Listening Has Changed My Coaching

Listening Has Changed My Coaching thumbnail

Aside from trying to be as productive as I can every day, listening - truly listening to people - has completely changed my coaching. Elena Agular talks about listening at length in The Art of Coaching (well worth the read, btw) and since I've made the conscious effort to listen first, I've seen fruits.

I stopped going in with preconceptions about progress or willingness to try new things. One unfortunate carryover from teaching is that I have expectations about specific teachers. So and so is hard to work with or this person will never change...I had shut down any possibility of working productively before I even walked in the room. Meeting people with the intent to listen rather than talk erased those expectations and allowed for positive conversations.

My ability to help people has increased. I don't limit this statement to technical help, which is certainly a component of my work these days. Asking questions and listening for context clues has allowed me to look beyond immediate problems and solve deeper issues, or at least identify issues to work toward solutions.

Summarizing the problem before offering solutions is critical. I stopped taking my computer to meetings with teachers because it leads to distractions. Or, if I do have it, I don't open it until we're working on a specific item. While we're talking, I have a notebook. I'm quietly making notes, looking for patterns and letting the teacher express their frustrations, ideas, or concerns without interrupting. I ask probing questions - "Why did you feel that way?" or, "What did [this thing] help you learn about your students' understandings?" - to draw out reflective thought. Before I start to talk, I take one minute to process my notes and state back, in my words, what they're experiencing. This catalyzes the rest of the conversation and helps us work together.

I can loop back to previous conversations and push toward growth. Since I have detailed notes (completely confidential notes) I can look back to previous meetings and probe next time we're together. Looping back to gently push toward growth on goals is easier because they're the teacher's own ideas. I'm there as a processing tool, not as the Owner Of Solutions.

In the end, I want to make sure I'm helping people in ways they want to be helped. I want to push them professionally by talking honestly about teaching - why we do what we do - to promote growth. If I can't understand what they're saying, it's a fool's errand.

Reflected Rocks flickr photo by Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 32 Million views) shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Control Your Class…with RSS

A dangerous trend in education is the advent of the Learning Management System (LMS). Jim Groom writes about the danger of siloing our data across the web rather than sharing it freely. In other words, if you work in Edmodo, it’s difficult to share that content outside of Edmodo. It’s stuck and you’re robbed of the ability to share your work with a larger group who can build on, improve, and re-share.

The LMS has taken off because it takes the difficulty out of piecing things together. Unfortunately, rather than taking the time to look at alternatives, we go for the easy answer without considering the implications of locking out content until it’s almost too late.

I’ve started a document which walks through how to connect documents, blogs, videos, and calendars all through RSS. Rather than locking your content away, RSS pulls from various sources – preferably ones you control – to deliver content directly to you or your students. RSS has been around for a long time, but it takes time to set up and manage, which is why most people pass over the option.

The goal of this document is to help you connect your dots. It’s growing and dynamic. I’ll update it, add, and take away. Feel free to copy it for yourself and share it with your colleagues. We need to begin talking about controlling our content and I think this is a great place to start.

How to: Record Google Hangout in High Quality

I’m working on a super-secret project right now (more to come this summer…bear with me) which will require me to record interviews via Google Hangout. Now, I know I’ve written before about how to screencast on a Chromebook using Google+, but the quality of those recordings, in particular the audio, can leave something to be desired. So, I went looking for an alternative.

I fell down the rabbit trail of apps that do this and that, but none of them really did what I needed. I knew I wanted to use Audacity to record and edit, but I couldn’t find an easy way to record both my microphone as well as the system audio for the people I’m speaking with.

Luckily, I’m currently going through ds106 with some radio geniuses who where able to help. I can’t go any further without giving ScottLo a MAJOR shout out for helping me work this out. Rather than type the entire process out, I’ve got a video showing how I set everything up to record the Google Hangout. Beneath that, you can see the tools (with links) and their settings written out.

The Video

Proof of concept mp3

The Setup – Links below take you to downloads if you don’t have the software yet.

System Audio


  • Input 1 – Soundflower (2ch)
  • Input 2 – Your microphone
  • Main output – Soundflower (64ch)
  • Aux output – Built in output/headphones (for monitoring)


  • Input – Soundflower (64ch)

Google Hangout – This works the same for Skype.

  • Input – microphone/built in mic
  • Output – Soundflower (2ch)

Again, if you need help setting this up, send me a tweet (@bennettscience) and I’m happy to help.

Where Are the #Flipclass Chat Archives?

I had a minor site reorganization, and I wanted to make sure everyone who relies on the chat archive each week knows how to find it. There are a couple different ways:

  1. This blog – The page hasn’t been updated in a long time, but there is a link the archives under the Flipclass Chat page in the header. The archive is now sorted by year to help keep everything straight.

flipclass chat link header blog

  1. The Twitters – I do my best to make sure the archive is out ASAP the following morning, so you can check the #flipclass hashtag search (you can do this even if you’re not on Twitter) and find the link there. If you are on Twitter, be sure to follow me to receive updates directly each week.
  1. Right here – Just for good measure, here is another link to the folders, so you don’t have to go hunting.

Remember, the chat is every Monday night at 8PM EST, 5PM PST. You can also find more information over on the Flipped Learning Journal.

Internet Dance Party

If you’re on the Internet frequently, you may have noticed a new phenomenon spreading across the tubes called the Harlem Shake. If you haven’t, well, you’re in for a treat. Take a look.


I can’t resist this kind of thing. So, I want to put together the first Internet Dance Party (from what I can tell, at least). It will take you 60 seconds of your time and the returns are enormous.

  1. Go to this YouTube video of the song. We only need the first 30 seconds.

  2. Record yourself on your webcam (or other recording device) doing something normal. Typing, reading, grading…whatever, for 15 seconds.

  3. When the beat drops at the 15 second mark, record yourself throwing down some sick dances moves. Costumes are encouraged.

  4. Save your video and upload it to this folder.

  5. Watch for the link with the finished video.

Thanks to Jeremy Macdonald for introducing me to the Harlem Shake.

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.

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.