Friday, December 21, 2012

How the Flipped Classroom Turned Me into a Better Student

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    One thing I always get tired on is experts (or those who think they are) criticizing others for not "doing it the right way".  Trends come & trends go.  Buzz words are often just that, buzz. However, as teachers on the front lines in the classroom, you have to do what works for your students. (Notice I didn't say what works for you, sometimes there is a difference.  We need to adapt to the needs of our students, not force them to adapt to our needs, but that is a post for a different day) This is not to say that you shouldn't be open to new & better ways, but the bottom line is if it is working don't get caught up in hermeneutics.

     One popular trend I see in this regard is the flipped classroom.  Everyone wants to argue what is & what is not a flipped classroom.  The bottom line is; "Flip teaching allows more hands-on time with the instructor guiding the students, allowing them to assist the students when they are assimilating information and creating new ideas (upper end of Bloom's Taxonomy)" ~ quoted from Wikipedia

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   Whatever it looks like, whatever you want to call it, if your students are benefiting from it, go with it.  Read the following article from which was very refreshing;

How the Flipped Classroom Turned Me into a Better Student

Kylie is a 12th Grade Student at Clintondale High School, in Clinton Township, Michigan 
My first two years of high school were a continuous struggle. I wasn’t very engaged during class, had a difficult time doing my homework, and was unable to get help from my parents because they didn’t know the material that I was being assigned. After my sophomore year I took the ACT test and scored a 13 – which was not good enough to have many options after high school. I began preparing myself to work at McDonalds because I didn’t think there would be anything else I’d be qualified to pursue after I finished high school. It wasn’t what I wanted – but it seemed to be my only option.
Don't stop here, get to the good part by reading the rest of the article here at

For more information on flipped classrooms visit the following resources on Flipping from Wikipedia:

Break from School, not from Learning

     Happy Holidays to all the educators out there.  We just had our first snowfall here in Reynoldsburg, OH, very timely on this last day of school before winter break.  Kids are singing Christmas songs in the halls, Teachers are smiling as if they don't have to work for a week...ohhh that's right they don't.  However, the learning doesn't have to stop.  One thing as an educator I have always thought was important was to get students to enjoy learning.  In fact if you can get students to learn without them realizing it, you show them that learning takes place everyday, in every facet of life.  It is not just something that happens in a classroom. So over break get your students to learn!

Norad has been tracking Santa since 1958.  Why you might ask well it is actually because Sears Roebuck & Co. printed the wrong number in their advertisement in 1955 & a good natured Colonel Harry Shoup had his staff check their radar for children who called in to the Continental Air Defense Command instead.  A tradition was born & in 1958 the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) took over & has been doing it ever since.

     Where does the learning come in?  Well as they track Santa they have animated videos from all over the world showing culture, explaining traditions, & mapping the flight showing kids where all of the countries are.  My three children & I track Santa from wherever we are every Christmas Eve and follow along.  Questions come up about different countries and how time zones work.  Other Santa type questions come up as well, which is why it is nice that NORAD includes a FAQ on their site addressing all of those types of questions if your kids still 9 year old is starting to doubt, but knows the presents stop when the belief does.  That's why I believed in Santa until I was 18!

     In 2010 they also started excepting & posting videos from students all over the world.  Videos range from explaining traditions, showing locations, to just fun songs or silliness (showing students creativity).  These videos have taken the site from just an informational learning opportunity to an interactive hands-on expression of teaching & learning.  By actively participating in this project, students can take ownership in teaching or the sharing of their neck of the woods with the rest of the world. As well as explaining their tradition or the ways their culture celebrates the holidays.

     There are also games & activities to do on the site as well as videos.  On area called Santa's Countdown Calendar has a building for each day leading up to the 25th & each building is actually an interactive game.  Most games are very simple, but creative & usually have a puzzle type solving theme to them.  For instance one such game is the located in the North Pole Clock Tower and is called Christmas Tree Light Up.  Choose the Hard setting for a fun strategic puzzle of lighting up the tree.  I am sure a creative science teacher could even connect it to a lesson about closed or open circuits, but either way it present a puzzle students will have to work through.  Anything to encourage problem solving in unique ways is always good.

     So if you have not checked out Norad give it a try this Holiday Season with your students or just with your own kids.  I'll leave you with the trailer video below for 2012.  Happy Holidays & I'll see you on the flipside of long as the world doesn't end today!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Save the Twitter Accounts!!!

