Category: Flipped

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

I had the opportunity to discuss the idea of Flipping yesterday – I was conscripted for the assignment – and was both terrified and excited.

My plan started with a PollEverywhere multiple choice question asking the participants if flipping was new, if they’d heard of it, or if they equated it with videos.  From there, I’d begin my spiel focusing adding/deleting to what I’d say based on the numbers from the poll.


Then, the discussion ebbed and flowed around the responses to questions I created from the Flipped Learning pdf.  I wanted to push the idea that many of them, based on their response, were already heading down the flipped path: they were adjusting and modifying instruction based on what students needed, they were modifying their environments as needed, etc.  The next step was up to them, how did they see themselves moving forward.  I used a couple of questions from Jon Bergman’s “Questions before you flip;” however, I kept it a little too open.  The questions didn’t guide the discussions in the way I had hoped.  And, suddenly time was up, and I hadn’t helped them accomplish anything.  My one goal, to give them something to move forward with on their own, had not materialized; I’d failed.  Ugh.

Not everything was bad.  I know my beginning was sound; though, I should have let the participants give me their definition of ‘flipping,’ i.e., an open-ended question instead of the multiple choice.  My presentation, the launching pad for the time-block (thanks to the help and feedback from folks on Twitter: Doug Ragan, Kristin Gregory, Marcia Powell, Marc Seigel, & Julia Winter — Thanks to them again!) was solid and did let me address a few key ideas.

The most important piece of advice, though, I didn’t take to heart: sharing my story.  I ended up getting too caught up in not wanting to influence how ‘flipping’ was perceived, I forgot to show what I do.  (This was also the most important critique for improvement I received from a colleague I work with who attended.)  I use videos, it works for my classes; I think it works great for any science class.  All I had to say was, “it may not be what’s best for you & your subject;” but it would have given them an idea, a place to start.  I failed to give them this starting place, I failed to give them a concrete example.  I was afraid the ‘technology’ would seem to overwhelming; I would be reinforcing the perception that flipping is just videos.  

Continuing in this vein, should have been to show my day to day use, like what I do to track 1) that the video notes for class are taken and 2) how well the students understood and could apply the information from the videos: my flipped questions.  I could even have discussed my growing desire to change these questions to something more open-ended and why I feel that change needs to take place; how the responses determine what I need to re-explain at the beginning of class and how I might need to tweak what’s done in class to address common misconceptions.  In addition, I could have pointed to the other ways I’ve flipped my class by showing the explore labs and simulations, i.e., not videos, I use for each major concept/unit.

Once, this had been done, I should have focused in on a few steps to flip a lesson.  This would have made flipping seem do-able and would have provided a stepping stone for each teacher upon leaving the room.

First, how do they want to curate their resources.  This means, I would need to know who already had a website (an oversight that hit me the last 15 minutes of my session).  If you already have one, this question is answered.  If not, then, do you want a website, a wikispace; do you want to use Dropbox, Box, GoogleDrive (an obvious choice especially since every single person in our district has a google account); do you want a blog?  Associated with this would be determining what students do, and do not, have access from home; then, having a plan to address those without access.

Second, in my mind, would be determining if a video is the right choice.  There are so many videos already out there in all subjects done by other teachers, that they could have found a couple to explore related to the topic they would want to flip.  If a video is not appropriate, what would be: an article to read that requires a written response to be brought in or blogged about?  I don’t know, but they do: they know their subject, they know their students (I don’t have to know this and I forgot that).  Again, the follow-up to this, what can you do for those without access?  For videos a USB perhaps or a DVD or the first five minutes of class or something I haven’t written…a chance to discuss this with others in the session might have turned up other ideas.

Third, determine what will be done during the face-to-face time with the students to build upon and apply what they had just designed as their students’ homework.  The crux of the flip: how will you focus this crucial learning time to help the students grow and internalize the material and concepts.  How will you utilize the community to help each individual?  When thinking about this, they could have also discussed common misconceptions they already know to anticipate as well as determine what assessments, whether formative or summative or both, they would use to check for student understanding and growth.

