Friday, April 5, 2013

Year 2 of Flipping...Post #1 - Student Blogging

The countdown is on. (yes, I've even put a countdown timer on my blog).

20 more teaching days until I go on maternity leave.

56 more days until Baby Kirch's due date.

I guess it's time to start blogging and reflecting before this year completely flies by.

For many reasons (namely carrying a precious boy inside of my the last 7 months!) I haven't had the time or energy to commit to blogging like I did last year.  In a way, I actually do regret it because the personal reflecting process that happens when I blogged last year was so helpful for my thinking, growing, and processing of this complete paradigm shift we have come to call Flipped Learning.

Over the next few weeks, I want to blog about many things from this year... I will link to all the posts from this page once I write them.

  • New Things I've Tried (and how they've panned out)
    • Post #1 - Student Blogging
  • Things I need to tweak for next year
  • My summer to-do list... which may be a complete joke of getting done ;), but it's always good to have


Post #1 - Student Blogging

After attending ISTE last summer in San Diego, I knew I wanted to incorporate blogging into my classes somehow. (Here are three posts from last summer about blogging - Lisa Parisi & Brian Crosby's presentation, Linda Yollis & Kathleen Morris presentation,  my rough draft "blogging essentials" blog post from last summer).

I had no idea what it would look like, because most of the sessions centered around elementary classrooms and cross-curricular blogging content.  I teach high school students, and while I try to connect different subjects to what we are learning, our main focus is math.

My plan was to do this in both my Math Analysis (11th-12th graders) and Algebra 1 (9th-10th graders) classes.  However, it only happened in Math Analysis.  I'm sure many of my future posts in this category will detail why it didn't quite happen in Algebra 1.  Regardless, I'm glad that I got it off the ground in one course.  I have learned so much and I really feel that it was a beneficial change for all involved.

Having my students blogging... writing about math in a public forum... peer evaluating each other's work... creating and curating their own content... 

These are all things I've wanted my students to do and this is the first year I've really been able to do it.  Flipping my classroom has freed up a lot of class time for deeper discussions and activities such as these.  

My eyes have also been opened to more varied ways of assessing student progress, and most of these blog posts are used as formative assessment tools throughout the unit instead of traditional paper/pencil quizzes.

And, with the coming of Common Core, blogging is a great way to work on the "Standards for the Mathematical Practices" we are emphasizing with our students.  See this amazing post at Fractus Learning here

First, I had to get my students set up.  I had them all use Blogger, since I use a lot of Google programs, and gave them both an instruction document and video talking them through how to set up their blog. At this point, I truly had no idea everything I was going to have them do, so there are A LOT of tweaks that need to occur before next year to these instruction tools.  But, it was a great starting point.

You can see links to ALL my students' blogs from 2012-2013 by period by scrolling to the very bottom of our class blog here

I had my students fully set up their blog on their own time and we spent no class time on the set up. I will probably change this for next year and get one day in the computer lab to get everyone set up and knowledgable about the basics.

One of the areas I feel I did not do a great job in was explicitly teaching some aspects of technology to my students.  I assumed they knew it, or could figure it out.  

For next year, I need to make many small tutorials on things such as:
  1. How to post to Blogger and how to use the editing features (fonts, colors, etc) appropriately
  2. What is a "link" or a "URL" (many students didn't know...).  Especially, what is the difference between the URL to your blog (in general) vs. the URL to a specific post
  3. What is an "embed code" and how do you use it 
  4. How to hyperlink text
  5. How to upload an image to a blog post - and choosing a good image size to post.
  6. Basics of writing: Making sure you title your posts, checking for grammar and spelling before posting, previewing the post before submitting to make sure formatting looks good, etc.
I have found that I cannot assume just because we live in a "digital age" that all students are technologically proficient... or even technologically knowledgeable even at the very basic level.

I have been working on a document the last few months here that I'm hoping will hit all the points of where students need more guidance and instruction for next year.

