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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Time's fun.....flies.....

Time is just flying by.   "What has Fitzee been doing since her last post?" you ask.     

Well, I've been "evolving" my flipped classrooms, been trying out new approaches, and I've been sharing what I've learned, what mistakes I've made and trying to help others (among many other things that would just take up too much space here).  

Apart from holding Professional Learning sessions in my school, visiting with other flipped teachers, and not blogging (oops), I was honoured to speak at this Education Technology Strategies conference held at the Metropolitan Hotel, Toronto. (February 27, 2013). 

Originally, Principal Greg Green from The Flipped Highschool in Clintondale, MI, was scheduled to speak and unfortunately couldn't make it.  Jan Courtin, Superintendent of Education, Peel District School Board, and I spoke in his place.  Jan gave some insight on The Peel District School Board's pilot on "The Flipped Classroom", shared our learnings from Clintondale and a bit about their story and amazing results.  She also  elaborated on the professional learning and sharing we are doing in our board.  She turned it over to me to give an up-front and personal account of what an actual flipped classroom is like.   It went well and there was a lot of interest.

Tomorrow, I will be meeting with a team from the Toronto District School Board to share what we have been doing.  

Key themes that keep coming up are how to overcome challenges when starting your flipped class.  Here are three such challenges:

  • "It takes so long to make the videos!" - yes of course there is a learning curve when trying anything new.  This is natural and you will overcome it.  But it is frustrating.  My advice is that we are not trying to win an Oscar for the best motion picture and the students don't expect it.  They want you to be yourself and natural.  When I first started making my videos (a year ago now.... wow, time does fly), It was taking me 5-6 hours to make them AND I was prepared.  Now, if I really put my mind to it, I could pull off a video in as long as it takes me to record it, provided, I have the material ready.  Some teachers only do 1-take and they like it that way.  I edit my video's.  Why?  Well to be honest, I record them in my kitchen, and I often get many interruptions from my family that I need to "cut" out.  Plus, it allows me to take out my "uhmm's" and "all rights".  Which does help to shorten the video.  In addition, I do like to annotate and add some pictures/shapes/arrows etc to my videos to, hopefully, make them more interesting and/or easy to understand.
  • "Students don't always watch!" - students will be students.  I don't sweat this one as much as I did at the beginning.  What I've realized is that, even if you let them watch it at the beginning of class, or not, they are probably still going to do more work than they would have otherwise without you "in their business" everyday.  Just by freeing up your time to wander around and help, you can urge them to get going.  Watch this video on Katie Gimbar's approach and ideas on this topic.

  •  Another strategy that I'm using, which I've learned from my Colleague Velisa Anusic (Castlebrook S.S.), is to get parents to sign up for my www.remind101.com. (Mentioned in an earlier blog post). This way the parents can see what is required each day and can be a nagging support for the teacher at home.  On that note, I now have student volunteers from my class posting my reminders each day. 

  • "What to do in class?" - Going from teaching every day (being the "Sage on the Stage") to now not, is strange.  This does take some time to get used to.  I still struggle on a daily basis to make the learning and activities in my classroom more rich and engaging.  I really enjoy the opportunity to get to know each student better and try to make connections with them.  If you read, Prensky's book on Digital Natives you will see that "partnering" with your students is so beneficial for their learning and acceptance of learning.  Give yourself time and don't be hard on yourself.  I'm still trying to come up with a routine that sticks, a seating arrangement that works and more.  As I said earlier, it is still evolving.  I feel that I'm getting closer to a strategy that works.
There are a few other challenges that are easily overcome, however, I felt that this would be a good start.  

Fitzee Out!  (BTW, this is how all of my video's end).