I think these few changes would have made my session so much better.  I have two hopes now: 1) I did not turn anyone away from the idea of flipping; and 2) I will get to redeem myself in the future.  I guess that’s the beauty of living and learning (and failing oh so publicly).

I leave you, though, with a question:  what else should I add to my list of three?  What have I forgotten?


Exploring Chemistry

I’m liking the challenge and the potential impact of ‘exploring’ each concept before students actively study as I attempt to implement explore-flip-apply. My twist, though this is blatantly stolen, is to have the students reflect on &/or explain the exploration in a blog post.

My post is coming up prior to any data to support an assertion of actual improved outcomes and increased learning. However, the questions asked, exposing the interconnections between concepts, was absolutely amazing today.

WaterElectrolysisThe activity, using a 9-volt battery to eletrolyze water, is part of my first unit and I wanted it to both review and set the stage for stoichiometry. There were four questions I wanted them to answer:

  • What is the balanced chemical equation?
  • Is there qualitative evidence to support the balanced chemical reaction?
  • Could you collect quantitative data to ‘prove’ the balanced reaction? How?
  • Can you draw a particle diagram(s) that models what’s going on in this reaction?

I had the equipment out — battery, sample cups with tacks, small plastic test tubes, and two different salt solutions — and we got started. One of the first questions asked was how to capture the gas in the test tubes. This is not a question to be taken lightly, since the point was to have the captured gas push water out of the test tubes to visually see the difference in the amounts. Rather than let the students struggle, I made a mistake I think, I showed them what to do — fill the test tubes with the salt solution, invert, and quickly fill the sample container with more solution. The whole apparatus is now placed upon the battery. Immediately, bubbles begin forming, an unmistakable difference in rate apparent. The students get theirs going.

I wanted them to work alone to answer each question first, thinking about them while they watched the reaction, then using their ideas during discussion. Again, I think I jumped the gun a bit — struggling is not something they enjoyed — and I cut this time too short.

We jumped into the group discussion with the first question and a uniform response was provided, a balanced equation for decomposition of water. I jumped to the last question here, I’m leaning toward making it the second question next time, and, again, a confident reply of ‘sure’ from the group. The second question was the first divergence from my script: how can you know that the gases are actually hydrogen and oxygen? The observations also helped to push this question forward from left-field. After a bit, all the test tubes lost the apparent doubling of gas in one test tube versus the other; there was still more in one, but it didn’t look like twice as much. To try to show this, I introduced some UI to the solution and filled the tubes and sample cup again. One complication, the salt solution used sodium bicarbonate.

Shifting our focus again, during this time of waiting and watching, we jumped to the third question; surprisingly tougher than I thought. They were still focused upon how to measure the products, how to verify they were oxygen and hydrogen….I just wanted them to think how a balanced equation had to be based on an equal mass before and after. So, I kept trying to push them back to the law of conservation of mass, the law behind a ‘balanced chemical’ reaction. Again, I gave in, and just told them this.

Concluding the UI variation….

Gases are now being produced in a blue solution, but bless it, one of them begins to lighten (I won’t go so far as to say it turned yellow, but it did become less blue). This lead to what exactly this change in color meant. We take a turn into pH, the equilibrium of water ionization and baby steps to electrochemistry. Using the equilibrium equation as a new starting point, I try to encourage them to work out what’s ‘left’ when each gas is formed, pushing them to visually separate the equation in their mind and the bell rings.

I try to frantically throw information at them as they ready for the next class and assure them we’ll do a quick finish-up tomorrow, in class, and their blog post will be due tomorrow now, too.

