Thursday, July 5, 2012

Make Thinking Visible with the Flipped Classroom: Webinar by Alan November

I came across a webinar archive from February presented by Alan November.  Check it out here

(Be warned... you can't rewind this webinar or it will start over. And if shockwave crashes - like it did for me twice - you will have to start all over!)

  • 1989 - "The Age of the Smart Machine" - overwhelmingly, the majority of the time, if you just put technology on top of what you are doing, you don't see any improvement.  Unless you change the processes (the way that you work, the relationships that people have with one another, the flow of information), technology all by itself being added at best will only make incremental improvements.
  • What fascinates him about the Flipped Model: The Flipped Model is serious process change.  It is making a fundamental change in the culture of teaching and learning.
  • "Someone is going to have to come up with a much better description than the 'flip'" :)
These thoughts remind me so much of what I've heard in the last six months.  You can't just "tape" technology to what we are doing and expect amazing change.  (See "Three Little Pigs" analogy from  Jennie Magiera here). It also reminds me of the quote I have on my Prezi about the Flipped Classroom by Rushton Hurley:
You can be a good teacher and never use technology, and technology won't turn a bad teacher into a good one. However, a good teacher, using technology well, can make great things happen.
 I don't think I did that good of a job when I presented the Flipped Classroom to my staff in January... heck, I had only been "flipping" for a couple months at that point, and even though I kind of "got it"... there is still so much I was missing at that point!  A lot of my focus on the Flipped Classroom at that point was still on the technology/watching video lessons, etc and not on the fundamental shift in focus from a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered classroom... from passively receiving content to actively working with, questioning, and discussing the material with peers and teachers.  If I presented the flipped classroom again, my emphasis would be so different!  I guess that's why we transition from "Flipped Class 101" to "201", and so on! Constant growth and learning!
  • The "flip" is much more than doing classwork at home and homework at school.
    • Dr. Eric Mazur (Harvard) - comprehensive and data-supported model - starting the 80's. He called it "Peer Instruction".
Mazur's "method":
    • The "flip" has serious impact in students deeply learning content
      • Students prepare for class by watching video, listening to podcasts, reading articles, or contemplating questions that access their prior knowledge
        •  The whole transfer of knowledge that used to be in the classroom is now done online.  There is no need for a student to go to class to just hear a lecture anymore.
Key point: Transfer of knowledge done OUTSIDE of class!  This frees up class time for actually applying knowledge in a supportive, active environment where students can work with each other and the teacher.
      • Students are asked to reflect upon what they have learned and organize questions and areas of confusion.
        • "Teaching by Questioning"
          • when kids ask questions, it provides information that teachers normally didn't have...
            • gives teachers insights into where a class has confusion/misconception
          • Teachers used to just get students' answers to their homework... and then have to figure out by looking at their answers what the source of their confusion/misconception was
          • Lesson plans are based on student questions 
I guess my WSQ model isn't so new :). As I've been reading and learning more about the Flipped Classroom all year, I've come across more and more teachers using methods similar to mine, they just didn't put a super-cool acronym to it.  Students don't like to ask questions sometimes because asking good questions is actually pretty tough!  However, having students ask questions opens us up several positive things:
  • Students have to think critically about what they've heard/read/learned in order to ask a good question
  • Students have much deeper and more engaged discussions in class because there are lots of questions to answer and they are their questions, not just some questions posed from the teacher.
  • Seeing students' questions allows the teacher to see exactly where the students need help and where misconceptions may lie
With the WSQ, I also think the summary (or guided summary, which is where I've headed with it) allows me as the teacher to see misconceptions.  I try to ask HOT questions, but there is always a foundational aspect to some of the questions and if a student can't answer it correctly, I know they are completely missing something (or simply didn't pay attention!).  So, I try to get some of the basics covered in the Guided Summary Questions and then have them think a step deeper as well. 

For example, one of the summer WSQ questions simply asks: "What does it mean to 'evaluate' something in math?".  This was supposed to be a very simple, non-HOT, check for understanding/listening question.  The answer, which I said multiple times, wrote down, highlighted, had a call-out in the video for, etc was "Plug in and simplify".  I had a student say "to ascertain or set the amount or value of". (copied from  

Asking them HOT questions is a great way to model for them how to ask questions (a skill I think needs to be taught!), but also clearly shows me their misconceptions before they even come to class.  I am able to skim through their responses submitted via the Google Form and be prepared to lead the group discussions and pose follow-up questions for the students so they discuss what was confusing and not focus on the "easy" stuff.