   Forget the whales, dolphins, or trees*, how about we initiate a "Save the Twitter account" campaign. I'll create a paypal account, perhaps we can set up a text to donate number, & a benefit concert is a must. I only wish we could get The Byrds to play it, but we'll have to settle for the Counting Crows. The point is thousands of twitter accounts are being neglected daily & many are simply dying, never to be used again. If there was such a thing as a Twitter graveyard I fear many of the plots would be occupied by dead accounts of educators who once got excited about a cool new buzz, but never understood how it could truly be utilized in the classroom. Don't let another twitter account go to waste, do your part to save the twitter accounts. Perhaps since Zombies seem to be such a big phenomena right now we could even bring a few accounts back to life if we work together.

     There are really three parts to using Twitter as an educator. Professional Development, Parent Communication, & as a creative student tool. Below you will find a few ways I have thought of or heard of about using twitter in the classroom separated into these categories. Please share more ideas in the comments.

Professional Development:

     Twitter is the largest PLC - Professional Learning Community in existence & many educators have found the value of connecting with colleagues not just down the hall, but all over the country & all over the world.

Resources: Twitter is a treasure chest of creative thinking & ideas for the classroom. The key to finding them with ease is the hashtag. Hashtags - "#" are used to identify a key word or topic to categorize the tweet under. For instance most of my tweets can be found by searching #RPLC (stands for Reynoldsburg Professional Learning Community). This makes finding resources easy if you know the hashtags to search when you create an account make sure to find out which hashtags will become your friends. To get started check out some popular educational hastags or see a complete list compiled by Cybrary Man.

Chats: Twitter chats allow you to plug in & connect with other educators from all over the world. They take place at various times & choose various topics to cover so no matter what your schedule or interest there is a chat you could join. Chats make use of hashtags so you simply click the #Discover link at the top of the Twitter page & type in the chat you want to join (ex. #ntchat or #edchat). You'll get a streaming list of everything listed under those hashtags & if you join during the live chat it will continually update as educators discuss the current topic. Sit back & read or jump in & discuss to collaborate in a way you never have before. Cybrary Man also has a list of Educational Twitter chats including times when the various chats take place.

Parent Communication:

     We all know that parent support, involvement, & communication is key. Using Twitter as a communication tool with parents can make your job a lot easier. Share homework, websites, pictures, upcoming events, info on things coming home, & whatever else. Highlight excellent work, announce achievements, even create a class archiver position & designate one student each week who tweets out what is going on in class during the day. Parents will love the communication & feedback!

They don't have twitter: In your Twitter settings you can easily set it up to post all your tweets to a facebook account (You could create a class facebook account just for this purpose). Between Facebook & Twitter you can probably cover the majority of your parents, but just in case you can connect to Linkedin, Google+, & other social networks as well, just Google how to do it. If parents are not on twitter encourage them to sign up for an account just to follow you. After they sign up they don't even have to get on a computer as they can have twitter text them everytime you send out a tweet. If parents have a cell phone but no internet access offer for them to come to your classroom to set up their account, follow you, & forward all tweets to their phone. Done!

Yes but I can send info via email: True, however Twitter forces you to keep it brief ..also those following understand it will be brief, 140 characters or less! Knowing this you tend to tweet more than if you just used email. Little things about the day, quick reminders, a pic of a project completed. These are things you might not email, but it is nothing to send a quick tweet. On top of that, as mentioned above you can also send via text to parents who may not have a computer. (If they don't have a cell, well, buy a stamp I guess)

Student Tool:

Play TwitTag: Start by asking one of your students a questions on twitter using their @ twitter handle & your specific classroom #. They have to answer the question & then think of a question to ask another student including the new student's @ this way it keeps going. Have them always be sure to include the class # so that anyone can search & see all the questions & answers. By asking one question & pushing the domino you have now created an entire review. Smarter, not harder, plus students now have ownership.

Taking Notes: Twitter notes keep on giving. Not only do you take notes for yourself but anyone else who searches or happens upon your thoughts can benefit as well. As the teacher you can even create lists on twitter to organize & turn your students notes into a great resource. Reply to a students's twitter note to clarify or bring out an important point missed. I personally have started using Twitter as my primary note taking option when I go to conferences. Thoughts, questions, website links, are all posted to my twitter account for myself & anyone else who is searching.

Twitterature: Literature in 140-characters? Of course not, that's why we call it Twitterature, but what's wrong with that? Go outside the box & instill creativity in your students by challenging them to write something meaningful in 140 or less. Poetry, a short story (continued in multiple tweets), or another creative idea can challenge students knowledge of the English language & creative ability to organize thought. Check out this article in the New York times on The Rise of Twitter Poetry.

