How to get the best result for my students with limited resources

As you may be aware from this article, I have picked up a temp block for next term as a teacher-librarian. As  I have been working through the process of planning and programming for the term across each stage from early stage one up to stage three, it has occurred to me that I don’t know that I will be able to achieve everything that I want to achieve with each stage group.

Much of what I want students to do, and what I have been asked to do with them requires computer access, and while there are two classes trialing a BYOD program, the rest of the school has no more than two or perhaps three computers in the class, plus an internet connected interactive whiteboard, or Promethean panel. There is a bank of school laptops which can be booked for use, but of course it would be highly unfair of me to book them for the whole term, and so I need to consider how I am going to go about having students, particularly in stages two and three, complete the problem based learning research task.

This, I believe, is where the flipped class will come into play. The specific skills and concepts that students need to learn, I can record videos to teach, and utilise in-flipping, where the video is watched together in the classroom as a whole class group, or the ‘traditional’ out-flipping where the students watch the video at home and bring their learning to the classroom. I may need to apply this to the research process itself though. Have students do all, or at the least the majority of their research at home, and do the synthesis and analysis, and prepare the presentation at school, in their lessons with me.

The other alternative, which will require a conversation with a variety of stakeholders, is to arrange for BYOD for my lessons. That is, allow students with access to devices to bring them in for use in my lessons. This frees up the school’s resources for those students that do no have access to portable devices, allowing them equal opportunity to complete the learning.

I’m still undecided as to which approach I will take, however the point at which I will need to implement that aspect of my program is later in the term, and so I can have that conversation over the holidays via e-mail with the school stakeholders, and then begin the dialogue with the parents early next term.

I would love to hear from any of you who have had to juggle the issues of access to resources in this manner, and how you negotiated the challenges in order to get the best outcome for your students.

FutureSchools Masterclass review – Flipped Class with Jon Bergmann

After looking through the masterclass options (as outlined in this article) I opted to enroll in the masterclass with Jon Bergmann, focusing on the Flipped Class. Primarily, I selected this class as the class I was in during my internship was trialing, at that point, 1:1 BYODD utilising iPads, and was ‘sort of’ using the flipped class, using what Jon Bergmann calls in-flipping where the instructional videos are watched by students in the classroom, rather than at home, and I found it to be highly effective, and wanted to learn more about how to implement it.

If you are currently scratching your head, wondering what the flipped classroom and flipped learning is, then I recommend reading this article, or this article, or watching the below video, which together, do a good job of explaining what flipping is about. Much of what Jon talked about in terms of the why to flip, during the masterclass, is covered in either the above articles, or the below video. The one point which I don’t believe is made clear in the video or the articles is that flipped brings a visual element to the explicit teaching of our students, an idea which Ian Jukes made plain in his presentation, is something we as educators should be doing more of.

A lot of the masterclass consisted of Jon walking us through various tools, pitfalls, and strategies for success when flipping, and there was a wide range of people, from myself as a K-6 casual teacher, to a high school mathematics teacher, to IT or e-learning people, all with different levels of experience, in different parts of Australia, in different educational structures (government, non-government, primary, secondary, tertiary). I will try to condense the nine pages of notes that I took down to a reasonable length, which I think will be quite manageable. Jon did also mention that he and Aaron Sams have released some books in the “How to flip….” series, starting with “Flipping Your English Class to Reach All Learners.”

First of all, three key resources that Jon listed were flippedclass.com, flippedlearning.org and flippedclassroom.org. While they do all sound the same, they serve very different purposes. From memory, flippedclass is the for core website for starting off on the discovery of how and why to flip, flippedlearning.org is a not-for-profit organisation and flippedclassroom.org is an online community of flippers.

The first thing Jon showed us, was just part of his toolbelt for the presentation, which was mirroring his laptop onto his iPad using an app called Doceri. This allowed him to move around the room while he talked, and still interact and manipulate the laptop, not only moving back and forth between the slides, but to change applications, make notes and do anything else that he would ordinarily need to be at the computer to do.

Jon was quick to point out that any subject area can be flipped, telling us the story about the PE teachers that he mentions in the above video, and reiterated that the key question you need to ask yourself is what is the best use of my face-to-face time?” The answer to this question conceptually be the same for all subject areas – more time to do stuff. What that stuff is, will of course differ from subject to subject.