[Follow-up: so quickly refocused upon goals from yesterday, added some explanation about self-ionization of water, rewriting the equilibrium equation twice. Without going into detail on redox, so just in terms of particles, if hydrogen is removed (or oxygen), seeing what is left behind helps to explain why the indicator changed color, why the pH is different. I’m really hoping this turns into a seed to reap from in future concepts.]

Anatomy Re-do: Muscle Breakdown

My goals in Anatomy need modified. I need to streamline my standards and tweak my learning objectives for this course. The existing objectives I operate under were slightly modified from the local community college when work was done on an articulation agreement (i.e., students that earned an A or B would also receive credit from the community college upon enrollment).

To that end, I’m going to attempt to organize the presentation of material and practice activities, attempting to link these to the purpose/goals/objectives of each system. This is a process I’m going to go through for each system.

The Muscular System is first for one reason: the amount of anatomy and physiology content. This is the first system where the depth of physiology becomes an issue: everything from the details of the action potential by way of the electrochemical gradient to the chemical cascade leading to contraction to the metabolic pathways responsible for energy production allowing contraction, not to mention the Cori cycle and Oxygen debt. Basic anatomy includes micro- and gross anatomy (as seen in the skeletal system) including knowing certain muscles, i.e., memorizing their names, and the method of nomenclature, but is complicated by the three tissue types, by the impact of the microscopic arrangement upon the actions of the organ (banding, sarcomeres, SR and T-tubules, endo- to epimysium, fascicle arrangement) and the conformational changes associated with contraction, not to mention the difference in isotonic vs. isometric contraction, and linking it to origin/insertion and action. There’s a lot of information and a fair amount I’ve left off this list.

Below, I’m listing the current objective & items/activities I use. Below that will be the potential change or questions I have about the changes and I would greatly appreciate suggestions and critiques.

System Introduction

  • Body Atlas Video segment “Muscle and Bone” — bridge from skeletal system to muscular system (25 min)
    • backchannel during video for comments and questions

1. Describe the properties and function of muscle tissue

  • Flipped 6.1 — gross anatomy notes: intro to muscle function, quick review of different muscle types (both tissue and functional skeletal), nomenclature, origin/insertion, lever action, movements, muscle names/locations (14.52 min)
    • Quick listing of the functions of the muscular system
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion

2. Identify the principal axial and appendicular muscles of the body; including identifying origin, insertion, and action of ten muscles

  • Blank Anterior & Posterior Muscle Man — fill in blank chart
    • Identifies key muscles of the body
    • Done individually, in class
  • Anatomy ColorPlates Packet — copies of relevant pages in the Anatomy coloring book of major axial and appendicular muscles
    • Anatomy is visual; this provides reinforcement of knowledge
    • Done individually as homework
  • Flipped notes 6.1 — gross anatomy notes: intro to muscle function, quick review of different muscle types (both tissue and functional skeletal), nomenclature, origin/insertion, lever action, movements, muscle names/locations (14.52 min)
    • Does provide different images for principal muscles of the body
    • Understanding nomenclature reinforces anatomical awareness and provides leeway in remembering different names
      • Ex. Rectus Femoris vs. Rectus abdominus — found in the thigh or abdominal region; remembering the ‘rectus’ means straight bonus information
    • Quick review of the requirements of origin or insertion, linked to basic body movements (setting stage for function of muscles)
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Skeleton Diagram Insertion/Origin/Action — blank skeleton and skull in which specified muscles are drawn/colored according to origin/insertion attachments; i.e., deltoid is drawn from deltoid tuberosity on humerus to clavicle on posterior view.
    • First few done on board in front of class to demonstrate just how each muscle should be drawn and information listed
    • Individually fill in worksheet; work in small group to look up/determine origin/insertion/action in class
  • String Lab — students, in pairs, attach one end of the string (i.e., the looped end) to the appropriate location of the insertion and take the other end to the origin. Pulling on the origin end, they simulate the movement/action of the muscle.
    • Collaborative work to ‘act out’ with purpose in class
    • Focus upon ten specific muscle actions
    • More clearly presents why a particular muscle produces a particular action

