Friday, June 21, 2013

FlipCon 2013 - The keynotes, the tech and the Flipped Out!!

The Flipped Class conference in Stillwater, OK has come and gone, and even though I was only able to be a virtual attendee, there were many highlights that I wanted to share.

The keynote by Jon Bergman and Aaron Sams was as wonderful as always. They never cease to help me get excited about flipping my class all over again! I would like to be able to find someone that I could work with that I could have that type of relationship...the ying to my yang so to speak. The biggest thing that resonated with me from their keynote was not something new, but something I think that we as teachers need to be reminded of from time to time. The key to teaching is relationships. Open, trusting relationships are crucial to student success and great classroom experiences.

However, I even though I have found that although the flipped class gives me more opportunities to establish relationships with my students, I think teachers can do more. I have gotten so much more buy-in from my students because I went to their game/concert/play. Not to mention it is a great time to see parents (the ones that never come to conferences, but never miss a game) and say something positive about their student. Students know that we work hard and appreciate that we take the time to be a part of their lives outside of the classroom. My students love to meet my young twins, who inevitably are with me at the various games.

The rest of the post is about my two favorite sessions, which are all about new tech tools that I can actually USE in my class.

Marc Seigel's session about Google tools for the flipped classroom was just what I was looking for. We have been using Google Docs at my school, but the students are still resisting it and I think the main reason is because we as teachers haven't been proactive about harnessing the power of Gdocs. Marc's session was full of great elements of Google that will be such time savers, they are worth putting in the time to figure them out. This is not a full list, and I haven't played with them all yet, but the ones I really keyed in on are:
  • Formmule - With this, I can grade and send students feedback quickly via email
  • MoveNote - This is an app that you can add to your Google Drive (go to Settings, manage apps, then scroll until you see it and add it) that will enable you to use your webcam to leave a video recording of feedback for an assignment. I thought this might be especially helpful with students that are having pronunciation issues so that they could see your mouth move as you pronounce the words.
  • VoiceNote - Also an app that you can add to your Google Drive that will enable you to leave voice comments on a document or other assignment. The suggestion was made to take a screenshot of the document and make your comments so students could really understand the feedback, (and not just throw it in the trash.)
The best part for me was that Marc explained (both in the session and then a little more through a Twitter chat) how to create folders with my Gdocs for classes and then for each student. After creating them, I can share the student's folder with them and that is where they can put their completed assignments. One of my goals this year is to use less paper and to keep online portfolios of student work. Marc also suggested that the student's folder could also be shared with the parent, so they could see and/or hear the feedback for all of the assignments. This is a great idea and can minimize some of those parent phone calls, but I think it might be a little tricky for me since I really want to try to give as much of the feedback in Spanish as possible. ;)

Ideally, we as a department can use these online portfolios to keep track of each student's progress throughout their time in the language program. I think it would be a great if we could do it across the school as well. In my school, there is so much turnover, that being able to access student work from previous teachers could be a real asset to the new teachers when they are trying to determine strengths and weaknesses of students.

Jason Bretzman and Cory Peppler also presented about technology, but different, non-Google tools. Again, some of these are new to me as well, so I have not had the chance to play with them all.
  • Symbaloo - This is a cool curation tool. Although I have not used this one, I have used others. I think that the look of this would be very appealing to students. I could see them using this for 20% projects as a place to share all their links, or even a resource throughout the school year for when they find websites that are great for Spanish information.
  • Piktochart - A easy way to be able to create your own, or have student created infographics.
  • Xtranormal - This is a way to create cute little characters that will say whatever you want. I think this would be an interesting way to deliver conversation topics or topics for brainstorming.
  • Wordsift - This is another word visualization tool.
  • YUDU - This is an online publishing tool. I am searching for ways to minimize paper so I am very interested in this. You can also include video and sound, so it would be awesome for Spanish class. I would love to create my own e-book for my classes and get rid of packets and papers forever. Just not sure if I can truly do it without being 1:1.
There were so many sessions, and honestly, since I was attending virtually, I did quite a bit of moving back and forth to try to gain as much new information as I could from many of them. I would love to see flipped PD as presented by Kristin Daniels, but I don't know if my admin is ready for that. I will bring it up and see! I am always interested in the choice activities presented by Ellen Dill, and love incorporating choice into all of my units. I want to watch the co-flip session presented by Cheryl Morris and Andrew Thomasson again before I make any real comments. I was so intrigued, that I didn't write anything down, I just listened and tried to absorb. Sound issues prevented me from hearing the session by Steve Kelly and Zach Cresswell, but we reconnected via Twitter and maybe working on a Math/Spanish unit awesome is that.

