Tagged: 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.]

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.

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]