Jon showed us a clip, which I have included below, which anyone who lived in the 1980s will know, and which I will not give any further introduction too, as an example of what teaching often feels like for our students, and said that it has to be better than this, or as Gary Stager put it, “those that know better, should do better.”

Interactive whiteboards are simply glorified chalkboards and don’t actually change the pedagogy, resulting in classrooms that are still teacher-centric. He pointed out that everything we teach is already on the internet, in some form, and that we need to move towards more inquiry and discovery, a theme which I suspect Gary Stager would agree with.

Jon then spoke about some strategies for flipping particular subject areas. English, he said, you would only flip partially. You would still need to read the book, but the explicit instruction about particular themes, ideas, or plot lines could be done via flipping. He also pointed out that the writing conference could be flipped. He pointed out that teachers have to mark and provide feedback on writing anyway, so why not film it as its being done and providing higher quality feedback than you can write in just a few lines.

Session two of the day was about the tools. Jon strongly recommends recording your own videos, as it lends the personal touch, and helps foster the relationship between you and your students, and also you and your students’ parents. It will also help with the claims that you are no longer teaching your students. There are four tools to master in flipping your classroom: video creation, video hosting, video interaction and learning management. The first two, I think, are fairly straight forward as to what they are. Video interaction is about setting the videos up to have interactions, such as formative questions during the video, whilst learning management is about the management of the process of tracking and recording and monitoring students’ learning progress. Jon quickly pointed out that there are a plethora of options when it comes to tools, and that the best tool is the one that you’ll use, and that tools need to be easy for all to use.

13 Tips to Making a Good Video

Jon spoke about his thirteen tips to making a good video.

  1. Keep it short – no more than 1 to 1.5 minutes per grade level. E.g. Year five videos should be no longer than 5 to 7.5 minutes, whilst year twelve videos should be no longer than twelve to eighteen minutes.
  2. Animate your voice – don’t be the economics teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
  3. Work with a partner. Utilising a colleague, or an inquisitive student in your videos models interaction, and provides a different voice for students to hear, and also allows for genuine questioning of concepts to facilitate elaboration or re-explanation in different language.
  4. Add humour.
  5. Audio matters – the key to a good video is a quiet room and a noise cancelling microphone.
  6. Less text more images (I think Jon was channeling Ian Jukes again).
  7. Utilise annotations on screen where appropriate
  8. Insert or splice in video clips where appropriate.
  9. Picture in picture – if you are screencasting, have your face visible through picture in picture.
  10. Use callouts and zooms.
  11. Embed quizzing (this is the video interaction component I mentioned earlier).
  12. Make sure that you are copyright compliant.

Jon went through some of the software options for each of the four tools that need to be mastered. Thankfully, he has included a very brief (a few dot-points) review on the flippedclass website. For the video creation tools, click here. For the video hosting tools, click here. For the video interaction tools, click here (It does need to be noted that there is one tool missing from the video interaction list, which Jon only discovered whilst at the FutureSchools expo, and that is myEd. I’m currently trialling it, under a thirty day free trial option, and am very much leaning towards purchasing myself a single-user license. Jon said he would explore it and include it in the list once he had done so). For the Learning Management tools, click here (myEd also fits into this category).

After discussing the different tools and their features, Jon challenged us all to select a tool that we had not used before, and to make a one-minute video including a subtle reference to a kangaroo and the opera house. I had not come to the masterclass with an iPad or a laptop, which in hindsight was rather silly of me, and so I paired off with a high school mathematics teacher from the Gold Coast who was experimenting with Screencast-o-matic,

The third session was a continuation of the discussion around tools, including showing us where to access the repository of (unscreened by Jon or Aaron), videos created by teachers around the world for flipping, which are organised by subject, with notes for the age/year level the videos were made for and who made them. This can be accessed here. We watched short sections of a few videos and as a group discussed what did and did not work for those videos, and what made them engaging (or not). He also showed us the collection of two other, separate teachers Jonathan Thomas-Palmer’s Flipped Physics (example below) and Mr Brown’s 3rd Grade Class website.

The question was asked about how to convince skeptics of the flipped movement, and Jon thoughtfully showed us how to access the bank of research that he and Aaron have collated onto the flippedlearning website, which includes case studies, white papers, and research done by both Jon and Aaron, as well as other educational researchers.

