Saturday, July 21, 2012

Student Blogging: Rudimentary Structures and Thoughts

Like so many other flip class folks, Crystal Kirch’s blog is kind of a must-read for me: she does a great job of making her thinking and teaching transparent, giving me a jumping off point to think about my practice – all this despite the fact that she teaches math and I teach history. So when I saw her post last Friday morning about student blogging, I was very interested to read her thoughts. I started writing a comment about her post, and it was becoming a blog post in itself.

There are a lot of concerns about student blogging, and understandably so. First and foremost, issues regarding digital citizenship need to be dealt with in order for teachers, administrators, and parents/guardians in order to feel comfortable with students writing and interacting in such a public forum. The logistical issues for the teachers involved, detailed below, must be sorted out. What will the kids blog about? Will there be an audience for these blogs? There are a myriad of others. Here are a few thoughts.

My Setup for Student Blogs

Students will have individual blogs that will be utilized for my class (history) and their English class. (I share a common group of students with a math, science, and English teacher.) Students may do some blogging in their math and science classes, though I haven’t spoken with the math and science teacher on my team about their plans in this area. In regards to content, these blogs will contain more than just posts they write based on work they do in my class.

I have created a student blogs page on my class website that will contain a link to all student blogs so that they are accessible to my students, but also to parents/guardians, my administrators, and other teachers that want to check out what my students are blogging about.

Content of Student Blogs

Students will blog about several things. I am going to ask students to revisit their definition of history and of a history class several times (I foresee about five) over the two-year loop I have them as students. I hope to institute regular opportunities for students to connect current events to historical content we have covered, though I am a bit more fuzzy on what this would look like or who the audience would be. Students will also be blogging about their test-taking strategies after tests. I plan on asking students to reflect on what allowed them to be successful (or unsuccessful) on individual test questions and then look holistically at each test and figure out what test preparation strategies seem to be working for them and what strategies seem to be less useful (test reflection stolen from Jen Gray). Hopefully, over two years of reflecting on how they successfully (and unsuccessfully) prepare for history tests, my students will develop more metacognitive skills about how they prepare for tests.

Additionally, students will blog about their writing process throughout their time with me. We (myself and the English teacher that I share students with) plan on asking students to reflect on how they attack the writing process in the drafting phase – how they use classtime, office hours, outside of class time, and peer feedback (to be done through shared Google docs) – of their papers. Then, when their final drafts have been completed they will reflect on aspects of the paper they are satisfied with – and what led to this satisfaction – as well as areas of their writing that they want to improve on.

The goal of all of the last two blogging topics (test preparation strategies and the writing process) is to get thoughts down on paper, so to speak, and have tangible evidence of growth over the two years that students spend with me.

Audience for Student Blogs

Who will these student blog posts be targeted towards? Well, hopefully several people. I hope that parents and guardians find them interesting and informative. I am hoping, though, to build a student audience, composed initially of their peers, for these posts. I envision sending students out to read over the blog posts of their peers’ to gain insight into the writing or test-taking process. Hopefully, a culture of reading and commenting on each other’s posts can be created this way. To help build this commenting culture around the writing process, we (myself and the English teacher I partner with) are going to create writing groups for our students. These are the people that rough drafts will be shared with. Also, there will be follow-up assignments after the initial and final writing blog posts to go and read and comment on the posts of your writing group. Though this is a somewhat forced audience, I am hopeful that this will help to ritualize reading the blogs of others.

Additionally, the folks who have undertaken the Blank White Page (BWP) project have discussed using a shared hashtag for use to alert our students to blog posts written around the project as well as for answered BWP questions. There have also been discussions around joint blogging.

These are only a few rough ideas. I do know that building readership among student blogs is important, particularly fostering a space for students to comment on the ideas of their peers. I am hopeful that I’ll stumble across more ideas on the intermawebs or the twitterz as well to help find ideas to increase readership for my students’ blogs, whether from their peers or from outside audiences.

Digital Citizenship

Finally, the elephant in the room: digital citizenship. ‘But with non-moderated blogs, how can you be sure that students’ posts are appropriate?” Great question. The short answer is I can’t. Here’s what I can do. I can make sure my students know that their blog’s URL will be linked in a very public place (my website) that will be accessible to the world. I am hopeful that this authentic audience will push students to moderate their inappropriate leanings and post in ways that will help them grow as students, not push the limits of common decency. I will also be doing work in class around building an understanding of the importance of digital citizenship as well as necessity for being responsible with your digital footprint. Then, I’ll cross my fingers and tell students that I trust them to be mature, responsible young adults.

