Thursday, June 18, 2015

Flipping the Science Classroom - My Goal for 2015-2016

I have played with flipping my classroom for a while.  I create screencasts of lessons, and occasionally assign those as "homework," but I have not done the research to really flip the class.

One main reason I have not fully jumped into flipping my classroom is the students who don't have internet access at home.  We still have many students who do not have internet access.  The schools in our district also do not allow the WiFi access to work outside the buildings.  I would like to see that changed so students can go to whichever school is closest at night and sit outside to get internet access to do homework if they do not have internet access at home.  

I try to always make myself available before and after school, but that doesn't always work for some families.  Many students have something going on after school every night of the week.  Sports, dance, drama, music, etc.  Because of this, many students have to be picked up right after school.

I am going to work with my administrators to try and make a part of the cafeteria designated to those who need to watch a video or use an online simulation for class during breakfast and lunch.  Our students are not allowed to have their computers on the lunch tables right now because they don't want things getting spilled on them.  However, students who earn a reward time do get to eat lunch in the office and play games on the computers.  I'm hoping that having a designated area with less students than the normal lunch table will be a viable option.
I just finished reading, "Flipped Learning for Science Instruction" by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  It was a great book, easy read (took about 2 hours), and was full of useful information.  There were many "duh, why did I not think of that moments."  They give great examples of how to flip the lessons.  It doesn't have to be a video every night!  They also do a great job of showing ways science teachers can utilize the "reinvented" class time. 

When you have students watch the video or use the online simulation, the direct instruction that you would normally do in class is done.  This leaves the class time open for other things.  This "reinvented" class time can be used for small groups of students who did not fully understand the lesson, labs, experiments, project based learning, and many other ways to get your students thinking and understanding on higher levels.  The "reinvented" class time is not just for doing worksheets.  That can be part of it on some days, but finding ways for students to interact with the material and really understand it are more powerful.  If you just switch the direct instruction and the homework time, you did not really flip your class.  You just adjusted the times of activities. 

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
  • "In a flipped classroom, the teacher is actually more necessary, more needed, and more integral to the learning experience of all students."
  • "The tyranny of curriculum and the comfort of our old ways often keep us in a rut."
  • "Instead of spraying the entire class with content, the teacher directs the students who have reached poor conclusions or are developing misconceptions to appropriate content."
  • "Developing a library of videos and getting quality activities in class will need to be the first priority."
  • "We need to move away from being disseminators of content and instead become facilitators of learning."
My goal for this year is to create a library of video lessons.  I would like to use EduCanon to create interactive videos.  This website allows you to add questions in the YouTube video.  This will help ensure that students are watching the videos and understanding the content.

I also want to have more hands-on activities and labs to do in class.  With a flipped class, I will be able to have more labs, but also longer labs.  I will have the time to do multi-day labs where I wouldn't have been able to do that in the past.  Utilizing the at home direct instruction will free up more time for in-class exploration. 

Bergmann and Sams mentioned that collaboration is key if you have someone teaching similar content and you work well with.  I am lucky enough to have a great teaching partner.  I know that if we work together, Kyle Nabity and I will be able to make a great interactive video library and come up with stellar labs and experiments to allow the students to go higher in their learning. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Using Augmented Reality in the Classroom

Augmented Reality, AR,  is becoming a more widely used tool in education.  There are many awesome AR apps out there for both Apple and Android devices.  The great thing is, many of them are free to use. 

On my Tech Nerd Training website, I described some of the ways that AR can be used in the classroom.  The uses are unlimited.  There are many AR apps that allow you to use it in many ways.  Your creativity is the only limit.  Apps like Aurasma and BlippAR allow you to create the "target" for the app to scan.  This allows you to use whatever you want.  It could be a worksheet, notes sheet, poster in your room, or anything else you want to help your students learn.  Certain apps also allow you to create your own 3D images and import those as models for your students to view and manipulate using the AR app. 

Other AR apps don't have as much customization, but still provide students with great information and a great experience.  There are apps that use your location to show what stars, constellations, planets, and other galaxies are above you.  There are apps to show you how dinosaurs look and provide information.  There are apps that show you the human anatomy, see how different chemical elements interact with each other, and even apps to instantly translate signs, posters, or any other text right in front of your eyes!  You can even make library books triggers to student-created book reviews so students know if the book will interest them or not. 

The options of how you can utilize AR apps in the classroom are limitless.  There are also many ways you can use AR apps to give parents and visitors a better experience.  You can have posters around the school that can give visitors a tour of the building by having videos of students explaining what each part of the school is.  You can have a list of staff members or pictures as the triggers to give a brief bio to let visitors get to know the staff.

