Don’t Miss Today

Teachers are planners, in case you didn’t know. We like to plan units weeks ahead of time, plan for technology or behavior issues, and even plan for what our ideal classroom will look like in the future.

Sometimes, we plan so much, that we tend to only see the ideal, which can lead to discouragement and disenfranchisement in teaching.

Personally, I think about re-purposing my classroom. I don’t like tables and chairs. I like couches. I like standing desks. I like varied floor space. Every learner is different, so to teach to different needs, we should have different spaces for learning.

Sometimes I get caught up in the future of teaching and I miss the needs of learners now. Always be reflective and always be working to form a better system. But, be careful not to dream at the expense of your students today.

Power in Online Video

I’ve had a crazy week. On Tuesday and Thursday I worked with Brett Clark and Brian Bobbitt sharing the Flipped Classroom with almost 100 teachers and administrators across the district. It was an insane couple of days, but everything came together (including a student panel…they were awesome) and I think everyone that participated learned something new.

I got home on Thursday night and spent some time reflecting on my use of video this year in relation to last year and how it has expanded into something much more than delivering instruction. The power of video on the internet is much, much greater than delivery of content.

I use a flipped classroom and a core tenet of what I do is use online video to deliver direct instruction to my students. But, this isn’t good enough. At the end of the day, they’re still consuming more information than they’re putting out on the web.

My goal for the remainder of the semester is to not only use video for instruction, but use video for connections. I want my kids to be responsive to what they watch online. I want them to think critically about what they see and then turn around and respond to it. We have blogs set up, and those will also be a major component of the process.

I feel like this is a major turning point in my teaching. I know that reflection and creation is important, but it has been an ancillary goal rather than the central idea to my teaching. I know I can’t expect this to happen overnight, but I’m excited about the learning ahead.

Stop SOPA and PIPA

I think this is my first ever politically-based post. But, I feel so strongly about it, I couldn’t think of a better way to share my thoughts on the subject.

If you are a user of the Internet, you need to know about SOPA and PIPA. The United States Congress is in the process of debating bills that are meant to stop the proliferation of pirated material being distributed on the web. The bills, as written, give power to corporations and even the government to make a claim that a website is sharing copyrighted material. That website then has 5 days to respond by either shutting down or removing the material. If they don’t, then affiliated websites (such as search engines) can be pulled into the mix through litigation that would essentially stop the offending site from showing up in searches.

Why is this a big deal? Because SOPA and PIPA are, in essence, censorship bills. There is no due process once a claim has been made and there is no appeal process. Ultimately, the companies with the most money will be able to shut down competitors at will through legal costs and proceedings.

Multiple sites are blacking out service to demonstrate the possible effects if these bills are passed. Please take a moment today to sign the petition at Google and write a short letter to your state representatives.

Commercials and Education

I saw this commercial over the weekend:

I think this commercial shows two classrooms. One class uses computers as worksheets. The second uses computers for what they were meant to do…create content to share with other people.

Which computer would fit better in your classes?

The Flipped Class and Shifting Paradigms

It is a new year and a new semester for us and I’ve been thinking a lot about the Flipped Classroom and what role it plays in my teaching. While I don’t necessarily share that it is a fundamental shift in teaching methods (yes, I know the videos are direct instruction), I do think the Flipped Classroom shifts education paradigms.

American education policy (testing) focuses on the teacher being a fact-dispensing robot and students as empty vessels that need to be filled. The whole idea of a Flipped Classroom is that the students and teachers are switching responsibilities. I am no longer a disseminator of knowledge and students are no longer receptacles of information. Learning is active and collaborative rather than passive and directive.

The paradigm shift isn’t the fact that I’m recording lectures. It is the shift in thinking that students need to have opportunities to drive their own learning. They need opportunities to work with their peers and struggle together. I am also now “allowed” to make mistakes with the students. The role of teaching in a Flipped Classroom has shifted entirely. I still provide direction in terms of the curriculum, but the methods to get from A to B are now in the hands of the students.

The paradigm shift needs to be driven by teachers, not politicians or bankbooks. We need to be willing to give up old habits and adapt each of our classrooms and schools to meet the current needs of our learners. The Flipped Classroom is how I’ve done that for my kids…how will you meet your student’s needs?