Static or Interactive Tools?

I think we really need to redefine what it means to interact with something. Part of the problem is that our schools (and even our culture) have developed into things that want to consume. Our students come, and they want to just get the answer to move on. Teachers have even developed into people that give the answers so they can move on. There is no meaningful interaction.

Learning is interactive. We need to talk, digest, challenge, and question new ideas or tools. It takes two-way communication. It takes hard conversations and furrowed brows.

So, can we create truly interactive content? I think there are some ways to begin to build a bridge to cross the gap, but I’m not totally convinced that even come of the best iBooks out there can do that yet. They’re still built for students to consume. We need to move beyond clicking play on a video as our interactive portion.

How have you seen students interact with content, digital or analog? What are some versions of things titled interactive, but are really meant for consumption only? How do we bridge the gap?

I’d love some thoughts in the comments.

Photo Credit: incurable_hippie via Compfight cc

Adaptive Science Curriculum

I’ve been following Dan Meyer for about 15 months. I don’t teach math, but the way he talks about teaching math makes me want to teach it. If you’re not familiar with his writing and development of Three Act Math, you should read the linked post and go check out his site dedicated to free materials.

Recently, he’s moved into developing web-based “textbooks,” if they can even be called that. Essentially, he’s taking intuitive knowledge of math (draw a square) and then directing the user through the process of either confirming their previous understanding or correcting their misconceptions. What really caught my attention was this activity on squares. Stop reading now, check it out.

Dan teamed up with a teacher/programmer named Dave Major (who also wrote a post about the squares activity). I really began to think about how this could be done in science.

Flipped Learning is all over the web. I use it, my friends use it, and we’ve all seen some amazing things happen in our classes. Honestly, I think video is reaching a point where it can help move us into meaningful digital learning spaces, but it isn’t enough. We all know that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to move content into adaptive digital environments, much like the Better Best Squares activity. PhET simulations by UC Boulder are a good first step, but there is still a disconnect between the task (usually paper based) and how the student interacts with the program.

I’m wondering how we can begin to make responsive programs like the squares example for science. One thought, initially, is that simulation parameters could be set by a student, much like the square they draw. Every following step would be A) integrated with the class responses, and B) based on the initial setup.

How else could we do this in science? Are there any programmers that would be interested in trying to build some kind of pilot program? Any teachers that would be interested in writing curriculum for this project? Let me know in the comments.

Spring Service Projects

This spring, I’m asking my homeroom students to perform some type of service project. The type of project is up to them, but I’ve encouraged them to think as locally as they can. Whether that’s the school or the neighborhood they live in doesn’t matter to me.

I have a couple that already have ideas to build off of, but I’d love to see some other types of projects that were successful. If you have some examples (or know people with examples), I’d appreciate your feedback on the form embedded below.

#MIFlip Conference Resources

On Saturday, 1/19, we held the first Michigan Flipped Learning conference in Byron Center, MI. We recorded as many of the sessions as we could, so I’ve linked them all below. They were recorded with Google+ Hangouts On Air, so some of the audio and video might be a little less-than-HD, but the resources are valuable nonetheless. I’ve also linked public Google Documents created with links and other notes from the sessions. Feel free to share these resources with colleagues that may be interested in Flipped Learning.

Morning Keynote – Keynote Slides

Flipped Learning 101 – Notes Only

Flipped Learning in Science DiscussionNotes

Flipped Learning in English Discussion

Watch the MI Flipteaching Conference Free

On Saturday, January 19, over 150 educators from across Michigan and northern Indiana are converging on Byron Center High School to spend the day talking about Flipped Learning. The event is free, and I’m excited and proud to be a part of the planning and running of the conference.

We’ll be streaming various sessions throughout the day using Google+ Hangouts On Air. This means you can watch live during the session or you can go back later and watch an archived copy. The sessions will be broadcast by the presenters (see below) and all of the videos will end up in a playlist on the official MIFlip YouTube channel. The segments being streamed are highlighted in yellow on the document.

You can also follow the learning with the #MIFlip hashtag on Twitter all day.

