Sunday, October 16, 2011

Flipped Classroom - Is It Really Innovation for Elementary?

We are hearing more and more about the "flipped classroom" lately.  As I started hearing this in various places, I thought I better learn about this new innovation!  Of course, I don't want to miss out on a great teaching and learning strategy that uses technology, right?  Well, unless I am missing something big here, I don't think the "flipped classroom" is very innovative at all for an elementary classroom....unless you are still teaching with lectures. I do, however, think there may be some uses of a modified version of this for elementary.

If you are using problem or project based learning or engage your students in a lot of hands-on activities, you will not find the "flipped classroom" as a radical innovation.  I can't remember the last time I saw a teacher actually deliver an all out lecture in an elementary classroom.  According to Jonathan Martin's February 13, 2011 post on 21K12 blog "For those educators who never use, nor feel the need to use, classroom time for lecturing,  reversing learning probably has little significance; hence, extremely progressive educators and practicioners of pure PBL may find this innovation a bit passe." 

From: User Generated Education blog
According to Jackie Gerstein, the flipped classroom should be part of a bigger model as shown above.  The "flipped" part is in the asynchronous individual sections for "what" and "so what".  It is not just students watching lectures, but they are responding and sharing their insights in what they learned.  You will also notice in her model, that there are hands on activities and project based learning.  I like how she has blended the pedagogies and used the aspects of hands on projects during class while the more traditional teaching and reflecting are done outside of class.  This makes sense to me because it has the teacher working with the students during the time when they will need the most guidance...during the hands-on activities and project based learning.

John R. Sowash, on The Electric Educator Blog, explains how he had been using "reverse instruction" or "flipped classroom" for his anatomy and physiology class.  As he notes, he does a lot of lectures in this course so this shift in pedagogy made sense for how he currently teaches his class. While he is pleased with his new pedagogy, is that the model of education we really want in the 21st century?  He has recorded the lectures for viewing at home and now kids do the "homework" in class with his help. While this might be an improvement to classic traditional instruction, is this really where we want to get to?  How about revising the course more to include some problem based learning?  He does do a great job of sharing tips and tricks for making the "flipped classroom" work.  Again, this is a secondary class that typically used a lot of lectures as the main mode of instruction.  Check out his You Tube video on skin and body membranes.

By using this model, John has figured out a way to save the precious class time for guiding his students.  I do think this is an improvement over traditional instruction, but I would really like to see this morphed into the model Jackie has explained.  By using the "flipped classroom" for delivering content and reflecting on learning, class time can be freed up for doing problem based learning.

While I know I have more to learn about this model of teaching, I do think it may work in a modified way in elementary. For example, I know that when I preteach the math lesson to my special education students for 10 minutes just prior to math class, they are better able to learn during the math instruction in the classroom.  While the math class is mostly hands on work including team work, manipulatives, and figuring things out together, there are vocabulary words and prerequisite skills that help students prepare for the lesson.  I plan to experiment with using a modified "flipped classroom" model where the students watch the prelesson skills in a video either just prior to class or at home the night before.  If that works, it would be great to have the students watch the videos at home the night before.  It would allow me to keep them in their regular classroom for those 10 minutes OR it would allow me to use those 10 minutes to catch them up on other math skills that they are lacking.

When we plan our problem based learning unit for this year, I want to see if there are places within the unit where we could use the "flipped classroom" concept for some direct teaching and student reflections. This would free up class time for students to work in groups on their solution.

I would love to hear from other elementary teachers who are attempting a "flipped classroom" model.  Please share what you are using this strategy for and how it is working for you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Symbaloo is a quick, easy way to organize your weblinks.  It is free and you can share your Symbaloo mixes with others.  Basically, Symbaloo is a grid where you place your "buttons" for your web resources.  They have a grid that you can get started with.  You can delete buttons, add buttons, and edit how the buttons look.

For elementary students, I really like how you can add an image to a button so it is easier for them to find it.  Here is the start of mine.

Once I make it publicly available, I can post the link on our class website.  I can easily share it through Facebook and Twitter.  I can also add it as an app on our Joli Cloud for the netbooks in the room.  I still have to find out if this would also work on an iOS or Droid-based tablet.  You can also add it as an app in Google Chrome.  If you can use it in so many ways, this may be a great way to get links out in a BYOD classroom.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Jeopardy Labs - Will this work for BYOD?