3. Contrast Skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle in terms of structure and function

  • Flipped notes 6.2 — information on structure and function of three muscle types; detail of microscopic organization of skeletal muscle; neuromuscular junction (14:02)
    • Detailed differences between muscle types
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Muscle Tissue Flowchart
    • Reinforce structural differences

4. Describe the organization of skeletal muscle: (a) at the macroscopic level; (b) at the microscopic level

  • Flipped notes 6.2 — information on structure and function of three muscle types; detail of microscopic organization of skeletal muscle; neuromuscular junction (14:02)
    • Progress from fascia/periosteum to epimysium to myofilament, banding within the sarcomere, organization of thick/thin filaments, including SR and T-tubules.
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Anatomy/Physiology ColorPlates Packet — copies of relevant pages in the Anatomy and Physiology coloring books of microscopic anatomy
    • Anatomy is visual; this provides reinforcement of knowledge
    • Done individually as homework

5. Explain the key steps involved in the contraction of a skeletal muscle fiber: (a) discuss the physiological changes required to contract and relax a muscle fiber; (b) discuss the protein conformation changes necessary for contraction.

  • Flipped notes 6.2 — information on structure and function of three muscle types; detail of microscopic organization of skeletal muscle; neuromuscular junction (14:02)
    • Neuromuscular junction anatomy
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Flipped notes 6.3 — muscle physiology (33 slides)
    • Sliding filament theory, action potentials (electrochemical gradients, Na-K pump, graphing AP), and energy sources for contraction
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Physiology ColorPlates Packet — copies of relevant pages in the Physiology coloring book
    • Processes are visual; this provides reinforcement of knowledge
    • Done individually as homework
  • Sliding Filament Theory Video — students devise video to simplify changes in protein conformation into 4 steps
    • Point is to instruct peers; posted to website
    • small group project, done in class
  • PhET Neuron Simulation Lab — simulation of action potential and physiological changes responsible
    • Individual or group, in class or homework depending upon time
  • Rabbit Muscle Lab — teased sample of muscle receives different treatments, contraction observed under the microscope
    • differences in contraction noted
    • done in class, students work in pairs

6. Compare the different types of muscle contractions

  • Flipped notes 6.3 — muscle physiology (33 slides)
    • Sliding filament theory, action potentials (electrochemical gradients, Na-K pump, graphing AP), and energy sources for contraction
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Pushing the Limits: Strength video — animations of contraction, provides explanation of the power of the body and extremes of what the body can do
    • backchannel during video for comments and questions

7. Describe the mechanisms by which muscle obtains and uses energy to power contraction; distinguish between aerobic and anaerobic endurance

  • Flipped notes 6.3 — muscle physiology (33 slides)
    • Sliding filament theory, action potentials (electrochemical gradients, Na-K pump, graphing AP), and energy sources for contraction
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Exercise & Cellular Respiration Lab — impact of exercise upon rate of carbon dioxide production
    • changes in carbon dioxide production noted as amount of exercise changes
    • done in class, students work in pairs
  • A Perfect Storm in the Operating Room — case study
    • interrupted case study on malignant hyperthermia
    • students answer packet questions and turn in a group report based on the last set of questions
    • small groups during class

Summary Activities

  • Disease Glog — a digital poster providing a ‘story’ about a disease
    • basic explanation about the disease, including appropriate statistics
    • explains what homeostatic imbalance is responsible for the disease
  • Blog Post — Muscular system, either or below
    • anatomy of muscle, explaining, with detail, the relationship between form and function within the system
    • physiology of muscle, linking to homeostasis for the body and how homeostasis maintained within each organ


First, it is glaringly obvious I must make changes to my videos — they need streamlined and topic/concept focused: just pics and labels for major muscles, just nomenclature, just origin/insertion, just sliding filament, just energy, etc., eliminating nice-to-know-but-not-essential items. Also, some just need to be slides, slide rocket would do the job. Some need to be augmented with Popcorn Maker: more interactivity, more quick quizzes (translation: low risk, formative assessment) during the notes for contraction and muscle energy. This would also create a more effective use of the JITT and ConcepTests ideas in my Anatomy class, allowing the recap/discussion the next day to address the issues identified during the notes.