As I look forward to next year, a few things I am going to change or work on are:
  • Students organize posts by "tagging" them instead of making them put the posts on the home page and then on a separate page
  • Get students to interact on each other's blogs more often through collaborative posting, commenting, etc.
  • Samples, samples, samples! This means putting up student blog posts during class to talk about, look at, discuss, critique, etc.  I did this with WPP grading (see below) at the end of the year and wow, were those last few WPP's better and the peer analysis more precise!  This needs to happen with all the types of posts below.  Not only do students need to know what to expect, they need to share with each other, glean ideas from each other, etc.
  • Making sure the purpose of the blog and of each type of post are clear.  I have started to outline that in this section of the Tips & Tricks Document.
How did I keep track of 100 different student blogs?  Well, that was a learning process...
  • I started by subscribing to all the blogs on my GoogleReader in folders by period.  I started to encounter several issues with this, including:
    • Having to open the post in GReader...Sometimes the media wouldn't show up and I would have to click to open it in a new window anyways.  Some students didn't put their first name on their account as instructed so I didn't know who I was reading unless I went to the actual blog. Sometimes I would click on it so it was "unread" and then want to go back to it but forget to click "mark as unread" so it was lost.
    • Not being able to easily give feedback...It was annoying to open the post in a new window, then add a comment to the bottom of the post, going through all the "verification" to make sure I wasn't spam, and then knowing that half the students probably didn't sign up for email notification of comments to begin with so they would never read it.  It was also a public comment so I couldn't give as personalized feedback as I wanted.
  • I found the power of a script called FormEmailer from the amazing Ramsey Musallam and began having students submit their blog links on a GoogleForm anytime they post.  So, they would (1) publish the post, (2) copy the URL of the post, and (3) "turn in" the blog post on a GoogleForm linked to from our class blog.  I have come to LOVE this for many reasons:  
    • I have all the links to all the posts for a certain topic in one place in an organized fashion, 
    • I can add comments/scores/etc to it and then email a response automatically to the students using the FormEmailer script.  
    • I can easily keep track of who has turned them in with the VLookup feature and even add those submissions to our Tracking Spreadsheet (where it shows them what WSQs they've turned in) using the ImportRange feature.
So... what did I have my 11th-12th grade MATH students blog about?  

Here's the fun stuff...Here we go!!!

[See this section of the tips & tricks document for more details as given to students about each of these]