As teachers are beginning to have a variety of student devices in the classroom because of B.Y.O.D., we need to find tools that work on a multitude of devices.  This year, with our JoliOS netbooks, we have to change how we do some things because we don't have Microsoft Office on the netbooks.  In the past, we used Jeopardy games created in PowerPoint as review games.  Well, that won't work this year, so we had to find a new tool.

On one of my list servs or Twitter feeds, I found out about Jeopardy Labs.  This is a free website where you can create Jeopardy style games without PowerPoint.  This site was created by Matt Johnson, an undergraduate at Washington State University in Vancouver.  While he willingly accepts donations, there is no charge for this service.  Thank you, Matt!  (BTW I will be sending a donation your way.  Keep the tools coming!)

Without any training, it is very easy to create a Jeopardy game.  My co-teacher created one for Latin roots review with no problems.  If you know a little HTML, you can easily add in some images or media to the questions. training needed.  What more can you ask for?

This works great on our netbooks because it is just a web link we need to give the kids and off they go.  What I need to know, however, as a potential BYOD classroom, is if it will work on other devices.  Will it work on Android OS devices, iOS devices, etc?  What is the best way to plan ahead without having all these devices to try it out on?

If I could get several different devices to test out our Latin roots game, I would really appreciate knowing if it worked on your device.   If you have an iPad, Android device or other OS/device, please try our Latin roots game and let me know if it worked or not.  I will then update the Google Spreadsheet to show which devices it works for.

In an attempt to start gathering tools that work across most devices, I started a Google Form to collect this information.  If you have tools that work across most devices, please add them to the collection.  The final spreadsheet will grow over time.  If you see something on the spreadsheet that you think is wrong, please email me to fix it.  I am hoping that we can all work together, with our vast experience with devices, and help teachers select the most universal tools for BYOD classrooms.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Delicious Stacks!

Delicious has a new feature called Stacks.  The idea is to bundle between 3 and 20 of your links together to share with others.  I decided to give it a try.  If it worked, it might be a great way to easily save and build a list of links for students to use.

First, I watched the two-minute Delicious video tutorial to see how it works.  It appeared to be pretty easy, so I built a stack on PBL, problem based learning, which is one of my passions.  As I started to build my PBL stack, I could not get it to work.  In the video, it looked so easy.

I filtered my links by the tag PBL and I checked the box to select them all.  Next to the "select all" checkbox was a droplist.  I clicked on it and picked "Create Stack" an error message.  After several tries at it, I figured out that I was getting an error message because I had more than 20 links checked to include in the stack.  You can only have 20.  I went back to my list and selected some of the best links to include in the stack.  Once I did that, it worked quite easily.  Although the video did not match the screens exactly, I was able to figure it out.

Since I made all the links public, I assume you can click on my link to my stack and get to all the links.  I like that the links have pictures associated with some of them.  I am not sure why some have photos and others don't.  If you know, please post in the comments below.  Please also let me know if you could access the links in my staff even if you are not logged into Delicious.  If so, this is a great possibility for my students.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cluster Maps to Show Blog Visitors

Perhaps you have a classroom or teacher blog, but do your visitors see where all of your readers are located?  Clustr Maps is a neat way to show who is visiting your blog.  If your blog is hosting student content, this can be especially motivating for the students.  How excited would they be to see that someone from China or Africa visited their blog?   Clustr Maps are free and can be put into many different types of sites including blogs, wikis and websites that accept HTML/Javascript.

If you click on a Clustr Map, such as the sample one on the Clustr Map website itself, it is enlarged and gives you more statistics.  The statistics include which number of visitors from each country and state.  It also shows the information about where the most recent visitors were from.

One teacher, Derrick Willard from North Carolina, shows how the audience on his class blog increased and locations varied over time in this SlideShare presentation.  Students would be motivated by the increase in audience and also learn some geography at the same time. Tom Barrett, in his blog post, also strongly suggests that you include a Clustr Map on your class blog as helps students to realize they have a real audience.

I added a Clustr Map to this blog as a demonstration.  At first, no dots show on the map.  Over time, this will increase.  See if your dot shows on the map!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Top News to You with Newsmap

Newsmap is a neat way to see what the top news stories are in many different countries.  According to their blog, "In Newsmap, the size of each cell is determined by the amount of related articles that exist inside each news cluster that the Google News Aggregator presents. In that way users can quickly identify which news stories have been given the most coverage, viewing the map by region, topic or time. Through that process it still accentuates the importance of a given article."  

This would be a great tool for social studies teachers to quickly show students what the top news stories are for that day.  You can click from country to country to see how the news importance changes by location.  Give it a try!