Flipped Classrooms and YouTube

As the end of the year and IB exams approach, I’ve had a number of conversations with other IB teachers about the difficulty of teaching the whole of the Higher Level course properly. Despite the recommended teaching time for the course being 240 hours, I have never met a teacher at any school who gets this amount of classroom time to teach the course.

This led us onto talking about how we coul get around this issue. It seems obvious that the only way to do it is to require the students to do a lot of the initial learning independently. Asking students to just read the textbook is not generally effective as they often don’t do it or don’t properly absorb the content. However, there is now a huge amount of content online, in the form of YouTube tutorials, TED-Ed videos etc.. I have dabbled with using these in the past and I know that some of the more motivated students seek them out anyway. However, in my conversations wiht other teachers, we concluded that using these was essential to be able to teach the course properly, as well as teaching the students how to work independently in this way.

I know flipped classrooms are not a new concept, but it seems to me they are not yet widely used. With the number of quality video tutorials available, such as those produced by Khan Academy etc, classroom time can be freed up to practice application of and transfer of knowledge rather than learning the content. Of course, the other benefit of YouTube tutorials is that they can be paused or watched repeatedly to help understanding.

I don’t believe that just asking students to watch the videos would in itself be a particularly effective strategy. Just as with reading the textbook, some students need a push before they will consistently engage with this kind of independet learning. This is a great benefit of TED-Ed, where you can attach questions, notes and other resources to the videos.

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I don’t think the IB are ever going to reduce the number of classroom hours of teaching they recommend, and I doubt the school year will be getting longer anytime soon, so teachers who have to prepare students for these terminal exams are just going to have to find ways of more efficiently delivering content. I believe that this is probably the way forward – getting students to learn the initial content independently and using class time to practice applying that new knowledge. To a certain extent, maybe we are “wasting time” by teaching new concepts from scratch in the classroom – they are usually exaplained just as (or if not more….) effectively in the videos. Our main role then is to help them make connections and apply their knowledge in different contexts in the classroom.

Google+ Communities Monitoring

I previously posted on the potential benefits and challenges of using Google+ communities in order to encourage greater independent reading and collaboration for classes outside of lessons. After receiving helpful advice from a number of you and after having talked to a few people, I have come up with a method which I hope will make monitoring the process much more efficient and less time consuming. So far, things seems to going smoothly.

I tried to explain this during our presentations, but the format of that didn’t work out so well and I don’t think I got the point across, so I’ll try and do that here.

Firstly, I have taken Steve’s idea of using “geek points” and attached a communication grade to the process.I still have some reservations about doing this to a certain extent, but I feel that it’s the only way that many of the students will consistently engage with this kind of thing – learning habits grades just don’t motivate many students. I have also added a competitve element to the process, which I will explain in more detail later.

I created a google sheet which I shared using the “Smart share” function on Teacher Dashboard.

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On the sheet, students indicate when they have posted or commented on the Google+ community. They also paste a link to their post/comment.

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All of this information is linked to a master sheet, which only I have access to. I linked the student’s sheets to my master sheet by using the IMPORTRANGE function. This is one of the most powerful functions I have come across on Google sheets.

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I have added a points system, which is calculated within this sheet (10 points for a post, 2 points for a comment). The students require, for example, to score 130 points over the course of the semester in order to get a level 7. I have also set up a league table within the sheet (again, the sheet is programmed to update all of this automatically). This has added a bit of fun and a competitive element to the process.

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I have run this for 2 weeks now and, as you can see from the image above, most of the students have begun to engage with it. I have not had to do any pushing since I first introduced it. We’ll see how it goes,  but so far I have been very happy with the way it has turned out. Here’s an example of the kind of things they have been posting so far:

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First Thoughts on Twitter

I just set up my professional twitter account at the start of this course. I set up a personal account a couple of years ago to see what Twitter was all about, but never really got into it. However, I’m starting to see how it could be really useful to have a big professional network as a teacher.

I’m now following about 170 people, the vast majority of whom are Science teachers and Science/Physics related posters. It has taken me some time searching around for people to follow, but like Steve said, if you put some time in you and find some well-connected people it can help you to find others much more easily. I also found a good number of other teachers by searching hashtags such as #iteachphysics, #physics, #science etc.