Word Problem Playlists (WPP's)
  • Students created these anytime we did a word problem in class.  Part of their "assessment" was to be able to:
    • Correctly write their own word problem
    • Correctly solve their own word problem
    • Analyze and evaluate another student's word problem and associated work
  • WPP's were supposed to flow together throughout the whole year with a continuing storyline, characters, etc.  Some students did this, some students didn't.
  • Students were given instructions on making WPP's here using MentorMob playlists
  • Students were given instructions on how to grade a WPP here
  • Students were given a "peer grading rubric" to use here  (I created this near the end of the year, so glad I did.  It was much more disorganized at the beginning of the year)
  • So, basically, students just embed the MentorMob playlist into their blog and that was their post.  The playlist had 3 steps to it.  The "peer grading rubric" was turned in hard copy.
  • This is actually quite complex - they have to write the problem, record the problem, upload the video, make the MentorMob playlist, embed the playlist, access a classmate's blog, peer grade...students need to be walked through this step by step
  • Students don't know how to make quality videos at first.  Give them instructions, but more importantly, give them samples of "good" and "bad" students videos.  Play a video to the class and have the students critique it.  Talk about how to make better videos.  (I've tried to gather tips and tricks in the document here)
  • Here are some samples... they definitely got better as the year went on.
    Student Problems
    WHAT IS IT? 
    • I think the ability to write your own math problem is important.  It requires students to think about what a certain problem requires, what information is necessary, and what numbers would make the problem "work out" somewhat nicely.  
    • Students also have to explain themselves in writing throughout the problem, by either adding steps, side notes, etc to explain the process they are taking.
    • Students write and solve their own problem and then take a picture of it to upload to their blog. 
    • In addition to having them write and solve their own problem, they also have to include some writing with the post, including two paragraphs that answer:
      • What is this problem about? (I am looking for them to be descriptive, use math vocabulary, etc)
      • What does the viewer need to pay special attention to? (I am looking for them to be mentioning some of the tricks or common errors that they might get confused with) 
    • Some students are really great with the written part... others, not so much.  I need to definitely do a better job of sampling and critiquing in class so students know what to expect.  Some students would basically say, "This is a Unit M Concept 2 Problem.  Viewers need to pay attention to each step one at a time so they don't make mistakes".  Umm... not quite what we are looking for here ;)
    • Students need to be instructed clearly that they need to be neat... they need to write large... they need to write in a dark pen or marker, because pencil is way too light... they need to take multiple pictures of complex work so it is easier to read and follow... LOTS of things students don't think about when presenting their work.
      Student Videos
      WHAT IS IT? 
      • Student videos are very similar in purpose to student problems.  The only difference is that instead of explaining themselves in writing, they have to record themselves on video talking through the problem step by step with proper math vocabulary.
      • This allows me to "hear" every single one of my students "speaking math" without having to take the time in class to listen to 40 students every day for a good chunk of time.
      • These videos should only be 1-4 minutes long if done well. 
      • Students upload their video to YouTube, SchoolTube, or EduCreations.  They embed it on the blog using the HTML code on their blog.
      • In addition to having them write and solve their own problem, they also have to include some writing with the post, including the same two paragraphs that answer:
        • What is this problem about? (I am looking for them to be descriptive, use math vocabulary, etc)
        • What does the viewer need to pay special attention to? (I am looking for them to be mentioning some of the tricks or common errors that they might get confused with) 
      • Similar to WPP's, students need to be shown what "good" and "bad" videos look like.
      • Students need to be instructed to talk loudly, clearly, and confidently.  They should know what they are going to say before recording.  Some students record at 2am in the morning and their whole video is a tired whisper because the rest of their family is sleeping.  Yeah, doesn't make for the best video... (The best part was when one student started the video saying, "Sorry Mrs. Kirch, it's really late and I'm sick and tired and my family is asleep.")
          WHAT IS IT? 

          • A few times throughout the year, I want my students to formally reflect on their progress and think through how they are doing.
          • I give the students a few prompts and questions to think about, and they respond on their blog in words.
          • The one reflection I've done so far this year was pretty long.  It would be nice to have them more often and shorter...
          • Students turned in their blogs via the GoogleForm as always, and I took the time to give individualized, personalized feedback on their reflection with FormEmailer.  Students really appreciated my comments, even if it was something as simple as, "I've seen how hard you've been working this year, keep up the great work!"  This was a great way to connect with students one-on-one in a way I wouldn't get with 40 of them in a class.
            SAMPLES, PLEASE?
              Real World Applications
              WHAT IS IT? 

              • I try to make the connection to the real world whenever possible.  However, I don't want to be the one giving the students all the ways the math connects to the real world - I also want them to go out and find it!  So, this is a post where students make the connection using resources they have found online and then explain to the best of their ability the connection.
              • Students post their own writing, pictures (their own or ones they've found online), videos (their own or one's they've found online), etc to convey and explain the connection they have found.
              • Because of the plethora of resources found online, you have to pose good questions for the students to reflect on or think about so it's not simply a "curation of resources" blog post where they just post a bunch of stuff from the internet but don't think about it themselves at all. 
              SAMPLES, PLEASE?
                • Here are some samples:
                  • Tien (combo post of Derivation & Real-World)
                  • Sayra (combo post)
                  • Arlene (combo post)
                Inquiry & Derivations
                WHAT IS IT? 
                • It has been my goal this year to find places for inquiry.  One of the easiest ways in Math Analysis is instead of just giving students a formula to memorize, having them actually derive it and come up with it themselves.
                • It is my goal to find more inquiry "projects" and derivations for students to participate in next year, I only had a few this year.
                • Students post their discoveries and what connections they have found through writing, pictures, and video.  Most of these posts are their own work, although if they find a resource online that explains it well, they can include that as well.
                SOME THINGS I'VE LEARNED
                • Students need ample time before being required to put together a blog post to make sense of what you are asking them and to make sure they understand it.  Otherwise you'll get a lot of posts that don't hit the mark at all.  This means structuring time in class for group and individual discussion and grappling - then, as a final product, have them put it together as a blog post. 
                  SAMPLES, PLEASE?
                    • Here are some samples:
                    Big Questions
                    WHAT IS IT? 

