Monday, June 30, 2014

FlipCon14 Rehash

It is no secret that this is the conference I have been looking forward to all year. I love the WL conferences, but this is the conference where I feel like my core PLN lives. These are the people that "get" me and how my crazy blonde brain works. It was interesting to hear how many people new to the conference felt the same way. So after meeting people I had only known on Twitter and so many others ready to become facilitators of learning and flipping their class, I wanted to thank everyone for a great conference. I am including links as well as Twitter handles so you can see and follow everyone you find interesting.

But, before I do, I had to share a pic of me and my roomie Crystal Kirch. She is a math teacher (Math, the other foreign language!) who has an awesome blog and I have learned so much from over the years. Funny that we had never met in person, but after 3 years of Twitter, felt like old friends when we were finally together.

Without further ado, here is my rehash of the sessions and ideas that I got from the conference. I encourage others that were at the conference to add their thoughts and ideas as well!
  • First Plenary - After thinking about what my favorite session was for this conference, I decided (for the first time ever!) that the plenary given my Molly Schroder (@followMolly) was it! The title was "Living in Beta". The basic idea behind "Living in Beta" is continually trying new ideas, not waiting until you are sure they are perfect. Then as educators we need to model for our students how to recover from a failure or how to share the success. Google is a great example of this idea. They keep trying new products, willing to have users try them, and in some cases love them. However, often the products are abandoned and newer, better products are offered in their place. I loved the graphic of the Google Graveyard where you can mourn (and place flowers) on the Google product that you loved. As a World Language Teacher, the best part was when Molly discussed Global Impact. This is something we are always stressing at our state WL conference, and it was awesome to hear it brought up at a general ed conference. The big question was, "What projects have you participated in that have had a global reach/impact?" (I am paraphrasing here.) Even in the room with so many innovative educators, many seemed to be thinking, "Wow, I need to do that." Hopefully as this message continues to spread, the value of WL in schools will again be on the rise and we will stop seeing the drastic cuts of WL because we are an "elective". After all, if you want a project with a global reach, wouldn't it be best to be able to speak the language? ;)
  • Automate your Anytime, Anywhere Learning for Students - YouTube Videos, Google Forms and Scripts - This session was dedicated to using digital tools that we access everyday  more effectively. Some of the information was review for me, but it is good to think about to make sure the best tools are being implemented. One of the things discussed that I had never thought about was using playlists to help meet the needs of specific students. YouTube fell away for me since we couldn't use it at school, but now that things have relaxed and we can access YouTube, using playlists will be a great way for me to share additional information with struggling students, or with students as they are working on their projects. You can create a playlist that you can share with the world, or with just one student. It also is a good way to curate all the great material you find on YouTube. 
  • What if, what if, what is - This was another great session given my some of my newer PLN members, Dominique Geocaris (@dgeocaris) and Collin Black (@goteslago). So fun to watch a presentation given by a Science and a Spanish teacher together. For me, the best point they made in their session came at the very beginning- it isn't the video that you show, it is what you do with it. There are so many great resources out there, and rather than dismissing them because we don't immediately see their use for our class, we should take the time to ponder how we can use the video in class. This will help us to continually strive to keep our class fresh  and interesting for our students. They used the example from their session prework, which taught the students how to make a paper airplane. I got so interested, I actually tuned out for a few minutes thinking about how I could use this in class. I was thinking this might be a great way to finally give in and incorporate some math in my classroom. Students could watch the video and then I could have them talk through how to make the paper airplane. It would be a good chance to work on directional words (when flying them too!) and some discussion of angles (which is about all the Geometry I can handle. There was also a good point made about how doing some simple, silly things can make your videos more engaging. For example doing the intro for an earthquake video by shaking the camera - this is something very easily translated with an environment video. Another great idea in our data driven world is not just to poll students at the end of the year about class, but to create and send home a parent survey as well. I often wonder how the parents perceive some of the things we do, and it would be an awesome way to document the success (hopefully) as seen through the eyes of the parents.

One of the things I was fortunate enough to do was to co-moderate the World Language networking session. It was great to see our group at this conference growing. We even had participants from Peru, Morocco, and of course throughout the US. So, if you are looking for some other new flippers in WL, check out these great people on Twitter. @CelTatis, @lainemarsh, @jgaddess (1st time tweeter!), @lynn_shirk, @MrDeLauriRHS, @sraclauser, @dgeocaris, @srhernandez, @yenchungju

I remember the first time I went to this conference in 2010 and there was only me and one other WL teacher. So, although we are a small group in comparison to Math and Science, we have seen some great growth in the flipped class in WL over the past 4 years. 

Of course Aaron Sams and John Bergman did a great job with their plenary, and this year highlighted some great work many of the big names in the flipped class world. Steve Kelly (@bigkxcountry), who is a great friend and Math teacher, Kristin Daniels (@kadaniels) who is a guru at flipped professional development, my wonderful friend and Math teacher Crystal Kirch (@crystalkirch), English teacher April Gudenrath @agudteach), and many more. It is always fascinating to see what is working in other teachers' classrooms.

I was a part of the session for the authors of the Flipping 2.0 book, which if you haven't ordered yet,you should! This was another great chance to field questions from the audience both in person and from the virtual audience with some of my co-authors, Jason Bretzmann (@jbretzmann) awesome History teacher, Cheryl Morris (@guster4lovers) and Andrew Thomasson (thomasson_engl) English teachers extraordinaire and THE gurus of co-flipping. Audrey McLaren (@a_mcsquared) queen of the algebros, and many more. 