The conversation again turned to the pitfalls of flipping, and Jon reiterated the point that it’s not just creating the videos and sending the students home to watch them. We need to teach them how to interact and engage with them, which is different to just watching Spiderman or Star Wars. This is best done by doing it together, in the classroom – in-flipping, for the first period of time, the length of which will vary depending on your context (age of students, topic etc). It is largely about teaching them how and why to take notes and to organise those notes, and recommended the Cornell system for doing so. Taking the time to ensure that your students know how to engage with the video and not just watch it will provide dividends down the road, with improved effectiveness of the flipped structure and improved outcomes accordingly.

The final session of the day, was the what next? step. After we have been flipping for a few years, and have got Flipping 101 down pat, what comes next? Jon talked about their being different paths, and which one is taken will vary, again on the context. The choices are flipped mastery, peer instruction, the introduction of growth of project based learning, mastery with gamification, and genius hour. A lot of this discussion centered around the fact that flipping creates more time in the class, and it needs to be decided how to use this time.

Providing choice days for students (as opposed to activity days) where students are empowered to pursue any question, problem or interest that they choose provides agency, and can lead to higher levels of engagement when it is an activity day, as students are aware that they have time for for self-directed and self-chosen learning. It does of need to be done within a framework, where students are held accountable for their learning through having to provide evidence of learning, in some form. Providing time for students to be metacognitive about their learning also provides benefits, and can be done either by the student on their own, with a peer or as a student led student-teacher conference.

Coming to the end, Jon outlined the four biggest hurdles that need to be overcome to successfully implement the flipped classroom.

  1. Flipping the thinking of colleagues/supervisors/administrators – which is essentially a process of evangelism.
  2. The time factor – recording all the videos does take time (initially, once recorded, it’s saved).
  3. The technology factor – deciding what to use, and learning how to maximise its use.
  4. Training the students, their parents and the teachers on how and why flipping is beneficial.

I am incredibly glad that I opted to attend the masterclass. It was a day well spent, and I feel much more comfortable about flipping my class, when I get one. If you’ve ever thought about it, I encourage you to give it a go. Like any new ‘thing’ it will be scary and daunting and feel hard to start with, and you will most likely be ridiculed for it, but be brave. There is a whole network of people who will support you. #flipclass is an ongoing Twitter conversation, and the Flipped Learning Network contains a series of discussion forums to help you, encourage you and give you feedback.

As always, thank you for reading, and I would really like to hear from anyone who is flipping, or is thinking of flipping to hear how you are going with it, in the comments section.

In closing this series of articles reviewing my time at the FutureSchools expo and conference, I will leave you with a video, to encourage you to be a leader in your school, and a follower within the Flipped Class movement.

FutureSchools ClassTech Conference Wrap Up – Day 1 Session 2

“Moving to BYOD as a financial choice, is a financial choice for the school, not the parents.”
-Simon Crook

At the end of session one, I was genuinely excited to go back home and test out some of the ideas that had been discussed, so knowing that Simon Crook was the first speaker for session two, with the presentation title BYOD, mobile devices and apps in K-12 schools had me champing at the bit to get back into the venue.

Simon started out by saying something that I’ve observed, that many implementations of BYOD, bring your own device, are in actual fact, implementations of BYODD, or bring your own designated device. Schools either give a list of acceptable devices, sometimes with one device listed, sometimes with multiple devices listed, or they give a list of minimum specifications that need to be met for the device to be acceptable. This came about due to the end of funding for the DER (Digital Education Revolution) program, and saw schools wanting to continue with the use of devices, but without the funds to do so. The choice to move to a BYO program is therefore a financial choice. A financial choice for the schools, that is, not the parents as Simon pointed out. Simon also discussed that the move to a BYO program as a drive for pedagogical change is a contentious factor for some people.

Simon posed the question to the audience “is BYOD for everyone?” Of course the answer is not quite as simple or straightforward as a yes or a no, but is a combination thereof. BYO programs are not for everyone if the teachers within a school are not ready for it. Teachers need significant professional development and support to move to a BYO program to facilitate high quality teaching in a different pedagogical framework and utilising a different infrastructure. It’s not enough to simply move everyone to devices, they need to be used appropriately. I’ve written previously about the SAMR model and its application for BYO programs and believe that it plays a significant factor in genuine use of devices in classrooms.

At the very least, Simon pointed out, teachers need to have devices of their own to utilise. I’ve known a school who rolled out a device to each teacher for twelve months to use as they were able to, with support, in the classroom before opening up the door to BYO programs. Only one class went ahead with a BYO program, and that teacher was highly engaged with using the provided device and worked to learn how to gain best results from the BYO program.

