Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Teach Students How to Watch Videos for Instruction

Today’s students are consumers of videos for entertainment.  Is watching a video for learning/instruction different than watching a video for entertainment?  Yes, how you watch a video for entertainment is totally different than watching a video for learning or instruction.  This may seem clear to adults, but isn’t necessarily for students.   Most students do not realize that there is a difference, so we as teachers need to explicitly teach our students about the difference.  Giving students tips on how to watch a video for learning/instruction, then modeling in front of the students how to watch your videos for learning/instruction is important for flipped learning success.
Below is an acronym that I use to help my students remember what to do:  LIFT.  The first thing I want my students to do when watching a video for learning/instruction is to focus on Learning  versus just starting the video and letting it play.  Having the video play before your eyes does not mean you are learning the material.  Watching a video for learning means that the students should be Involved  in the video by pausing the video at times to either write notes or work on a problem before they watch me do the problem on the video.  They may even need to rewind part of the video if they either missed something or did not understand something.  Being Involved also means taking notes.  For me that means writing down, at a minimum, all the material that I write during the video.  
During the beginning of your course with the students, you should model what it looks like for students to be Involved in your video.  You can and should tell your students how to be Involved in the video, but you must model it for them.  To model being Involved in the video, play the video for the lesson in the classroom then pause the video at different points and tell the students why you paused the video and what they should be doing during the pause.  At times rewind the video and explain to the students why you are rewinding the video at this spot.  Depending on your students, you may have to do this for several days before they fully understand when to pause/rewind and why.  You may even want to tell your students in the initial videos when to pause/rewind the videos to help the students to get use to pausing/rewinding videos.
In addition to wanting my students to focus on Learning and being Involved in the video, I want them to Focus their attention on the video.  To help students Focus on the video. they typically have to deal with their Tech.   What does Tech mean?   It means if you are watching on a tablet like an iPad, turn off your notifications (so you will not be tempted to look at the latest thing to come from your friends during the video), close extra apps (music, game, and other apps), and close extra tabs in the browser of the tablet.  If you are watching on a computer, then close extra tabs in your browser (email, Twitter…), turn off your music, and close programs that you do not need for watching the video and taking notes. No matter on what device you are watching the videos, turn off your music, listen with headphones and deal with your cellphone (ideally turn it off or at a minimum turn off the volume and vibration so you will not be tempted to look at your phone when the latest notification comes through).
LIFT when Watching Videos for Learning.
·                  Learning -  be concerned about learning vs. just getting the video watched 
·                  Involved - be involved in the video by pausing/rewinding the video and take notes
·                  Focus - focus your attention on the video
·                  Tech - turn off notifications, close extra tabs, put electronic devices away, close  extra apps, do not answer cell phone calls and messages, listen with Headphones
 Modified from Lisa Light's FIT acronym

Technology is such an integral part of our students’ lives.  This simple acronym helps me remind students how they need to engage differently with their technology depending on whether they are using it for instruction or entertainment. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why Some Teachers Don’t Flip

The following is a summary of an email exchange with Ed Mass of of which Ed posted on
Ed asked, “Why don’t other departments in your school Flip since all five math department teachers have Flip and have had some success with Flipping?”  I reply that, “I do not know why they have not Flipped.  However, I will offer some possible ideas.”
My responses (listed in order of the most likely reasons to the least likely reasons):

·         Many teachers are resistant to change. They teach the way they were taught. Whether new, or teaching the same way for decades, they don't adapt easily to changes.
ResponseIf there is a resistance to change, I ask, "Why?" How does the resistance to change serve you? How does it serve your students?

·         Some teachers like being "in control." They feel that if their students are quiet, they are in control of the classroom. They also like being the center of attention (the power) and being the source of information. It gives them a sense of importance.
Response: As a teacher, are we here for our own ego and self-worth or are we here to help students learn and do what is best for our students? If you answer to help students learn and do what is best for them, consider Flipping.

·         It takes time to record the lessons up front and some teachers do not want to take that time.
Response: What they do not realize, even if we have told them, is that you get that time back when you are Flipping because you do not have students in your room before and after school nearly as much as prior to Flipping.

·         Some teachers are so busy just trying to keep their head above water that they do not have time to think about ways to change.
Response: If you are so overwhelmed, then you should look at ways to change and improve, that make you more efficient with your time and effective in both teaching and your students' learning.