On one more note, Ramsay Musallam, who gave the second keynote of the conference was truly fantastic. He has an interesting way of looking at things that, even though familiar, makes you reconsider things that you thought you knew. He used the movie "The Karate Kid" to make connections with his Explore-Flip-Apply method. But I think that it was the clip from his favorite comedian that really summed up so much about the flipped class- "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will never go hungry. Give a man the tools and leave him alone, and eventually he will figure it out." Focus on making the students find the information and really think about what they need to know before you give them all of the information. I am still pondering how to make this work in my Spanish class, but I really like it.

If you are interested in any of this information or any of the presenters, I made as many clickable with their info as I could, or you can find them all on Twitter. Join our PLN at the #flipclass Twitter chat at 8EST on Mondays.

**Start thinking about the Flipped Class Conference 2014 at Mars High School near Pittsburg, PA. I know that I will be there!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Must read Hispanic novels - Could these inspire my students to read more?

I am a big proponent of reading. I believe that reading, in any language, helps you to learn immense amounts of vocabulary and grammar structures without a single lesson or quiz. I am an avid reader myself, and I am always looking for new books for my classroom. I have begun my class library with shorter readers which the students can work through and comprehend. However, one of the challenges is that these readers are often abridged and can be a little choppy and confusing. The other issue the students have with these books are that they are boring. It is difficult to find interesting reading material which is on a doable level for the students. Even the mystery stories lack the plot depth that they crave. But seriously, in a 75-90 page reader, how much can you really expect?

Like many of you, I spend a good portion of my time over the summer trolling the Internet for great ideas and resources. While doing that today, I found a great list of 50 must read Hispanic books. Sadly, the majority of which I have never read. So, I am committing to read them all and then make them a part of my school library for the students to read. If you have any thoughts on which I should start with, let me know!

Maybe I am underestimating them, maybe if the novel was interesting enough, they would plod through the beginning to get the knowledge to make it through the book. I am going to finally really begin the SSR in class, and maybe some will go for the tougher books, not just the easy books! We shall see.....if I can say nothing else about my students, I will say that they often surprise me with the amount of work they will do if something sparks their interest.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Leaving teaching behind

Flipping my classroom has changed everything. It all began with trying to find a way to increase the fluency of my students and create a more rigorous Spanish program at my high school, but it has evolved into so much more. I have discovered so many great ideas and methods for incorporating not just the required information, but fun, real world based activities that the students love. It has become a personal journey of learning for me as well, and the best part of it all has been the people I have met along the way that have helped me continue to improve.

The biggest change for me through this whole process has been my discovery that I don't want to be a teacher anymore. Standing up in front of the class all day delivering content and leading class activities used to make me feel so happy. But, as I have continued teaching, I have realized that I just don't want to do that anymore. The traditional teacher role has brought me joy, and my students were all good enough at the content to be satisfied with their progress. During second semester, I picked up a Spanish I class, which I did not flip to maintain continuity with what their teacher had done with them the previous semester. I found that lecturing in front of the class was not where I was comfortable anymore because I knew how ineffective of a method this was.  Things change and new challenges present themselves, so choices have to be made.

I have accepted the challenge of being a facilitator and leave my teaching role behind forever. I have realized that my students can take control of their own learning and they many push themselves harder than I ever would. I understand now that to move past "getting through" my class to really "appreciating  and excelling", they need to be given the freedom to find ways to apply their learning to their life and I need to facilitate this happening, not dictate.

