#Flipclass Conference – Day 3

Unfortunately, I need to leave the conference early today, so I’m writing before I hop on an airplane for a few hours.  

There is some great stuff being shared again and the attendees are much more vocal with their ideas and thoughts as they get more confident with the ideas we’re trying to present.

I got drafted this morning to put a video together today highlighting some teachers as they think through some things they’re going to be doing.  It is very inspirational to me (as a presenter) to see people excited about the prospects of turning their classrooms around.  And, it isn’t even all teachers here.  There are technology directors, district-level employees, and other here that aren’t in the classroom but are committed to improving their methods.  You can watch the video in a pop-up player here or you can watch it on YouTube.

Right now, my presentations are sort of all over the place, and I will be working on consolidating them all on my Learn page. I’ll tweet it out when everything is consolidated for sure.

If you were at the conference, thank you SO MUCH for all of the discussion, encouragement, and inspiration you’ve given me this week. Please always feel free to write or comment because we need to continue the collaboration.

#Flipclass11 Day 2

As we headed into day 2 of the flipped class conference, I was really excited about some of the discussions that are coming up with educators from all over the place.  Some of the big takeaways from today:

LiveScribe – If you can write with a pen, you can do a screencast.  This is a great tool if you’re not into using a tablet.  You can still have the feel of paper and pen without having to mess with learning how to use a tablet.

  • Pros – Easy to use, low learning curve, cheap ($50 for 2GB pen), all videos are taken care of LiveScribe (hosting, etc), very portable.
  • Cons – No editing power (what you do is what you get), no images or video can be included, audio and pen writing only.

I am not a Moodle user, but I’ve wanted to be and I am planning on working on using it on my own next year (unless my district has it already).  I’ve already tried to look at adding test questions with a lot of variation, but I couldn’t figure the interface out.  Then, I met Phil McIntosh.  He teaches MS pre-algebra and algebra and is the Moodle WHIZ.  You can connect with him on twitter by following @MisterMcIntosh.

Just to give you an idea, he has test banks that have almost 9,000 combined questions.  He has worked very, very hard over the last year to develop well-balanced, reliable, test questions that focus on best practices.  His seminar was incredibly precise and organized and you definitely need to get in touch with him if you’re having trouble with Moodle or if you want help setting up a thorough, well-organized test bank.

Again, today was a great time of collaboration with other educators and some great ideas being shared.  Its very exciting for me as I continue to meet other teachers that are feeling challenged and excited about flipping their class.  Tomorrow is the last day and I’m hoping we can make some new connections that will continue to push teachers to try and improve their methodology.

#Flipclass11 Day 1

I haven’t written in a long time and it is primarily because I’ve been traveling for a couple of weeks from Korea.  I have another longer post slated for later this week, so this is just a quickie with some good stuff from the first part of the day at the Flipped Class Conference in Woodland Park, CO.  You can follow some of the discussion here or you can follow the Twitter hashtag #flipclass11.

I presented this morning on making accommodations in the flipped classroom (or in any classroom for that matter) and the topic of mobile devices came up.  Some resources I’ve not heard of before are:

Cellular Education – From their website:

Cellular Education is primarily focused on consulting with Teachers, Administrators, and IT personnel to increase the use and effectiveness of wireless devices in Elementary and Secondary classrooms.

You can follow the founder, Victor Fitzjerrald, on twitter.

Mobile Learning Group – This is a branch of ISTE and they focus on bringing mobile devices into the classroom in professional and manageable ways.

SIGML is the ISTE special interest group that is an advocate for mobile learning worldwide, and promotes meaningful integration of mobile devices in teaching and learning in formal and informal learning environments.

Both groups work to promote mobile learning, especially in schools.  As students become more and more connected, education should be shifting that direction as well.  But, we can’t latch on to the technology as the perfect solution.  We still need to make sure we’re using the technology in a meaningful way, and not just for the sake of it.

More to come as the conference progresses.

More Thoughts on Open Doors

This week in #edchat we spent time discussing how to change teacher’s images in the media, community, etc.  Its a great topic and one that is certainly worth discussing.  Teachers are facing more and more scrutiny about testing results, summer break schedules, pay…you name it.  So the question that begs asking becomes: “How do we as teachers show that good work is happening inside schools today?”