Second, embrace the limited scope of some objectives. Looking at number 1, muscle function is basic knowledge. List it and move on. A similar change needs to occur with number 3, differences in cardiac, smooth and skeletal muscle. There’s a table in the textbook listing the differences between the tissue types; this is enough to address the objective. Simply point out the table and mention the Cardiovascular and Digestive systems will go into the depth of the specific muscle types, just like this system is used to present/discuss details of skeletal muscle.

Contraction differences, number 6, could be eliminated. As future chapters will go into greater detail for cardiac and smooth muscle and since I’m limiting the tissue differences to be presented, the only item left here is isotonic and isometric. This can be a component of context, posture vs. running for example, but does not require its own standard.

Thirdly, move in the direction of explore and develop curiosity (i.e., explore, flip, apply from flipteaching and Ramsey Musallam’s blog). This is where I’m weak.

My first thought is to make the “string lab” be the introductory activity. See if students can figure out where muscles must attach in order to produce known movements. Then, send the blank muscle man home to fill out as homework; check it first thing the next day. This would frame the nomenclature discussion. This also could lead into the microscopic anatomy: fascicle arrangement in names, leading to a review of micrographs, leading to a discussion of the structure behind the banding.

Another change is to keep the anatomy and physiology of contraction together – I’ve separated them the last couple of years. This separation hurt rather than helped this concept. The PhET lab would be done first, before even starting contraction, but right after the microscopic structure above. This sets the stage for the physiological/anatomical changes responsible for contraction.

The last concept is energy. I’m thinking the exercise cellular respiration lab should be done first. Then, the rabbit muscle lab. After the notes on energy sources/pathways, the case study. It becomes a summative application, requiring students to pull it all together.

All of these changes I hope will also make the disease glog and blog post more impactful. Allowing students to tell about one aspect of muscle function and the lack thereof.

My remaining questions: where to put in the videos? They are great stories and the backchannel during is always interesting, but is that enough to keep them? As for the color plates: limit to essentials, but should I have the students identify the essentials? Which means the students choose the muscles to know origin/insertion for, rather than me defining the list…good idea?

Should I eliminate more? Is there something I haven’t even thought of?

Please share any and all comments/suggestions. Thanks ahead of time.

Flipping Anatomy…Again

A two week, intensive, majorly modified instructional attempt is being made with my Anatomy class.  Here’s the gist: continuing the flipped (sort of, maybe?), but changing when it occurs; continuing the case studies, but changing their emphasis.  This is on the fly.  This may blow up in my face.  The students, though it’s their idea, may rebel.  But the idea…kinda cool.

Anatomy physiology was, in my mind, easily separated along just those lines, when I decided to flip last fall.  Hence, the plan I came up with, and put into effect, was to use the flipped medium (via Screencast-o-matic…Love it!…though intrigued by possibilities with Camtasia…) to post the anatomy lectures online, saving class time for the physiology components.  My reasoning was/is twofold.  First, anatomy is visual; you have to see it; you have to draw it (several times); you have to see parts in context of the whole.  Second, anatomy is based on knowledge loops.  For example, you probably know the femur is the large bone in your upper leg.  So, it would not surprise you to know that is the femoral region.  Nor, would it surprise you to know that the major vessels in this area are the femoral artery and the femoral vein.  Plus, two of the larger muscles in your thigh are named the biceps femoris and the rectus femoris.  See what I mean?  Looped, layered, whatever you want to call it.  All of this meant anatomy could be started, and practiced, individually.