Administrators can also use AR apps in staff meetings to present data, save paper on agendas, create a fun meeting opener, and more.  Yearbook staff can insert AR triggers inside the yearbook to give a video message from staff, students, parents, etc.  Every student loves getting a positive message in the mail from the principal.  Why not send a video message on a postcard so the student still gets physical mail but a digital message of praise? 

The ideas just keep flowing.  Sit down with some innovative educators and spitball new ways to use AR and you 'll be amazed at the list you come up with!  If you have not used AR apps in your classroom, I highly suggest you try it this Fall.  It is easy, exciting, and the students will remember it for the entire year.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Why Google Sites are Great in the Classroom

The idea of creating a website can sound very scary for some people.  With Google Sites, the scariest thing is finding the right color scheme.  And Google makes that easy, too.  Go to the Google Sites page of my Tech Nerd Training website to find tutorials on how to create a Google Site.  I have a basic tutorial and an advanced tutorial.

Since it is so easy to create a Google Site, you need to think about how you can utilize one in your classroom.  There are many ways that Google Sites can be used by teachers and students.  Below are descriptions of just some of the ways Google Sites can be used in your classroom.

Classroom Website
A classroom website is a great way to keep students and parents informed about what is going on in your classroom.  You can have a page where you can post announcements, upload documents, insert a Google Calendar, and anything else you would want your students and parents to know.  Use it for spelling lists, test review, field trip reminders and more.  

Student Digital Portfolio

Students can use a Google Site to upload any digital content created at school.  Students can have a page for every year they are in school, along with a subpage for each subject every year.  The site will not need to be recreated every year, just a new page added to it.  Students can upload documents, videos, links, and more.

Online Curriculum

Teachers can create an online curriculum using a Google Site.  A new page can be created for each chapter, unit, etc.  All readings, worksheets, websites, videos, and more can be inserted for the students to follow along and utilize as you move through your content.

Lesson Plan/Content Storage

Teachers can use Sites to create lesson plans and store and sort all of the digital content they plan to use in class. This may or may not be a website to share with students.  Either way, the lesson plans are there and cannot be "lost" so you have them for next year.  All of your content and resources are organized and easy to find.  No more forgetting where that video was or which website you used the year before!  Also great for days when you have subs.  The plans are there and all of the resources needed are in one spot. 

 There are an unlimited number of ways that a Google Site can be used.  Use your imagination and let your students use their imaginations.  They are free and easy to make.  Find what works best for your classroom.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

5 Reasons Teachers Should Screencast

Screencasting is a tool that every teacher NEEDS to utilize in their classroom.  There are many reasons to use screencasting with your students.  If you do not know how to screencast, check out my Screencasting page on my Tech Nerd Training website to find out how. 

  1. Flipping Your Classroom - You don't have to flip your entire classroom every lesson of every day.  There may be times where it makes sense to have your students listen to a 5-10 minute video of a lecture at home so you have an entire period to do an activity in class.  Screencast your lesson for that day and have your students watch it as homework.  You will have an "extra" class period now to have your students SHOW you what they have learned.
  2. Missing Students - Screencasts are great to have on hand if you have students who miss an important lesson.  It is especially helpful when you know you are going to have many students absent on a particular day.  You can have a lesson prepared for students who miss class because of sports or school activities.  Then you don't have to catch up a bunch of people. 
  3. Review - Screencasts are great for students to go back and review concepts they are not proficient on. If you have a website full of screencasts, you can tell students to go to your website and review that particular concept and then come back and try it again.  It helps keep the students responsible for their learning.
  4. Sub Plans - Sub plans have never been easier than with a screencast.  If your students have their own devices, it can be a day they go at their own speed and follow along with the screencast and then complete whatever assignment or practice you have for them. Or, if your students don't have their own devices, your sub can show your screencast to the class and continue from there.  The days of showing a movie because you don't think the sub will be able to teach your content are over. 
  5. Tutorials - If you have a new tool you want students to use, you can create a tutorial so if they don't remember what you told them to do, they can go back and watch tutorials to discover the next step needed for that tool.  You can also have tutorials on how to create foldables, and art projects.
    * Bonus Reason to Screencast *
When students see the screencasts created by the teacher, they always want to create their own. Students can create screencasts to show you what they know.  They could complete a worksheet, but it will mean more to your students, and you will know for sure that they know what you want them to, if students create screencasts to explain the content to you.