I am committed to doing this by giving students as much choice as possible in my class. As long as they can show me they are increasing fluency, I am not going to force them to conform to my ideas of fun. Let's face it, many times that are more creative than I am with their assignments, and only when that students start tapping into their creativity do they truly learn. I am moving aside to let my students be the "stars" of the classroom, and I think it is the best choice I have ever made.

Do you want to join me? Become a part of my PLN (personal learning network) and let's all work together to make our classes a place where students can express themselves with the content and surprise themselves with how much they learn because our classes are something the look forward to, not something they have to get through.

Looking for more information? Join #flipclass chat at 8EST on Twitter or #langchat on Thursdays at 8 EST on Twitter. Want more concrete information? Preorder the book Flipping 2.0 - Practical Applications for Flipping Your Class coming this August. This book is full of ideas for every content area, with a chapter by me dedicated to World Language! Select me as your author when you preorder.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Demonstrating Growth -Searching for a better way

The new teacher evaluation systems that are being put in place require all teachers to demonstrate student growth. This of course is something I have been doing already, but not as formally as I should be. So, I have been looking for some ideas to be able to demonstrate growth not only throughout the year, but from level to level. I have attended professional development sessions, both in general on the new requirements, as well as specifically for World Language. I am concerned that many teachers are willing to spend hours and hours of class time to effectively demonstrate growth. I am looking for something that my department and I can do that will cost minimal class time and be equally as effective.

One of my ideas is to do a common project at the end of each level. Given the curriculum of Spanish I, the project that we use for this will probably be based on family. My struggle is to work on how to evaluate the projects fairly for the different levels. A new colleagues of mine has shown me a rubric which I think may fit the bill, but it is going to require some training, not only for me, bur for our students as well. Demonstrating the quality and content of projects that will constitute an A, B, etc. will take samples and some class time. However, I think that it will be worth it not only for administration and teachers, but for the students to see how far they have come as well.

I gave a portion of this rubric a try with the final exam for my Spanish III students. Their assignment was easy - they were to create a video or presentation (for those without video capabilities) to show to foreign exchange students to introduce them to our school. Since I didn't have any samples of previous student work to demonstrate what I was looking for to the students, we spent some time talking about my expectations. Check out a copy of the assignment sheet here. Although the task was easy, completing it on a Spanish III level took more thoughts than the students had originally anticipated.

It was not enough to show rooms and people, there needed to be more detailed information using the grammatical concepts that we had learned. I really liked this project because I am trying to incorporate PBL into my class, but I have struggled with the final element, which is where the students present their work to the community. With this project, I told students that the best ones would be on the school website for real incoming exchange students.

The rubric overall worked really well. When I am grading projects, I have a tendency to be much more lenient than I am with written work because I can't help but get carried away by the quality of the presentations that the students do. This rubric kept me focused and really enabled me to give the students the grade that they deserved. I think it probably needs to be tightened up a little bit, and I still want to be able to give the effort grade, but honestly it is probably better if I don't.

I had one student/parent complaint about their grade on the final project, and I had another teacher in my department evaluate the student based upon the rubric. His evaluation matched up almost exactly with mine. That is enough for me to know that I am on the right track with the rubric. Next year I will do all summative assessments using this new rubric.

Hopefully, with more student examples and training with some formative assessments that I will use the same rubric with. Then, all of the students should understand what I am looking for, and be able to use the level of grammar and vocabulary that I know that they are capable of and be able to use the same project for multiple levels. If we begin these projects at Spanish I, by the time they get to the upper levels, it should be easy to make the necessary adjustments for them to continue to grow and be successful.

Finding a way to demonstrate student growth without detracting from what I am trying to do in the classroom  will take time and lots of thought and planning, but it will be worth it. In addition to the common project, I am also looking into creating online student portfolios utilizing Google Docs with written work as well as audio files. More to come......