The form and function of anatomy would be intertwined (and reinforced) with the lecture and discussion of physiology; with the system by system study of homeostasis.  Additionally, case studies (primarily from University at Buffalo) would be used to reinforce and expand on each system through small group discussion.  The elegance of most of the case studies lies in their comprehensive presentation of the body.  Though they are system focused, the knowledge, background, and questions produced require a whole body approach and reinforce a core understanding that no system operates in isolation.  This is why I use them; this is not always what my students get from them.

Conclusion: I still need to improve my use  of case studies; they’re still too tangential.  The big change, therefore, is to use them as the focus and the vehicle of understanding.  This means the questions generated by student discussions, focused and guided by the case studies themselves, will determine the flow of information.  I think this is more constructivist in its approach (this definition limited by my own understanding).  The students then identify the information they need to know.  Now, they ‘research’ (they have to know something precisely to gain insight into what’s happening).  This means my current flipped lectures need to be adjusted; perhaps a reinvention.  This could mean shorter, more focused and specific content; it could mean broader, more holistic presentations of a system; it could mean the elimination of flipped lectures except as reviews after the fact because I actually give mini-lectures in the midst.  Either way, the students will get the content in tandem with the progression of the case study itself, guided by what they need to learn in order to solve the problem and inform their discussions with each other.  This, I hope means, the lectures will have a greater impact because they have a purpose defined by the problem needing solved.

The Ripple Effect —

This change will also act as impetus for the modification of my Web 2.0 use.  One in particular, the glog assignments.  A bit of background:  these assignments, one per system, require students to research a disease to explain how it works, how it is treated, and include national, regional and/or gender statistics presented as infographics.  (Ultimately, I really want the students making their own; not sure where to find the time for this.)  I wanted my students to recognize the long term homeostatic imbalance inherent in the existence of the disease.  This was not always achieved.  So, these assignments need a new approach, i.e., again, a problem to solve.  If the problem to be solved is now the disease and how homeostasis is altered, then these will augment the case study.  This medium is no longer collateral, but one of the major avenues for student learning (the original goal).  Maybe assign a couple of diseases to each group to go deeper?  Make them collaborative in nature?  Maybe this can be the foundation for a wiki project?  The blogs…do I change them, limit their scope?  I’m convinced of their importance as personal expressions of understanding.  Their role is crucial to learning, not just the specific material, but the role of evidence and support in communicating ideas.  Maybe make them a formative assessment?  Maybe structure comment dialogue through some form of peer-grading?  Make this slightly adversarial, debate-like, to foster critical analysis?  This will require more class time; more time than the initial walk through, semi-training session we go through in a couple of days.

All of this means what now?  (Note to reader: enter my delusion of grandeur…)  The case study will define the goal, yet there’s flexibility to pursue tangents, to go deeper.  The students will work in small groups, collaborating and providing peer-tutoring, coming together as a class to build a consensus of understanding, making sure everyone is on the same page.  To contribute, each student has to (I think they have to) embrace their personal responsibility to learn.  To learn, each student has to (again, I think they have to) challenge unsubstantiated statements, blithe responses without evidence, expecting more from each other and themselves.  This could, in turn, provide the students the opportunity to define the limits of the course, define the order of study; which in turn really kinda freaks me out.  But again, the idea, kinda cool.

Skype Flipping from Quarantine

A quick update, as today was the first day of using Skype to keep in touch with my classes. As I’m relegated to home because of shingles, this was one of the solutions suggested. Plus, it turns out, I can be the guinea pig for a colleague heading to Alaska in March.

It seemed to work okay.

The students, of course, were slightly enthralled by the strangeness of having me speak to them from the computer. The substitute (great favor to get her: grandma-type, but easy going, willing to be interrupted by and do these different things) was actually thrilled to be “brought into the 21st century.”

The real test will be in a couple of days when I try to lead Anatomy through a case study. In the mean time, the quick check ins at the beginning and end of class, and being available for them if they made a call to get a question answered (as a couple of students did in first and second periods), definitely met the expectation I had when using it.

