Thursday, April 24, 2014

And flip...

I've progressed into flipping all my Math classes, and I'm loving it. Yesterday was roll out with a group of Grade 8's and it was slick. Students were learning comfortably and in a way that suited them individually - some in groups, some in pairs, some in desks, some sitting on the floor. There were groups asking lots of questions throughout the lesson, there were groups cruising quite comfortably on their own with a few check ins, and there were groups pushing through the lesson, practice, and into deeper learning. One goal is for more to get to the deep learning - today one group was investigating the mathematical relationship between the height a ball is dropped from and the height of its first bounce. I was freed up to roam, chat, probe, and guide, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The day wasn't hiccup free - I did pull a few students into the hall for casual conversations, but I felt the freedom to do so knowing the rest of the class was engaged in their own learning. In addition, our hallway conversation was about how we can learn together better - a conversation I am glad to have with learners any day of the week.

This recent flip was not the beginning of my journey, and it has not been a solo effort at all. I think my first forays into flipped lessons were in the context of teaching process skills in digital media applications. I found screen capture videos so much more effective then a one-size-fits-all demo for these purposes. Slowly the tool crept into my Math as I started using it with applications like GeoGebra (which I'd love to do more of). Next I started flipping whole lessons for Teaching partners to deliver in an Island modeling project that involved ratio, rate, and scale. It was around this time I started really digging into the ways members of my PLN we're flipping their classrooms (most noteably Jerry Bleecker @Mr_Bleecker and Graham Johnson @Math_Johnson). This was followed by flipped lessons for a split class of Math 9 and Math 9 B students. This venture has been really enjoyable in that its pushed me to access and make available tools to help students visualize and experience the Math online. When I have time my lesson prep includes searches with like "interactive", "applet" or "manipulative" to see how I can make the math more real for students. Sometimes its with an online example, or resource.

I'm feeling very positive about the change in the way I'm teaching Math, and I look forward to improving the effectiveness with which I leverage video lessons in class. I have seen already the way it enables me to guide my students more. I've also seen the efficiency we gain in class, and am hoping to use that to slowly introduce more and more problems, applied tasks, and deeper learning opportunities in Math.

What's your experience with flipped lessons? What do you see as the potential benefits and pitfalls for your students?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Learning Together: Feedback and Critique

As I grow and learn with PBL my assessment practices evolve too. I was excited to share my learning at a recent regional Professional Development conference. Here are the slides from that presentation:

For me one of the biggest take-aways as I've pushed to blend good assessment practices with PBL as that strong peer assessment allows us to really "activate learners as resources for one another" (an idea Dylan Wiliam really got me thinking about). If students are getting deep with their questions to their peers then they can really push one another's thinking. How powerful is that!

The second big lesson in PBL based assessment, and really throughout classroom teaching, is that structure and routine are so important. The assessment based application of that in my classroom is critique protocols like this one from BIE. We actually distinguish between "clarifying" and "probing" questions in that clarifying is for us the audience, and probing is to push the thinking of the presenter. Questions first, before giving feedback is so key here in that it forces us to really consider the presenter and their dilemma and try our best to help them on their way with our feedback. Our tendency is to want to jump in with feedback and comments, but its so much more valuable to listen, clarify, and probe before we get thinking about feedback.

Its been great learning about feedback and critique with my students, and its helping our learning very step of the way. What forms of assessment are you using in your classroom? How do you vary your assessment practices with different tasks? What does assessment look like when there are different products being created by different groups or individuals?

We've been given a common language, now let's create unique experiences

Text from the Creative Thinking Profiles
Text from the Communication Profiles
Text from the Positive Personal and Cultural Identity Profiles
What do we want our learners to be? What do we want out learners to be able to do? Is that your definition of 21st Century Skills? Is there more?

The BC ministry of education recently posted competency profiles describing and illustrating growing capacity for communication, creative thinking, and positive personal and cultural identity. In my mind this is the beginning of a formal definition of 21st Century skills in BC. Does it fit what we want for our learners? Will it be of use in our classrooms, and how? It's up to us to answer these questions together, and it's up to us to leverage this common language to enrich core experiences and shape new experiences for the learners we work with. 

What will this look like for you?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

What we learned from Collaboration with Grade 3 students

Photo by Midiman:
"Maybe they are the role models" said one of our Grade 9 students about the Grade 3 students he had met, and he wasn't kidding. We collaborated with a grade 3 class recently to share our inquiry into space and space exploration. Their passionate engagement in their learning left a significant impression on our grade 9 students.