Three other questions were listed that need to be asked, to determine if a school is ready for a BYO program: Are the students ready (do they respect devices, will they have access to devices, do they know how to use the devices); Are families ready (has there been an ongoing dialogue with the community about the how, why and when BYO will be implemented, are parents supportive, are all or most parents able to provide a device) and finally is the infrastructure ready (sufficient coverage, sufficient density, cloud or physical storage, power/charging options, secure storage for devices when not in use etc). If you are wanting to know more about the coverage vs density/capacity distinction, I recommend reading pages two and three of this article on the Aerohive website.

“Using technology in school should be about using it to complement the already excellent pedagogy going on, not about the ‘keeper of the kingdom’ saying no to ‘protect’ the school systems. The pedagogical needs should inform the IT decisions, not the other way around.”
-Simon Crook

Buy in from the school leadership is critical, as those schools where the leadership is on board and directs the IT team to find the solution often see more success than those schools where the leadership are ambivalent and simply ask the IT team if it is doable. There are factors to be considered, such as coverage v capacity as previously mentioned, and a genuine need to consider the security and protection of the students from undesirable content on the internet, but it needs to be considered intelligently, rather than simply whitewashing the internet en masse. Additionally, part of the conversation should be about teaching digital citizenship, which may form part of the conversation around Communicating and interacting for health and well being  and  Contributing to healthy and active communities both of which are part of the Australian PDHPE curriculum, and which a variety of age targeted resources are available on the Cybersmart website.

Following on from this was the discussion of ‘equity’ which can often be a cause for consternation around BYO programs. Simon made his position clear – equity is not about the lowest common denominator, it is not about making one software suite dominant and that cloud computing is the way to go. Simon indicated that decisions about hardware and software are going to vary from family to family and that where possible, utilising cloud-based storage would facilitate engagement as it would remove the problems of “I forgot my flash drive” or the issues of “I don’t think that’s the right version, there’s a newer one on my computer at home” that teachers often hear, from both students and colleagues.

Ultimately, BYO programs are for everyone. Prices on the hardware continue to drop, and there are more and more options for those families who are price-point sensitive. The critical thing to remember, however, is that a dialogue needs to be opened up, early in the thinking about BYO programs to address concerns from parents, students and teachers, and that the dialogue needs to be ongoing.

If you are curious about implementing BYOD, there are a growing number of schools who have implemented it, and many of these schools are open to visitors to find out more about what it looks like in practice. Some online resources that Simon provided include the NSW DEC website BYOD Sandpit and the Sydney Boys High BYOD page.

We had a few minutes after Simon finished speaking to stand and stretch, while the second speaker for session two, Matt Richards, set himself up to present Makerspaces.

Matt Richards spoke about the phenomenon known as “Makerspaces” which are student centered spaces where students are able to utilise technology in various forms to create objects. Matt talked about how he took a disused space in his school and transformed it into a student-owned space through allowing groups of students to paint the walls with differing images, and the leveraging of the tech-savvy students who ordinarily hide away as mentors for others wanting to learn more about technology. His aim, he said, was “…to create a space where kids learn how stuff works.”

Makerspaces doe not require large amounts of cash to get started, and Matt related how he started simply with a number of old defunct computers, and the students were dismantling them and attempting to repair them and get them to work again. These achievements generated confidence and a buzz of accomplishment in the room which led to an increase in student self-efficacy as they experienced success, even if it was in the creation of ‘useless devices’ such as the one shown below.

A Useless Device. Image from geek.com

Beyond utilising defunct computers, Matt spoke about a range of low-priced resources including Goldieblox,Osmo, Littlebits, Raspberry Pi and Unity amongst a range of small kit computers. Matt said that the Makerspace movement changes teachers roles from content leaders, to relationship facilitators.

Matt’s final point was significant, and I believe ties his, Simon Crook’s and Richard Byrne’s talks together. “We need to evolve learning spaces from teacher-centric to student-centric, and getting there is going to see different paths taken for different schools.” This sentiment can be applied to BYO programs, as well as game inspired learning.

That is the end of day one, session two from my FutureSchools ClassTech wrap up. The next article will include the brief lunchtime session with Richard Byrne and Sue Waters which took place in the expo hall, as well as session three of the ClassTech conference Stream, covering 3D printing and the Connected Classroom