Though, I’m hoping a second opinion will change my current time line of time off, this is a nice enough substitute to keep my presence in the classroom and keep me from feeling like I abandoned my class.

Teaching (& flipping) from Quarantine

I can’t go to work for one to three weeks. My mind repeats, one to three weeks.

Shell shocked. I’m only 39.

I have brand new students, shiny and cool like a brand new car.

One to three weeks?! Now, the panic comes.

She continues speaking about stress being a cause…I was planning to go over Diigo & Glogs so my freshmen can do the Safety Poster project, now that’s not happening; I was going to go over how to set up the lab notebook with Chemistry because of the lab I had planned, which won’t happen now; I was going to start homeostasis in Anatomy with a case study as the introduction, so that’s a no go…what sub will I get (subs are like Russian Roulette, literally, you hope your survive)…I can’t have labs and ‘messy’ projects with a sub…what am I going to do?!

Finally, she asks what I do; I teach. Briskly, she says, they’ll cope without me.

And, the cause of this exclusion: Shingles.

According to the CDC, only half of the 1 in 3 people that develop cases of shingles are over 60. According to Medscape, the entire adult population has “latent [Zoster virus] and is therefore at risk of developing shingles.” And, as it is the same virus responsible for chicken pox, “for reasons that are not fully known, the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.” Though transmission is through touch, and less likely so long as you keep the rash covered, it is a danger to pregnant women, those who’ve never had the chicken pox or the vaccine, and immunocompromised individuals.

I’m still stuck, repeating that 1 and 3 with a week, panicked.

Thanks to my mom, who in the middle of my emotional meltdown, reminds me, I just have to get through Friday…I’ll have the weekend to strategize for the following week. One day at a time is all I need to focus upon.

And, thanks to Brian Bennett (@bennettscience), Steven Hecht (@profmicro), and Adam Taylor (@2footgiraffe) all willing to share some advice, reminders, and ideas for how to cope with my forced confinement via Twitter.

Reminders about the possibility of the flip: if it’s good for students when they miss, I can use it when I’m absent. So, I’ll post a couple more videos; post what I intended to do in class (like going over how to set-up the lab notebook and a quick guide for getting going on the glog). Using PhET labs…kind of an ‘oh yeah’ moment as I already have a couple embedded on the class website. And, then there’s Skype. I can skype into class, probably at the beginning, field some questions, and let them get busy. Since my students also have to have Twitter accounts, they can participate in Mr. Taylor’s genetically modified foods chat with his students and scientists they follow.

Amazing how cooler heads can prevail. And, how I am able to rely upon the kindness of strangers (use appropriate southern drawl there) to help me out of a jam that seemed impossible.

At least now, my one and three with a week, do not seem as daunting. So, I’ll down another antiviral pill, take a Tylenol, and face tomorrow with less stress, more hope and lots to do.

[One last thanks to Steven Hecht whose idea it was to write this up]

My Flipping Realities and Possibilities

[Author’s note: this will have mixed tenses, meaning my grammar is going to be appalling (sorry Mrs. Parsley), as this is a combo of what I was thinking when I went with this and some of what I observed after and during the doing of it.]

I flipped my courses this past semester.  I realize flipping the class is not a silver bullet that will magically cure the ills of what ails every student in their acquisition of knowledge and application of learning.  What it does offer, though, is 24/7 opportunities for remediation, one-on-one help with problems or concepts with me and each other, increased opportunities for applied learning, and greater student accountability.