                    • Many of my units have "Big Questions", or "things that are so super important that the students really need to understand".  These generally start as an Online WSQ question, and lead to a WSQ chat discussion, and then turn into a blog post from them.
                    • Students answer the big question, using text, photos, videos, etc to support their explanation.
                    SOME THINGS I'VE LEARNED
                    • This is a great way to take the simple WSQ questions and really make students think about it for more than just a one-day discussion.  I like it :)
                    • Even if there are multiple "Big Questions" for a unit, don't overwhelm the students by giving them multiple posts per unit... pick one, or even better, have THEM pick one from a group of choices.  :)
                    SAMPLES, PLEASE?
                      Math Mistakes 
                      WHAT IS IT? 

                      • The website is amazing, and I've blogged about it before.  Every day, a new "mistake" is posted for readers to look at, critique, and give teaching suggestions for.  
                      • This is one of my "new ideas" so only a few students have done it as a "trial" but I am going to use it next year more frequently.
                      • As the MathMistakes posts come to my GReader, I save the ones that apply to my students' levels (and already went through all the archives to organize what is already there) and collect them here
                      SO, WHAT DO STUDENTS ACTUALLY POST?
                      • Directions for students are here.
                      • Posts will include a hyperlink to the original post, a written/annotated correction of the problem, and a picture/video of the correct way to solve the problem. 
                      SOME THINGS I'VE LEARNED
                      • I've only had a few submissions this year, so I'm sure I'll learn a lot more as I make it a part of class next year...
                      SAMPLES, PLEASE?
                        Collaborative Answer Keys
                        WHAT IS IT? 
                        • We have several units in Math Analysis where the problems are very complex and have a lot of steps... and where the WORK is more important the answer.  Needless to say, I will be honest and say I don't have the time to make a worked-out answer key for all of these problems!
                        • So... why not have each of the students take one problem and make the answer key for that problem, post it in a collaborative MentorMob playlist, and use it as a formative assessment tool?
                        SO, WHAT DO STUDENTS ACTUALLY POST?
                        • Students add a picture or video step to the MentorMob playlist I've created.  I make it publicly editable so they can access it freely.
                        • Collaborative Answer Keys have just been posted on our class blogs this year, with students submitting the link to their step on the playlist in a GoogleForm.  I could easily have them also cross-post it on their blog.
                        SOME THINGS I'VE LEARNED
                        • Sometimes it's easier to make a playlist for each class period to collaborate on, whereas other times one playlist per course is fine.  Neither way is "right" or "wrong"
                        • It is important to take the time to go through these submissions individually and comment on the step if it is incorrect - students are using these as resources and I don't want them led astray because of a classmate's incorrect post.
                        • Video OR picture answer keys are both good under certain circumstances.
                        SAMPLES, PLEASE?

                          Do you have more ideas of what high school math students could blog about?  
                          Do your students blog and you have samples you could share? 
                           Please share in the comments :)


                          1. Crystal, I have only just started to read this post, and glanced at the headings, and I am once again blown away. The depth and breadth of your work is have moved me ahead in my class blogging practice just by sorting out so many issues - some that I knew of (google reader, need for tech training) and some that I didn't (Mentor Mob playlist whaaa...). Then you weave in all these great new ideas, and you present it all so logically. It's like you are a master quilter, organizing hundreds of related things into one beautiful brilliant whole. I'm continuing reading, expect more comments, but I just wanted to start there. Thank you, truly, thank you.