I posted the following tweet when I joined in on Tuesday:

Schools need to adopt an open-door policy that allows other comm. members to see good teachers in action. #edchat

It was like the floodgates had opened.  I received tweets about “safety issues” and “security concerns” that can arise from opening school doors.  There are bigger ideas behind that tweet than what people initially read.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for safety and security for children in schools.  But we can’t let that fear of something going wrong stop us from making meaningful connections outside of school.  Open doors aren’t always a physical requirement.  To even begin to actually open those front doors, we have to be mentally prepared to make that shift.

How do we prepare to open doors?

First, stop worrying about what can go wrong.  If you’re afraid of people seeing your classroom, there are probably bigger issues at hand.  Learning is collaborative…we all know this from experience.  Why can’t we be okay with people – our colleagues, administrators, friends – stopping into our rooms?  We shouldn’t be afraid of sharing what we do with people that can push us to be better teachers.  Teachers complain all the time about being evaluated by test scores, but then they refuse meaningful evaluation when someone steps into the room.  There is a severe problem that needs to be addressed concerning this disconnect.

Second, step out digitally before you open up physically. It can be intimidating to share thoughts and ideas openly without knowing you’ll have encouragement from someone.  There are a TON of resources tutoring newcomers through Twitter, blogging, and connecting with other educators.  It takes some practice and commitment, but the connections that can be made really will build your confidence in your trade and you will come away feeling encouraged and supported by other teachers working for the same goals.

Third, be proactive. Education has always been very private…but that isn’t the way people work in the 21st century.  We need to make meaningful connections in order to stay relevant, but it doesn’t just happen.  No one is going to bug you about the way you teach unless you ask them to…and even then, it might take some prodding.  Be vocal about your desire to be more open to the public.  Take time to meet with administrators, parents, and other members of the community and let them know you want to build relationships, not just talk at their kids every day.

The mental shift is the hardest to make because you have to make it happen.  Be the change at your school and you’ll start to see amazing things happen.

Bragging on Students

I love opportunities to brag on students that do some great work.  As often as I can, I’ll send something in to Twitter or other teachers in our school.  It’s always great sending something out, but it’s even better when it is a student that blindsides you with an amazing project…and that happened to me today.

I assigned a research project where students picked any topic, as long as it related to chemistry.  They chose three essential questions and then did a project sharing what they learned.  A lot of students build a Blogger site or a Wix page, and some did powerpoint presentations in front of a small group of students.  Others chose to do videos, and the video I’ve linked below from a student really blew me away with its simplicity and the personality of the student that comes through.

Take a couple minutes to watch these…I’d love to be able to pass some comments along to this student about her work.


Loosen Up

We see more clearly in retrospect…sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not so good.

Thinking back on this year, I realized that I’ve gotten lazy with some of my favorite chemical demonstrations.  They’re small things, but in a flipped class, it is so easy to come to school, remind kids of the benchmarks they have to meet, and then move away.  Mark Siegel wrote about this and how he also missed this aspect of chemistry.  He implemented Demo Wednesday to make sure he still included all of the fun stuff for chemistry that is too dangerous for labs, but still great illustrations of chemical principles.  I loved this idea, but never really implemented it.

A good friend of mine is an English teacher at our school and he has had a hard time with one particular class.  This morning, I decided it would be fun to go in, interrupt class, and have a brief chemistry teachable moment. I did a demo with potassium permanganate and glycerin.  It produces a lot of smoke and bright purple flames.  I had fun, he had fun, and his class seemed to wake up a little bit when it was over.

I say loosen up because we get so caught up in the content that we forget that school is supposed to be fun.  Should we wait until the end of the school year to do this?  I don’t think so.  I wish I had done more like this during the year, just to build relationship with other teachers and help spread the fun in school.

It is so easy to go day by day and think about content…getting it in for the sake of doing it.  Be sure to connect with your colleagues.  Take 5 minutes to do something fun with the kids on a random day.  It is all part of having an open mentality about education.

Don’t limit yourself to your classroom.

I’m Open For Business

As I continue musing and thinking about the last year using a flipped classroom, ideology and philosophy changes that I’ve made flood my thoughts.  At the beginning of the flipped class, I really sold the idea hard to parents and students…harder than I had to sell it to administration (a HUGE blessing).

I think the biggest selling point of the class is that I was going to work very, very hard to make sure students have every opportunity to succeed in my class.