·         If I Flip my lessons, what will I do in class?
Response: This is a great question. The possibilities are endless but some teachers are afraid to answer the question.

·         Some teachers have the myth that if I Flip then my students will not need me.
Response: I have experienced the opposite and my students have told me the same. That is, in a Flipped Classroom the teacher is even more important. It's easy to replace a lecture. However, a teacher that engages students and makes the classroom fun, while enhancing students' learning, is highly valued by students and administrators, and much more difficult to replace.

·         Some teachers view my math department as a little crazy or "just out there" and they do not want to be like us.
Response: Why not? What is better than higher student outcomes while students take more responsibility for their own learning and have more fun while doing so?

·         Some teachers are not comfortable having their lessons online where anyone could look at them including their principal or fellow teachers. In other words, they are insecure about their own teaching ability or lessons.
Response: What better way to learn, and improve our lessons and teaching, than from the critique/feedback of other professionals? Plus, you have the opportunity to view other teachers' lessons and learn from them. You can do this whether you Flip or choose not to Flip.

·         Some teachers are not comfortable with learning the technology to record and post lessons.
Response: It is fairly easy whether you use the SMART Recorder software or the Ink2Go software recommended by CrazyForEducation. It is super easy to upload them and use all the enhanced features in the CrazyForEducation system. You can post them on YouTube but then you have all those ads and uncontrolled content that don't exist anywhere in the CrazyForEducation system. They are totally ad-free.

·         Flipping is just a math department thing. Some teachers do not understand how they could flip their subject.
Response: I have ideas on how they could Flip their subject and I could help some teachers generate ideas. Here are several thoughts to get you started:
* Have students learn about Art outside of class so they can spend class time creating Art pieces.
* Have students learn about different physical activities/games (PE) outside of class so the students can use class time engaging in those physical activities/games.
* Have students learn about Spanish outside of class so they can spend class time reading Spanish, writing Spanish, speaking Spanish.
* Have students learn about science outside of class so that students can have more time to actually do science; play with stuff to get first hand experience and better understand science; conduct more science experiments.
* Have students learn about cooking outside of class so they can spend class time actually cooking.
* In social studies, have students learn the basics of different topics in history outside of class so that in class the students can be in large group discussions with the teacher about the material, and in small groups creating projects related to what they learned outside of class.
* In English, Flip the grammar rules, Flip basic writing techniques, so in class the students can practice writing with the teacher there to guide them. Flip citation formats; Flip the student writers conference, where the teacher either audio records, or video records while showing the student's paper, their thoughts and comments about the student's work.
* In music, Flip the following: how to play a particular note, background of a musical piece, sing/play a particular style.
* In our school, the foods teacher is having his students record themselves making a particular food at home.
* Our music teachers are having students record themselves playing/singing a particular piece outside of class.

·         Some teachers are not comfortable with having their voice/image online.
Response: Whether you like it or not there is already a lot of material online about us.

One last note: Typically Special Education teachers like a Flipped Classroom because the teachers can either a) watch the lessons themselves to better help their students and/or b) they can have the students watch, and replay, the video lessons to better understand the material. Teachers also watch the lessons with the students to help them learn how to engage in the lesson, pausing and replaying, and taking notes. A Flipped Classroom gives Special Education teachers more options to assist their students in learning processes. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Teaching or Learning, What’s Your Focus?