So, having a WSQ with non-HOT and HOT questions allow me to do two things:
1. non-HOT questions: Accountability - check for basic comprehension, paying attention, etc
2. HOT questions: Address Misconceptions and Confusions and open the door for their own HOT questions
      •  The instructor sorts through these questions prior to class, organizes them, and develops class material and scenarios that address the various areas of confusion.  The instructor does not prepare to teach material that the class already understands.
        • "The more you know about a subject, the less you understand a first-time learner's approach"
      • In class, questions and problems are posed
      • Students think and then respond (Mazur uses clickers, cell phones, etc).
        • This happens at the BEGINNING of the period, rather than at the end like many teachers use
      • Teacher can provide feedback and then students can discuss with their peers!  The teacher doesn't give the answer... "There's some confusion, I'd like you to talk to one another".  They defend and question each other.
      • The instructor listens, prompts, and helps students address misconceptions 
  • Socrates - the role of a teacher is not to give answers, but to ask the most interesting questions
I find it funny that the students that hated the flipped classroom the most wanted just that - they wanted me to give them all the answers.  That is what their "definition" of a teacher was - one who "teaches and gives us the answers". Oh, what a paradigm shift...
  • Mazur has collected over 3000 questions that students have asked - what an amazing database!!!
I want to do something MORE with the questions my students pose this year.  I want to collect them somehow, keep a database (maybe they will become questions I end up asking the next year on the Guided Summary part of the WSQ!).  When we don't do much with their questions in class, they end up writing crappy questions.  So, ideas... hmmm... Maybe having them do a weekly blog post with the questions they posed that week along with the answers they discovered?  That might be a good way to hold them accountable, as well as to publish them (because we all know when things are public/published there is that extra level of accountability and "want" to do well).

I know for sure that even though I am going to have my students submit their WSQs online, they are going to have to handwrite the question part.  Near the end of this last year, that was just the last blank on the WSQ... and then sometimes we never really got to answer them in class and the students never went back and actually answered them fully - only if they remembered what their question was come class time.  So, I do like having their questions on the online WSQ because then I can see them before class... however, weighing the pros and cons, I think I am going to have the question be the one thing they bring to class handwritten in their notebooks.  Then we can discuss them in class, they can write notes about their answers, and then at the end of the week they can blog about all of them?? Still a work in progress, but I like the thought.
  • One of the most difficult things to teach teachers is how to ask the right questions! 
  • Misconceptions about the Flipped Classroom
    • Implementing the Flipped Learning method makes me, as the teacher, much less important
      • (they said the same thing when books were invented...)
      • (books made it MORE important to have a teacher!)  
      • The real skill [of teaching] is not transferring the knowledge, the real skill is diagnosing each student's unique learning style and personalizing instruction and understanding the sophistication in the questions they ask.
    • Kids do not want to sit at home watching boring video lectures on the web.  This is just a lot of excitement over bad pedagogy
      • Eric Marcos - - kids making the tutorials!
    • Most of my kids do not even have internet access at home.  There is no way they can watch all of this video.
      • We can make it work!
    • Where is the accountability? How do I even know if kids are watching the videos?
    • As a teacher, I don't have the time or expertise to produce all of the videos required to teach like this.
      • Shoutout to Jon and Aaron! :)
      • Says students picked the teacher they didn't have
Hmmm I always thought it was the opposite - I even feel like I heard Jon/Aaron say so... but maybe it has changed?  I feel there is HUGE value in the students watching videos made by their own teacher, and most of my students seem to feel the same. Yes, it takes time on the teacher's part, but it's worth it.
  • YouTube video: From Questions to Concepts: Interactive Teaching in Physics
    • Can a student get high test scores and not really know how to apply their knowledge? Yes! (unfortunately!)
    • The acquisition of knowledge alone is not sufficient.  That will give you high test scores.  We want to get past high test scores... we want to get to the application of knowledge!
I think a lot of our students these days are okay with high test scores and not really understanding the material, because they are so "grades-focused".  They want a good GPA, they want to pass the class, they want to get into a good college... so, whatever it takes for that to happen.  Forget about actually understanding what they are doing - they just want to get the A!  
I see this struggle mostly with my Math Analysis Honors students because so many of them come into my class being used to "playing school".  Just that example I talked about above with the student giving me the definition of "evaluate" rather than just paying attention and taking good notes from the video lesson.  He wants to avoid extra thinking and effort and just rush through the assignments.  
I think this will be one of my biggest struggles at the beginning of next year - helping my students understand that it's not about just getting the work done, it's not about passing the tests... it's about truly understanding and learning the concepts and being able to make connections between the material they are learning now and the material they have learned in the past (and material they will be learning in the future!).  I hope I do a better job of making this clear to my students than I did this past year...
  •  YouTube video: Taking a Risk on At-Risk kids (Clintondale HS)
  • When you are doing homework at home and you make a mistake, the brain records the mistake.
    • "Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent"
    • Kids make the same mistake on the exam that they made on the homework.  The brain already recorded the incorrect process of solving the problem.
    • You need to give learners the most immediate feedback possible in order to be the best they can possibly be.
 Another great reason for "the flip", especially in math!  When students practice problems wrong, they are engraining that in their brains whether they mean to or not!
  • Parent Complaints
    • Greg Green invited parents to come into class to see what was going on.  Once they came in, they saw what was really happening and wanted it to continue.
What a great idea!  I think I will put that in my toolbox for next year - any parent is welcome to come in and see what is really going on during class time.  Open the doors, keep the conversation open.
  • Quote from Alan November: "Highly successful kids in the traditional model may well push back because they are so used to teachers just giving them the answers... because they don't want to be responsible for solving problems in class... they are 'working too hard'."
  • "Who is working harder during class? Is the teacher working harder, or are the kids working harder?"
Overall, this was a great one hour webinar and well worth my time.  I would highly suggest you check it out!

1 comment:

  1. Crystal,

    I just added your blog to my list today, for some reason I thought it was already there. I test it by coming here and see this post. Am reading this book right now, full of really great insights.

    My wife and I are going to watch the webinar later I think to get some good ideas!


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