John Martinez Pavliga, Flickr CC

Once the ball got rolling, students realized that this would not be a walk in the park class and that I meant business.  They were still expected to work hard to learn the material and that leaving their work until the last minute would hurt their progress.  I mean business in my classroom…and now my students mean business about their learning.  They are not content to be fed information…they want to be challenged and pushed to their potential.

Another major shift I’ve had is that I want people stopping by my room…interrupting students…asking questions.  I remember prior to flipping, it would be a major inconvenience to me if someone stopped in.  Now, I can’t get enough people to drop by!  I’m trying to show people how powerful this tool can be, but the interest isn’t there or I’m selling it wrong.

This isn’t just a whimsical idea that putters out after a year.  I feel more on fire for teaching than I was after graduation from university.  I want to share ideas and create new ways of doing things.  I want to collaborate, challenge, question, and encourage other teachers interested in the same things.  I want to have a classroom that is open to discussion, dissonance, and new ideas.

I do my best to encourage other teachers to open up and share through “unconferences,” meetings, or even lunch.  But, its going to take more than that.  We need to change the entire attitude about sharing our materials and really work to make connections to help kids.

Lessons Learned in Soccer

It has been an insane three weeks for my wife and I and I am just now getting back to writing and following Twitter again.

Coaching has changed my life.  I am the varsity soccer coach for our school and I had the opportunity to take our team to a tournament with schools from all over Korea and Japan.  We ended up winning the tournament (one of the team goals this year) but there was also a lot of good time talking with players about school, soccer, food…you name it.

The most poignant moment came when one my seniors called me out during a halftime meeting.

from www.stripes.com

We were in the finals and our first half was a little rough.  During halftime, many of my players looked angry, so I asked what was wrong (thinking they would be working things out with one another).

Jona (in white), a senior on the team, told me that the game wasn’t fun because all I had been doing for the past few games was telling them constantly what they had been doing wrong.  He also said a few guys on the team (underclassmen) had been down because I had ridden them pretty hard in one particular game.

I didn’t expect that at all.  Our midfield and defense weren’t working well together and I expected the conversation to focus more on that…not on how I was acting.

It made me think about my attitude in the classroom versus on the field.  In the classroom, I’m a teacher…I’m supportive and encouraging to kids that don’t “get it.”  I wouldn’t ever dream of telling a student they keep blowing assignments or tasks and that they’d better get their head straight.  Why do I do that on the field?

One [cop-out] answer might be that I’m an American and American coaches are big and loud.  Another might be that I see coaching and teaching as two different venues that need different personalities…and in one sense, that’s true.  I do feel more free to “ride” players a little more vocally or to call someone out on the field.  But, my players are still students and I need to teach them the game…I can’t expect more than what I’ve taught, and that’s something I forgot this season.

I’m grateful for the relationships we form each year.  I’m very proud of all my students and very proud of my team this year.  I’m more proud, though, of the leadership shown by Jona and that he was willing to call me out and speak for his teammates.  It was a simple statement and correction that changed the way I think about coaching.

Needless to say, the second half was much quieter from the bench and we went on to win.  The victory, however, was built on trust and open communication…and that’s a sweeter feeling than anything.


Jona Park is a senior graduating this year.  He plans on attending and playing soccer at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL next fall.

Letting Go

As we head into the end of the school year, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on the content I was able to finish this year.  I am fortunate in that I don’t have standardized testing to worry about and that my principal is very “hands-off” and lets me try new things with my class.

From frankh, Flickr CC

We’re down to 3 weeks before exams and I decided that I’ve taught enough this year.  I’m going to be letting my students direct their own learning on a topic of their choice.  They still have to apply it to chemistry, but apart from that, it is totally up to them.

I got this idea from Jabiz Raisdana (twitter @intrepidteacher) as he posted links to student surveys and questionnaires during their chosen unit of study.  He was kind enough to send me links to his own unit plan for turning the learning over to the students.

I do have to admit, I am terrified of this backfiring totally…like riding a bike without using the handlebars.  But, I have faith in my students and that they’ve learned enough about their own learning styles to really grab on to this project.  You can follow the updates from my class website if you’re interested in seeing my framework.  I’m sure it will also inspire multiple blog posts over the next couple of weeks as I figure out if this was a good idea or not.