I have started checking my feed fairly regularly, as almost every time I look I find links to interesting articles on the latest science news and ideas for teaching different topics. Some people are really generous with the amount they share and it is worth finding these people to take advantage of this.

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I have to admit that so far I have taken without giving anything back, as I am yet to post! I have some ideas for my lessons over the next couple of weeks that I would like to share though. I think that contributing to the site is also worthwhile for you as it means that more people will want to follow you and you will make connections with a greater number of people.

There have been a couple of spam posters that I had to ‘unfollow’. They can start to clog up your feed if they are posting the same thing repeatedly every 10 minutes or so. On the whole though, it seems like if you invest the time it could become a really good way of sharing ideas and resources with other teachers out there.

Using Google Sheets as a formative Feedback Tool

I recently had the idea of using Google sheets to track pupils perceptions of their understanding of lesson objectives in a more efficient manner. I have always tried to keep track of student understanding during lessons using techniques such as mini-whiteboards, traffic lights etc., but something I have not always been so good at is keeping a record of student understanding throughout a topic.

The sheet I have developed is a work in progress, but I am happy with how it has worked out so far for me. Each student has their own sheet, which only they and I can edit. On each student’s sheet, the objectives from the unit of study are listed. For each objective, there are 3 columns which can be filled out by the students. In the first column, they record their confidence (out of 5) in that particular objective. In the second column, they can write down what it is they are finding difficult to understand if they are not confident. The final column is for any questions they may have about that particular objective.

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I have made 3 further sheets which only I can edit. These allow me to see a class average score out 5 for each objective and to view all student problems and questions, without having to cycle through each sheet. I have found this part particularly helpful, as I can review whether there are any areas where the class as a whole are having difficulty.

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It seems that some students, who are often shy to ask questions during class, are more comfortable asking questions in this indirect manner as they know they won’t be the centre of attention if I address the question in class.

Google sheets is definitely a tool that I want to continue using in this way. The sheets I have made are not pretty and there are definitely some improvements that I can make, but this is something I want to work on going forward.

Using Google+ Community to Encourage Collaborative Learning

This year I’ve been experimenting with using Google+ with my IB Physics classes. My motivation for doing this was to encourage students to work collaboratively and to promote learning outside the classroom.

Google+ communities is similar to Facebook in many ways, allowing students to post questions, videos, documents and links to other websites. It also allows students to comment on each other’s posts. The ISM Google system only allows members of the school to join communities you set up. This means that you can invite your students to join and not worry about privacy issues from outside the school community.

During first semester, I set up communities for my Grade 12 and Grade 11 IB students. Initially I said that I wanted at least one post and one meaningful comment from each of them every two weeks. Some students really got into this and posted some great Physics videos and articles and questions about concepts they didn’t fully understand.

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As you can see from the picture above, there was some really good dialogue between students. A lot of what was posted was actually beyond the bounds of the IB Physics course, which meant that students were exposed to areas of the subject that they wouldn’t have been otherwise.

The greatest challenge using Google+ communities has been in the management of the site and keeping track of student posts and comments. Keeping up with posts is not difficult as you can have notification emails sent to you when anybody posts. However, tracking comments is much more challenging as you are only notified of comments on your own posts, or on posts which you have previously commented on yourself. I have found that, with over 50 IB level students, keeping track of posts has been overwhelming. I have not been strict on posting this semester and, as a result, students are not commenting as frequently as they did. What I need is a way of easily monitoring student posts and comments or, even better, a system which will do this automatically.

I really feel that using the communities is a great way to enrich student learning outside of the classroom and I want to continue using it, without it taking up huge amounts of time. Over the next few weeks, I intend to explore ways in which I can more efficiently keep track of posting and commenting and try to implement any systems that allow me to do this.

Aims for the EDT601 Course

I have used a range of technology both in the classroom and to communicate with my students, to varying degrees of success. As well as using Google Drive to share resources and organise student work, I have recently been experimenting with using Google+. I have set up communities for my IB students to share ideas and articles and to help collaborative learning in general. I think that there is potentially a lot of value in this but I have found it difficult to keep on top of it and to keep it running efficiently.

At the moment, I find that when I try to incorporate more technology in my teaching, it can become overwhelming and difficult to handle. I hope that this course will help me to be more efficient with the way I use technology for collaborative and independent learning. I would also be interested in exploring new ideas for incorporating technology into teaching and am looking forward to learning what other teachers do in this area.