elementary in Streamwood, IL.  And, I think we’re very close to getting our first international participants!