                            1. Audrey,
                              Thank YOU for your comment and I hope you know you were one of the people to get me started with this whole student blogging thing :) Glad you are in my PLN and we can continue to share :)

                          2. Glad to hear that! Okay here are my random thoughts:

                            Codecogs - an easy way to get nice math notation and symbols in their posts. There are probably others but that's the one I love. You type in what you want to say in math language and it makes it into html or php or whatever high-fallutin' thing they call it.

                            Geogebra - Getting my kids to be able to embed one of these that they create themselves is a goal for me. it took me a while to be able to do it myself but I did!

                            Digital training - Another thing they need training in is the use of images - what kind of licenses allow it and when to give credit etc - this is an area I need to learn about myself, and people keep telling me it's extremely non-trivial.

                            Scribd/slideshare - some of my kids love to make slides and these sites allow easy embedding

                            Commenting on each others' posts - is a tough one. Always trying to get it to happen organically but...this year I gave them some idea of what they're missing when they don't read each others' posts by taking their reflections (the ones that come to me and me only via the checklists) and putting them all together anonymously on the classblog a few times. Response was good, they were very interested to hear each others' thoughts, they responded to some of them, but still not much cross-commenting. Need to scaffold for them - @intrepidteacher has lots of good comment prompts - My favourite part of this post was....I disagree with this part because.....

                            I have just started using their blogs as alternate assessments to tests. Anyone who wants to avoid tests can do so by doing a blogpost, according to my guidelines of course, and so far almost all of those who have done it have done very well. Most still do tests, but at least now I feel that everyone has the same chance of getting a good evaluation.

                            Phew! Glad to put that down in writing!

                            1. Codecogs - AWESOME! I just added it to my "instructions document" for next year.

                              Geogebra - I've used a few pre-made applets before (especially for Conic Sections), but never have created my own or had the students do it. How difficult is it to teach them? Are there online tutorials? What do you have them create? Do you have any samples? :)

                              I haven't done a good job in terms of copyright either. Right now, I just tell them to include the link to where they got the website, image, video, etc. It's probably not right, but I don't really know all the rules myself; every time I try to read up on it I just get confused!

                              I will have to try out Scribd/Slideshare. What do they put on the slides? Do you have some good samples?

                              For commenting, I saw someone tweet the other day how they have students in groups and there is some sort of competition among the groups to promote each others blogs and comment on them within the group. Not sure if they are also using something like twitter to promote the blogs to the outside world. I might look into that for next year, but it's not the first thing on my priority list.

                              Love the ideas :) Thanks for sharing!

                          3. So far I've only used geogebra by creating interactive worksheets for them to do. With very little explanation from me they just do them, and I have to say they love them. Getting them to create - that hasn't happened yet but it will. There are lots of tutorials out there, and there's a community at, plus there's geogebratube. I'll be making my own Geogebra tutorials soon for Canflip13, because that's what I'll be presenting about.

                            I sure do have samples of what I've made - here's my geogebra page: (I hope this comment field accepts links) My latest and favourites are all the ferris wheel ones, which I blogged a lot about.

                            Here's how it looks when you embed the applet:

                            Here's a sample of a slideshow that one student did as an alternate to her test because she has terrible test anxiety:

                            So glad to give something back to you for a change!

                            1. Awesome, thank you! I know it's not something I'll be able to implement in the few weeks I have left this year, but I will definitely be checking it out this summer and seeing what I can do :)

                              Thanks again!

                          4. Hi Crystal,
                            I'm a Head of Maths in Melbourne, Australia and about to flip my Year 7, 8 and 9 maths classes. I've read a lot of your blog and I just wanted to say a massive thank you for everything you've put on here (not just this post, but everything!) It's given me a much clearer idea of how to go about structuring my units and classroom along with ideas for class activities and new technologies. Our second term in Australia starts Monday (we've just had 2 weeks off for Easter break) which is when I'm fully launching the flip. Some of my students and colleagues are a bit skeptical but I am lucky to have a very supportive Head Teacher and senior leadership team.

                            I've borrowed heavily from your WSQ idea to help which I hope you don't mind! I've also started using MentorMob to organise my playlists and can't wait to start having students create videos as well.

                            Anyway thanks again for all the work you put into this blog. I am truly awed and inspired!


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