GeoTwitGraphy: For my fellow Social Studies teachers out there try making global connections along side real world people. Have your class tweet asking for participation from all over the world & see who participates. Ask 5 important questions that could have one word or short answers. Then map out your feedback & discuss the differences.

Class Discussion: Projecting a twitter feed or even having it run on an iPad in front of you can solicit questions that may have never been asked. Students who may not want to raise their hand either because shyness, or not wanting to "bother the class", may be more willing to tweet a question during a lecture or discussion. Sites like TweetChat, Twitter Fall, Tweet Deck, or Tweet Grid are great for this. If you have an iPad and use Google presentations, try checking out TJ Houston's Soapbox app which allows the presentation to coexist with a twitter feed. Whatever the method find a way to tap into those unasked questions we all know exist.

One of my sessions at the Ohio eTech conference this year is entitled "So I have a Twitter Account, Now What?". If you are going or know those who need Twitterlightened click here for more info about the session. If you're not going but can join us to share ideas of 140 characters or less, jump in Monday, February 11th @ 3:45pm #oetc13

For more ideas on how to use Twitter in the classroom check out "100 Ways To Use Twitter In Education, By Degree Of Difficulty" by Jeff Dunn at

*Important note please do not call GreenPeace, PETA, or anyother organiztion. I have nothing against Whales, Dolphins, or Trees.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

itsLearning vs moodle

              An LMS or Learning Management system is becoming increasingly important in order to organize & deliver 21st century lessons to the students in your school district.  Wikipedia defines a LMS as a “software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting of training programs, classroom and online events, e-learning programs, and training content.”
              One of the more popular LMS’s out there is Moodle which a free open source LMS.  Our district used Moodle for five years before switching over to itsLearning for the 2011-2012 school year.  As a teacher I was an avid Moodle user & all of my classes used a blended model of instruction.  As the districts Moodle Administrator I managed the LMS, conducted PD for teachers, & presented on Moodle at numerous conferences.  When our district Tech coordinator brought up the idea of switching to itsLearning I was obviously less than thrilled, as I was deeply entrenched in Moodle.
              As I began to explore itsLearning from both the teacher & admin perspective I was pleasantly surprised with the ease of access, levels of control, & organized help.  As a teacher there were several features that immediately caught my eye for classroom use including video conferencing, the ePortfolios, & the student email accounts.  As an LMS administrator features like Hierarchy Management, user & profile policies, multiple interface skins, the syncing of parent/student accounts, & the install service & support were big plusses.
              One common complaint from elementary teachers was that Moodle did not adapt well for the younger students.  To get any of our K-5 teachers using Moodle was like a trip to the dentist.  They simply did not have any interest in investing the time for something where they saw limited potential.  With itsLearning’s multiple interface skins teachers have been excited to create their sites designed to the level of their students.  K-12 itsLearning is an LMS that can have a positive impact district wide.
              Our transition to itsLearning has been very seemless and the amount of teachers who are buying in has increased dramatically.  With Moodle about 20% of our 300+ teachers used some type of online/blended learning approach in their classrooms.  After seven months of itsLearning we already have 60% (214 courses) & rising now using online learning.  The Professional Development sessions have gone great with many teachers scheduling additional time during their plans to work creating their courses.  As an edtech enthusiast it has been quite refreshing to see such a positive acceptance of something new.

For more info see my webinar on switching from Moodle to itsLearning  Click here  or check out the article Explosive growth in user adoption by itsLearning.  To see examples of the different interface skins scroll on down.

With Moodle being open source, you can change your look, color scheme, etc., but you only have the one standard interface as seen below.

With itsLearning one of the great advantages are the multiple interface skins they provide including one for Early Learners.  Teachers create content using the same format, but it is facilitated to the students through the appropriate skin as seen below. (What grade levels we use each skin for is in the () below)
High School Skin (7-12)

Intermediate Skin (5-6)

Animal Skin (3-4)

Early Learner Skin (K-2)

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

First official blog post

Well I have been meaning to start this for quite some time now.  Too often I simply tweet out links to others tech blogs often thinking, "Good stuff, wish I could change it slightly or add a comment".  Well now you can get my views, resources I find, & whatever else I feel like discussing...if you care to read.  So welcome I guess, where we go from here I am not sure, but I am excited to get started down the road.  I'll post at least once a week, but I'll aim for once a day.  Whether the world wants it or not my thoughts are going to start including more than 140 characters.