When our teens were asked what they liked about their time with the younger students they said again and again they were impressed by the depth of their knowledge on the planets they'd been studying. All the students were excited to share facts about their planets, and many we're making effective comparisons to put their knowledge in context. The grade 9's also really liked how eager the younger students were to share their learning. The primary class approached their learning with a sincere curiosity, a genuine interest, a readiness to learn and a deep sense of pride in their work. The effects were tangible. We work hard to create learning opportunities for our students that are full of wonder and engagement, but somehow with age and experience we become more selective about our preferred conditions for learning. Who better to remind us to let go and enjoy the ride then a young group of expert learners! Thanks for the lesson young ones, don't let anything get in the way of that curiousity and wonder. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reflections on the Google Summit -with a focus on Collaboration
Google, Google, Google. I keep coming back to this post and there really is so much to talk about. I've thoroughly enjoyed my ongoing exploration of the Google environment both personally and with my students. I recently had the privilege of attending a Google Summit in February which was the real motivation to try to summarize and share my learning with respect to Google. The summit was a very cool experience. Our two days there were packed full of workshops (I'd totally recommend checking out these copies of crowdsourced notes [link] [link] they include notes on almost all the sessions at the conference), The days were also bracketed with keynote speakers and rapid-fire 3 minute "demo slam" style presentation series (a concept I'd love to see become part of District ProD). The number of tools and tricks being presented was incredible. Initially I found myself asking for more why. Why use these tools? Why change? I didn't see a big focus on this question. What we did see was a major emphasis on the SAMR model. Now, as I look at the tools I've integrated into my practice and the tool I'm interested in exploring its starting to make more sense. Its really only once Technology becomes embedded into our practice that we realize its full potential. Once technology is embedded we begin to realize just how much its enriching our learning and the learning of those we're working with. The SAMR model forces us to question the benefit of technology in our practice. 

I've experienced the enrichment that comes from the Google environment in profound ways recently. As students have moved to Google Docs and Google Drive they have stopped loosing assignments. Imagine that - all of a student's work accessible all the time. That's a game changer. Documents have become collaborative and living. No longer do I share files, I share links. Not only can we all see the same document at the same time, or see the most recent version of a document all the time, but we can now begin to have a running dialog about the work in the work. The document itself has embedded within it a story of sharing, commenting, feedback, revision, collaboration, and learning. Search has also become the best way to find everything, and not just in a search engine. I used to pride myself on sweet file organization, but that whole way of thinking is quickly being replaced by search. Talk of keywords is commonplace in my classroom, and in some cases advanced searches are becoming the norm and not the exception - CC image searches come to mind. 

I could go on, but I think we'll agree its a rich experience to reach grow with a tool to the point of redefining the way you do learning. I want to share some of the tools and features that I've been using or would like to use more that I wanted to highlight. I'd love to hear about some of the tools you are using and enjoying too! I'll also recommend checking out the reflections of one of my colleagues, Nicole Emmerton here on her blog

Google Docs - a collaborative office suite
So much I could say about Google Docs, here are some of the things I've really begun to appreciate:
  • 3 layers of privacy for docs - private (only visible to people whose email addresses have been entered), anyone with the link can access, public; and within each layer there are options as to whether individuals other then the owner can view, comment on, or edit the doc. (
  • revision history as a way to keep teams accountable - see who made what changes and when (revision history overview:
  • simultaneous participation in classroom discussion 
  • More and more features added in: research and citation tools within the doc, image searches within the doc (, add-ins for publisher type formatting, add-ins for smart art type graphics, build in dictionary, and optional extensions for text to speech within a chrome browser
  • Commenting feature in Docs
    • Personally I would consider the comments I make and dialogue I have about student work to be the most valuable part of my assessment practice - at least as far as Teacher assessment goes. Its even better when students give feedback and have conversation with their peers - a practice I`ve been working to tune this year too. 
Google plus - Google's answer to Facebook
There are lots of cool features of Google plus, and its growing rapidly as a result. Here are some of my interests:
  • Google handouts - a Skype-style video conference with the key difference being that you can have a conference with multiple participants for free, and Hangouts give you the ability to: stream the hangout online, save the hangout to a YouTube channel, share your desktop, share docs within the hangout, and share YouTube playlists within the hangout. Not to mention the creation of an "event" is pretty slick in that it will automatically send reminder emails to everyone involved.
  • Blogger has an option to post blog posts to G+
  • MOOCs - I've not lurked and participated in a few Massive Open Online Courses offered through Google plus, and there are many being offered (for example the Deeper Learning MOOC)
  • Google Virtual Field Trips - using Google Hangouts
Personal Learning Networks and back channel conversations
Throughout the conference I throughout enjoyed the ongoing dialog with other educators through social media tools
  • Twitter continues to be my favorite source of ongoing ProD and I can't recommend it enough. A personal highlight at conferences has become meeting colleagues whom I have go to know over Twitter. 
  • Today's meet is a free, easy to set up tool that allows a user to set up a public chat. Guests are given a link, asked to greet the chat with their name, and then allowed to chat away 140 characters at a time. It was used in many of the workshops I attended and was an excellent way to engage a large audience - especially those that may not share publicly otherwise
Google Chrome Browser
To start off I now feel lost when I can't log into a Chrome Browser get that at-home feeling of having my browser set up for me. I'm a fan of Chrome and here are a few reasons why. One of the workshops highlighted a bunch of Chrome features if you're interested check out the notes.
YouTube Tricks and Tips
And lastly, some of things worth exploring on YouTube
Whew, thanks for taking a look. What are some Google Tools you've really enjoyed in your class? In your own practice?

Comments are always welcome!