Teaching or Learning, What’s Your Focus?
As an educator, do you focus on teaching since you’re a teacher or do you focus on learning?  For me, I focus on learning which is student-centered verses teaching which is teacher-centered.  A focus on teaching is focused on the teacher, what the teacher is doing, the teacher as the center of attention, and the teacher as the gatekeeper of information.  Students often develop an attitude in a teacher-focused classroom that the teacher needs to teach me; in a student-centered classroom students become empowered and take more ownership over their learning.
So what does a focus on learning look like?
A focus on learning considers the students: what the students are doing, if they are learning, and what can you as a teacher can do differently to help them learn better or more effectively.   A classroom focused on student learning employs active learning strategies like peer instruction, mastery learning, project-based learning, and inquiry-based learning.  The teacher is there to assist students in learning and is often working one-on-one with students or in small groups.  The teacher does not care if the students learn from him/her but only that they are learning.  This means students could be getting help from another teacher, peers, watching videos on the material that are not made by their teacher, reading a textbook, researching material online or learning via something online.  Who or what the students are learning the material from is irrelevant as long as they are learning.  However, if a student is not learning for whatever reason, the teacher is then very concerned and looks for ways to help learning get going again.
A teacher that is focused on student learning is always looking for way to improve student learning.  I have four main ways that I use to try to improve my student learning.  The first and primary way I do this is by surveying and listening to my students.  Sometimes I survey my students anonymously using a Google Form survey; while other times I dialogue with my students face to face towards the middle and the end of course.  Students often have good ideas on how to improve our courses and learning.   When you take their input and implement their ideas, it really makes them fell valued and respected.  When students feel valued and respected, they tend to value your class more and put more effort into the class and more learning will occur.  Plus, their ideas that you implement for improving the class tend to improve the learning.  So this is a win-win situation.  Here is a quote from one of my students, “I so appreciate how helpful and responsive you are to our ideas, concerns, and needs. It makes this difficult course less stressful and the ability to learn the material easier. Thank you for the extra effort you put in for your students. It truly makes a difference!”
A second way that I try to improve learning in my classes is by attending various conferences.  For me being a math teacher, I find our state mathematics conference very valuable.  Sometimes I learn things at various sessions that I can implement.  There have been several times that I show up to a room early to get a good seat from the session that I am interested in but the prior session is just finishing.  I sit down, and even though I was not initially interested in the session that is just finishing up, I pick up a great idea.  That happened twelve years ago when I picked up the idea of guided notes (a basic outline of all the vocabulary and all the math problems so that students can focus on the math rather than trying to copy everything down) that I then ended up implementing my classes and my whole department ended up implementing.  Many times when I am at a conference I learn things that can improve my students’ learning, not from the various sessions but by networking and one-on-one conversations with different teachers I meet.  A second conference that I have found to be very beneficial to improving my student learning is FlipCon’s annual conference on flipped learning.
A third way is to listen, observe, and learn from my amazing department characters.  See “Amazing Departmentblog from February 10, 2014, for the entire story.  By working and sharing with your colleagues, good ideas become great and a culture of student-centered learning can be built.
My fourth and final way to improve my effectiveness as a teacher is social media (reading various blogs and following key educational leaders on Twitter like Jon Bergmann and Eric Mazur).  Again, the idea of sharing and learning is the key; as teachers we must be willing to take risks and learn ourselves if we ask our students to do so every day.
What lead me to focus on learning?
My former superintendent of twelve years, Dr. Wendy Shannon, brought the idea of continuous improvement to our schools.  I have taken this continuous improvement approach to trying to improve my effectiveness as a teacher.  Dr. Shannon also had a strong focus on student learning with our school’s vision under her being “Maximizing Learning Opportunities for All” from which I adopted the personal vision of “Maximizing Learning for All.”  I want to help all students learn and do whatever I can to get learning to occur.  Sometimes this is just providing an opportunity to learn and letting students choose that opportunity.  When students are not choosing opportunities to learning, I work to give then some choices.  Choices always have consequences, positive or negative, and students often make choices with the positive consequences which still empowers them because it is a choice they are making.

Additionally, see the immediate and long-term benefits over the last few years has encouraged and motivated me to keep working to provide the best learning opportunities I can; because I embrace continuous improvement, there is always something more to be tried to be just a little be better.

What are the results of focusing on learning?
Students are actively involved in the learning process.  Students are often less stressed.  Students typically learn the material better and take much more ownership of their learning.  Students appreciate being treated as a valuable person rather than just a body in a desk for a certain class period.   When students see the teacher working hard at improving the learning, they are often more willing to put in equal effort in learning the material themselves.  It shows the teacher cares enough to also be working which motivates the students to work.
I view the purpose of education to help students learning material rather than merely to teach any particular lesson.  So rather focusing on teaching (I could give that “great” lecture or lesson to an empty room but that would be meaningless), I focus on students’ learning and improving student learning.  If you focus on student learning, your students will appreciate and learn more, plus your person satisfaction with your job will increase.  A teacher's focus should be on learning (student-centered) rather than on teaching (teacher-centered).  Because our students’ futures are so unknown, we must prepare them to be self-motivated and self-reliant; we must prepare them to be active and dynamic learners, not just passive consumers.  Their futures depend on it.