Logistical Issues/Moderation of Blogs

Given the setup I outlined above – individual student blogs – I don’t plan on moderating content of comments on my students’ blogs. Will I peruse student blogs? Yes. Will I grade some – not all – student posts? Yes. If issues of poor judgment arise, they will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. I do believe, though, that given the instruction my students will receive around digital citizenship, I will have a small number of (and hopefully no) incidents.

How will I know if students have done the blog posts? Google Forms to the rescue! I will create a Google form for each blog post that my student write with the following things: Lastname, Firstname, period, URL of the new post (not of their blog – this will require some direction), and the most interesting/important 3-5 sentences of each post. This accountability measure is easy to maintain, and the collected 3-5 sentence snippets of student posts could lead to some cool lessons – Wordle comes immediately to mind.

However, I am by no means an expert on any of this. What’d I forget? What have you tried that has worked for you? Where am I going to run into trouble?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Here Come the ELA and SS Flippers

I was lucky enough to attend FlipCon this year in Chicago – I’ve written about this a lot, so no need to rehash it all here. One thing, though, that struck me was how math and science heavy the conference was. By my totally unscientific estimating, I’d guess about 90% of the teachers at FlipCon came from one of those two disciplines. Given the seeming paucity of English and history flip class folks out there, I was hopeful of finding a burgeoning community of Humanities flippers, and the events of the last couple days were an exciting part of the consolidation of that community.

Tuesday evening I got to lend a history perspective on a group discussion on flipping ELA. It was great to hear Cheryl Morris, Troy Cockrum, Kate Perry, and Andrew Thomasson discuss what flipping English is. With the Common Core becoming a reality, and given the similarity between the English and history Common Core standards, I feel that there is a lot of collaboration possible between English and history flippers. I enjoyed being mostly a wallflower and learning from these other talented English flippers.

I just finished up a great group discussion earlier this evening with Chase Moore, Tom Driscoll, David Fouch, and Frank Franz about flipped history classrooms. And while clearly the number of flippers in the Humanities isn’t nearly equal to the numbers in math and science, it is exciting for me to build a content-specific flipped class community as a support network.

Thanks for sharing your expertise, everyone. Hope I get to participate again. The videos from these two discussions are posted below.

 Flipped ELA discussion

 Flipped history discussion

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Selling Your Administrators on Flipped Classrooms

First, why sell your administrator on flipping your classroom? If/when pushback come from parents about how I am structuring my history class, I want to make sure that my administrators know both what I am doing in my class on a daily basis as well as my rationale for flipping my classroom. As teachers, we all hope for administrative support in the face of angry or disgruntled parents: being transparent with administrators helps to keep that support but also allows administrators to speak knowledgeably about your classroom structure to unhappy (or happy) stakeholders.

So before I begin this semi-advice section, a bit of context – I’m a history teacher, we love to contextualize things. Two pieces of needed context: what I define the flipped classroom as and administrator competence/willingness to support innovation.

Let’s start with the administrator part. I met with two of the three administrators that work at my high school yesterday. They are both very supportive of innovation in the classroom and are hands-off in terms of what happens in my classroom. I don’t know if that means I’m doing a good job, or if not a ton of parents complain about me, or if I have their trust. Regardless, it is a pretty sweet set-up; I didn’t anticipate having this be too hard of a sell. And I’m not just saying that because they may stumble upon this blog someday…

I define a flipped classroom as having two components. These are no means original ideas – you will recognize them. Promise. In my mind, flipped classrooms flip the responsibility of learning from the teacher to the student. That doesn’t mean I don’t teach, it means that students are responsible for taking ownership of their learning. Second, flipped classrooms consciously make the teacher reflect and adjust their instruction based on the question, “What is the best use of my face to face time with my students?” I’m going to drop this next section bold and centered, because I think it is important:

In my mind, the flipped classroom is not a pedagogical technique, it is a mindset.