The biggest advantage in using screencasts is the pause button:  the student literally determines the pace of information flow.  What this allows the student is time: time to process what is heard and seen, time to process questions for clarification, and time to research on their own using their books, the Web, whatever, to construct and build their understanding.  Moreover, the ‘time’ is not one day’s worth, it is available over the entire course for students to either play catch-up or review as necessary.  The time is not just a benefit for the students either, but for me, as now I have the opportunity to help some students through the frustration of, ‘It made sense in class, but when I got home, I didn’t get it.’  Now, I, and their peers, are available to help, coach, and/or tutor each other through the problems.  This shared frustration helped coax some of my students through the challenges of Chemistry.  Plus, as a teacher, there was nothing like the feeling of being replaced by the students when they explained what was going on or how to do something to each other, helping each other ‘get’ the material, improving their own understanding along the way.  I loved hearing the ‘light bulb’ moments.  I actually think the flipped model allows more intellectual independence in and interdependence between students.  There were more opportunities to discuss and explain and ask questions without pressure; it was liberating for many.  The perceived negative reality of lecture as homework (as it’s still homework) means the students, now more than ever, have to keep up with their homework.  An Achilles heel I suppose.  However, the same students that did not do this homework for my class, were not doing ‘traditional’ homework in other classes.  As a teacher, I would like to ‘hook them,’ find that key to drawing them in, and help them discover authentic self-esteem (esteem that comes from their struggles and work through failure and success); but I also know I cannot abandon the rest of the class and stop doing what I know will help many with the material because of a few.

In addition, flipping also meant I still would have time for labs.  This requires a bit of clarification: I went from three 90 minute classes with a 90 minute planning per semester to four 78 minute classes with 60 minutes of planning before school which also had to include dealing with student issues, attending parent conferences and IEP’s, staff meetings, PD development, and PLC’s or department meetings.  The very real loss of planning and instructional time meant I was going to have to eliminate some labs and course material.  All Hail the Flip!  Really, I believed it would allow me to avoid making some of the hard choices about what to cut out while creating time to add in some new assignments (specifically case studies in Anatomy).  So, I did not cut like I needed to and, therefore, did not cover some important concepts; I ran out of time.

The flipped did allow me to find a regular means of incorporating the ideas of Just In Time Teaching (Mazur and Novak).  A component of the lecture assignment was a series of questions to answer after they watched it.  It was supposed to fulfill two roles for me: first, let me know who had ‘done’ their homework; second, point out issues the students had with the material.  I tried to vary the questions in difficulty and scope (and got better at this as the semester progressed) thereby enabling them to be more than a homework check and more than regurgitation.  These questions were hit or miss in fulfilling both purposes:  I did see some go back and work on them after class discussions; and I did see some never answer the questions, though, they had obviously taken the notes.

Next semester, I get a mulligan as I have all new classes.  I am teaching Anatomy and Integrated Science again, and I get to reinvent my Chemistry material for Honors Chemistry (because they use different books and have different course outlines).  This will allow me to tweak some of the lessons without being as overwhelmed.  I am also going to get to change the order and purpose of the flipped questions I used.  My plan, right now, is to have the students answer the questions before the lecture.  I hope to see improvement in, and get a better gauge of, their understanding which should allow more flexibility in how and what we do in class (and I think be more along the JiTT philosophy).  For the students, it should provide a purpose to the lectures; it should focus their attention.  I’ll also be culling through some of the material and changing priorities, the very thing I had hoped not to do, but is obviously necessary.  Then, I want to incorporate misconceptions, primarily through student generated content.  This could be instigated by demonstrations or videos or common mistakes…it’s just a thought for now, but I hope to flesh this out…for the purpose of having the students confront and analyze what they really understand and allow for real growth and learning.  Finally, for better or for worse, much of the material in my Chemistry and Anatomy classes, specifically, require time from the students outside of class.  The flipped does not replace studying or the need to study, but should provide an additional resource to the student pursuing understanding during his/her study time, allowing that quick review/reminder about a particular idea.

Once more into the breach.

[For more information on flipping the class check out these blogs – Jon Bergman, Aaron Sams, Brian BennettAndy Schwen, Ramsey Musallam; for critiques/concerns check out these blogs – Frank Noschese, Daniel Rezac article, and Derek Muller]