[UPDATE 11:17] – This sessions link (as well as the one above) takes you to the conference schedule. Hyperlinks are being added to the document so you can easily navigate to the proper YouTube channel for viewing live.

What Headlines Missed

You may have missed this story out of California last week.

A student brought a shotgun to school with the intent of killing some other students who had bullied him. He shot one student, and two other students and a teacher were injured. What the headlines missed is that the teacher and a colleague managed to talk the student into giving up his weapon.

No other shots were fired.

The shooting is a tragedy, but the real story here is that, contrary to what the NRA says, there are other ways to stop people with guns.

These teachers are heroes because they risked their lives to protect the victims but also to protect the life of the shooter. Relationships are the way to protect our students, not more guns.

More Faith

I did a webinar yesterday afternoon with Marc Siegel, Deb Wolf, and Ramsey Musallam on the various ways Flipped Learning can be incorporated into a science classroom. We spoke about changing mindsets, thinking about mastery learning and standards based grading, and using video tools in class along with other ideas and tips.

Ramsey spoke near the end of the broadcast about using inquiry learning in his Explore-Flip-Apply method. I asked him, “Ramsey, how do you train your kids to work well in an inquiry environment? I’m not sure mine could handle that from day one in the semester, so what do you do?”

Ramsey came back by saying, “Actually, I drop them right in from day one. I don’t really train them in anything at all. Kids have an innate curiosity that we have to tap into in order to fully engage them in the content.” (Or something along those lines.)

Now, let me preface this by saying I’ve heard Ramsey say this over and over as I’ve gotten to know him. But, I never really put any faith in my students.

I decided to take it to heart. Today, I had an entire lab planned out with procedures, data tables, and follow-up questions. I knew what my kids would do, and they would fill in the blanks and then move on. I decided to scrap the entire lab and go with one statement:

Photo is mine.

Photo is mine.

I have a sample. It has water attached to it. I need to know how much water it contains.

The only question I asked them for this lab is: “What percent of my sample is water?”

I didn’t have enough faith in my classes. I didn’t really trust them to do anything like this. I was proven wrong this morning. For you science folks, our average error from the first two classes is two percent. Two. My students have encouraged me, and from what I’ve observed, they’ve felt proud of their work. They were so excited to hear how close they had come. I haven’t seen energy like this in a while.

I’d lost sight of the excitement that should come from science…from discovery. I’d lost sight of the process because I’d focused too much on the end result. I can talk about the process, but I need to have them go through the process.

My students can now explain how to find the mass percentage of part of a compound. They can do it better than if I had stood up or recorded a video and taught them. Tomorrow, we’ll involve mols somehow and see what happens.

Hopefully, my students will begin to feel more trusted and more empowered in the process.

Let’s Forget EdTech in 2013

I want to propose something crazy: I think we talk too much about education technology. I’m guilty of it, and it’s been weighing on me over Christmas break. Maybe I’m projecting some of my concerns out there, but let me explain a little bit.

2012 seemed like an edtech explosion to me. Every week, I would hear about some new tool that lets teachers and students do this or that, which is great. But all of the focus was on how the tool will revolutionize or change your teaching. The problem I have with this is that too many people are falling into the trap of trying to teach to the tool, rather than using the tool to teach.

There is a major distinction that needs to be made: pedagogy must be the focus of any teacher improvement plan. What is our philosophy of teaching and learning? How do we approach instruction and assessment? What content is important? How will we work with students to support learning? Then, at the point where we are supporting learning, when the ground work has been laid, we can begin to look into technology. I am saying this as a confessed non-practicer (at least consistently) of the workflow.

I’ve fallen into the trap of seeing something awesome and trying to squeeze it into the class for the sake of using it. There is no lower connection for me, so meaningful use doesn’t translate to the classroom space.

What I’m hoping to see (and participate in) are blog posts and articles that walk readers through the process of choosing a tool. What goals are you trying to accomplish? How does that tie into your learning process in the big picture? How are students supported? How is your process supported? How did that tool meet or not meet those goals?

We’ve got the resources and we’ve got the product reviews. It’s time to start putting them to better work together.