Many flipped classrooms leverage technology to help deal with these two aspects of a flipped classroom, but I do not believe that in order to flip you must use technology. In order for my classroom to be self-paced, I will be screencasting short lectures to provide students with the necessary context to do the evaluation and creation of history that is focus of my class, and my students will be utilizing technology where it is appropriate within my curriculum. However, technology is not a prerequisite of a flipped classroom the way I believe the other two pieces of my definition are.

Enough context. How can you gain administrative support for your flipped classroom?
  • You must, must, must know what your classroom structures and unit progression will look like. For me, blogging about this and writing it up on my class website helped to clarify this in my mind. I went into the meeting with my administrators well prepared to both explain what my class would look like on a day to day level and on a unit level, but also prepared to defend why I was choosing to structure my class this why. (In super-brief, I am going to run self-paced, mastery-based world history class – this is known to some as the flipped-mastery model.)
  • Being able to clearly articulate the differences from my old classroom set-up (students are self-paced), but also the similarities (emphasis on reading, writing, and the creation and interpretation of history; Humanities focus) was something I was glad I was able to do. A flipped-mastery history class sounds big and scary and imposing, and the changes will be big, but there will be numerous similarities in the kinds of thinking that students do on a daily basis in my classroom.
  • I did my best to guess what questions I expected to hear from my administrators. How can you know what these might be at your school? Know what your school (or principal) values in a classroom. I was able to tie my decision to flip to our school cornerstones, our history department philosophy, the common core standards, and the 21st century skills our students will need as they move on from high school.
  • Be prepared to answer the tech question. It will come. For me, the answer is easy: in a self-paced classroom, the videos aren’t homework (Digression: I wish more education experts understood this, but I’ll stop here before this becomes a rant.) There is a classroom desktop to upload the videos to and play the videos on, as well as a school-provided laptop, and, if need be, my personal laptop. I will upload videos to students’ phones and iPods. Plus, those with internet access can watch them at home if they want to.

So what questions did my administrators ask?
  • What will you do with students who fall behind? Our school is divided into smaller learning communities (SLCs – more about them here). I will communicate with parents and guardians when students are slipping, as well as looping in the student’s advisor (either myself or the English, math, or science teacher who shares the same group of students with me). If need be, I will un-self-pace my class for students, requiring them to spend lunch and my office hours with me until they have gotten closer to the suggested dates of completion I lay out for the students for various parts of a unit.
  • What about the Humanities focus? I work in close contact with an English teacher who teaches the same students that I do. We run overlapping English and history units (reading All Quiet on the Western Front while studying World War I, for example) that end in some really neat, memorable projects. Similar to the more conventional history class that I have run in the past, unit end dates are somewhat synchronized so that time can be blocked out to work on these projects in class. This was an easy answer: the Humanities focus remains unchanged.
  • Won’t this decrease the amount of reading that students will do? Nope – students will still wrestle with primary and secondary sources on a daily basis in my classroom. The amount of reading (and writing, though this was not asked) will remain unchanged, and may actually increase thanks to the Blank White Page project.

And how did the conversation end? Administrator number 1: “This sounds fascinating. I’m looking forward to coming into your class this year and seeing what it looks like. Thanks for looping me in.” Administrator number 2 (a former history teacher): “Share your unit calendar with me. I’m looking forward to seeing what this looks like on paper.”

And that is how I got administrative support to run a flipped-mastery world history class.

Veterans, any advice for those seeking administrative approval for flipping their classroom? Add what I missed below.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Concerns About Groupwork in a Flipped-Mastery History Class

Chase Moore left an excellent question on a previous blog entry this morning. I answered his question cursorily and then went out for a run. Like most runners, I think when I run, often (most of the time?) about my classroom. I kept turning the last sentence of his question over in my mind. The entire question is below.
Chase's question
So how do you maximize collaboration in a flipped-mastery classroom? I can’t speak to this, for next year will be year one of running flipped-mastery classroom. I do know, from reading and talking to people at FlipCon12, that students seem to self-select into groups that move through a given unit at a similar pace. And that is all well and good – the people I talked to have run flipped-mastery classes and I trust them.

Still, Chase’s question stuck with me. I am coming from a groupwork-based history class. Students sat in groups every day, and interacted with their groups at minimum multiple times per class period. How can I ensure that I still have students collaborating to build knowledge together in a self-paced class?