Additionally there were some great new apps available for us to check out as well.Verso and TouchCast appear to have some great upgrades from things I have seen so far, and I am anxious to continue to explore them and try to utilize them with my students. They are FREE and available on all platforms so check out all that they can do for you and your video creation.

There were so many other great people and ideas that there just isn't room to put them all here! All I can say is if you don't want to miss all the fun, start planning for FlipCon15 in East Lansing, MI next July and you can be a part of it all.

P.S. - One of the most wonderful, special and patient people I have ever met through the flip class network will be moving on to new adventures. Although selfishly, I want her to stay, I wish all of the luck in the world to Kari Arstrom. Hope she loves her new adventure, but still checks in with us every once in a while. It is hard to imagine the flip class world without her! Love you Kari!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

FlipCon 14 Presentation - Planning for Success

Here is the .pdf of my presentation from FlipCon14 today - Planning for Success. Please feel free to contact me with any questions and/or comments. Twitter @SraWitten and Email There are some slides you didn't see, but we covered everything! I enjoyed working with you all today!

Monday, June 23, 2014

True Confessions

As I often do before I present at a conference, I am sitting in my hotel room and gathering my thoughts. I am here outside of Pittsburgh, at the Flipped Class Conference, and trying to decide what questions I want to try to find the answers to in my own classroom. I feel like I have really been neglecting my personal reflections and really want to take this time to recommit to my original ideas and goals from my first Flipped Class Conference 4 years ago:

  • I want my students to increase their fluency in class.
  • I want students to WANT to learn not just the language, but more about the people and culture of the world. 
  • I want to facilitate my students' learning, not dictate it.
  • I want to love my job every day, no matter what other things are going on in my school.
In so many ways, these four things sound so simple, and yet they are often difficult to achieve. I have fallen into the trap of tweaking minimally and not really trying to continually improve my curriculum to adapt to the needs of my students. I work hard for my students, always have, always will. However, I think I need to turn the focus back on their thoughts and ideas. How can I continue to move to the more student centered classroom? How can I help them to love learning and build on their abilities and interests to keep them learning beyond the requirements?

I don't have the answers to these questions.....which is ok. But, I think I haven't been continuing to search for them, which is not ok. 

I am very fortunate to have such a great PLN to turn to for advice and encouragement and so many of them are here with me at this conference. I need to focus not just on the social side of this conference, but try to look at the sessions and speakers through the eyes of the teacher new to flipping trying to find the path that will help students achieve success.

I want to move to more creative assignments, inspired by me, but created by my students. Shall I give more choice boards to show the students their capabilities and help them understand how to express their knowledge on their own? Should I reject all grammar practice and have students instead approach everything from a cultural perspective? Should I model some of my colleagues and find the right way to have online portfolios and true student interaction online?

I sit here tonight full of questions that I have no answers to. It is the search for the answers that helps me see things from my students' eyes and helps me be a better teacher. Join me on this journey.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Time to start gathering the ideas for next year!

As a mom of four who is working on a huge new project, preparing for a conference, and supposed to be cleaning my house......I figured I would put all of that off to start working on some of the cool ideas I am seeing and looking at implementing next year. (Who says teachers don't work over the summer???)
  • Pen Pal News - This has been completely revamped and I am so excited about it. They connect you and your students with classes across the globe based on your language, level, and maybe age (?). They give a free trial, and after that it is $1.99 per student. I am able to easily cover this cost with the fees students pay to be in Spanish class. It utilizes video tools to give some lessons and, of course, students are expected to write to their pen pals. It also helps meet some of those Common Core goals with 21st century learning and literacy.You can choose when your session is and for how long. I chose a six week session beginning in October, because I thought that would give me enough time to get the kids going. Check it out for yourself. 
  • History Pin - This is a resource I found on Free technology for teachers. I think this looks like a great idea to find information, and classes can create lessons as well. Here is the description from Free tech for teachers
    • Historypin is probably my favorite service for locating geo-located historical imagery. After writing my post about Views of Venice I explored Historypin for the first time in a few months and enjoyed exploring some of the Historypin channels and tours of geolocated imagery. On all of the Historypin channels you will find, at a minimum, galleries of historical images geolocated onto Google Maps. Many of the channels also include a tour that you can flip through to view connected image sets. Historypin is largely a crowd-sourced effort. Your students could contribute to an existing Historypin project or create projects of their own. Historypin allows anyone with a Google account to place images within the setting of current Google Maps Streetview imagery. Your students could create a Historypin project of their own by going to your local history society, scanning historical images, and placing them into a map. (Try using the CamScanner app for iOS and Android to scan images without having to use a dedicated scanner).
  • Classroom blogs - I have been using a classroom blog, but not to its full potential. I am looking at increasing student usage for next year in meaningful ways. I think this is a great intro/rehash of why classroom blogs are so important. You can use Blogger, Wordpress, Edmodo - just remember to use the format that makes the most sense for yourself and your students. For example, we are a Google school, so Blogger made the most sense for me since our students already had the login information and can upload easily. Here is my blog from last year. Students in lower levels were not required to comment on others posts, and you can see how well that worked. I always choose prompts based on what we are learning, current events, or school activities.
  • Using music in the classroom - Do you love music? Do you wish you could use more in your class, but don't have time to sift through lots of songs to find the right one? Then do I have the link for you. Thanks to El Mundo de Birch, here is a database of over 1200 songs!
  • Here is a post that just came up with some great Ed Tech tools, especially for videos and engagement. Can't wait to try these out!
These are some of the things that I am checking out so far. If you find great info, please comment and share. Hopefully in July I will have another list of some of the great resources I have discovered in my curriculum planning and from FlipCon14.