1. My first unit is entirely skills-based and will not be self-paced (at least as I currently conceptualize it). It is based heavily around collaborative groupwork while learning how historians create history: how to read, write, and think like a historian. It is a four-ish week unit that also explicitly builds in the sentence starters as well as the body language and task division that are essential to group success. I am hopeful that this unit, combined by giving the students feedback daily on what their groupwork looks like by highlighting great things I saw or heard from groups, will lay the foundation for my students to continue to collaborate successfully after we move into the self-paced, mastery-based structure after the first unit.

2. I got several things reinforced at FlipCon12 around the idea of groupwork. One was the good old, “ask three then me.” Forcing students to talk with at least three other students before they come to me with a question will hopefully help. Theoretically they would be working in those groups that are moving at the same pace and would ask each other then head out to other groups to get their question answered. Presenters also suggested that once you answered a question from a student, that student becomes the expert in the class on that particular question. If another student has the same question, they go to the student who asked the initial question, not to you. Hopefully both of those tactics will help.

3. My room will be arranged in groups every day. Students will be able to work where they want to, but hopefully that initial reminder – look, we’re in groups – will help them to remember that my classroom is a collaborative environment.

There have got to be more ways of ensuring a collaborative environment than just those three. I’d love your ideas, either theoretical or this-is-what-I-do-in-my-flipped-mastery-class, to help me ensure that my students are working collaboratively in a self-paced classroom.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Two Cents on “The Difference Between Live and Taped Lectures”

I reference a George Couros blog post below, which is found here. The original Washington Post article I am writing about can be found here.


As I was doing my semi-usual perusal of interesting Twitter-fed links, I came across George Couros’s summer blogging challenge: try to blog 2-3 times per week about an article that you read and found interesting. Share those thoughts with the world. So here I am, giving it a try. Like so many of you, I came across a Washington Post article about the superiority of live lectures over taped lectures via Twitter a couple days ago. I was initially interested in the article because like so many members of the very loosely defined flipped classroom community, screencasted lectures are a small part of what is going to allow me to run a mastery-based, self-paced world history class next year. As I read the article, I was further intrigued by the author’s referencing of the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the Vietnam War: I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the Vietnam protests in Madison. Clearly, I had to read this article.

Madison from the air, via Flckr by robbyb

Like so many flipped classroom teachers, I disagree with Camins’s characterization that, “Flipped classrooms have students learn their lessons at home via videos and other materials and do ‘homework’ in class.” However, I tried to write up a blog post about that and it turned into a three-page (single-spaced) mess, so I’m not here to talk about that. Camins highlights the time he spent listening to two UW-Madison history professors, George Mosse and Harvey Goldberg, lecture in college. From my research, I agree with his contention that these men put on a show for their students (and the non-students that flocked to their lectures). However, I would argue that these lectures were captivating because of their content, but also because of their context: Madison was an epicenter of the Vietnam War protests. From my understanding of this era, it seems like everyone knew someone in Vietnam, or someone who might imminently be drafted because of a low draft number. Given the extremely politicized context these lectures occurred in, coupled with the fact that Mosse and Goldberg challenged their students, “to highlight ambiguity and to challenge us to not accept facile interpretations that suited our political preferences,” I would have found them riveting as well. Would these lectures be as riveting now, having been removed from their oh-so-meaningful context (both the crowded lecture hall, but also Madison in the late 60s and early 70s)? No.

Should teachers lecture at all? I actually got to Twitter-lurk on a fascinating conversation between Carolyn Durley, Frank Noschese, and Jerrid Kruse on that subject today. I’m not here to pass judgment on whether or not teachers should lecture. But I am left with a couple questions. My classroom will be self-paced and mastery based next year and the work that we will be doing in class is heavily based on historical inquiry and interpretation. Given my current conception of my classroom, I will still need to have students build the necessary context to do the engaging work of historians in my classrooms. I will be screencasting lectures, in addition to providing web and textbook resources for students to build this context. I am looking forward to experimenting with the Explore-Flip-Apply framework to build a need-to-know feeling in my students. However, how much of the California state history standards can I just throw away and say, “Forget this old stuff that has themes that still resonate now; let’s talk about what is going on today”? For that is what I believe made those in-person lectures Camins discusses so engaging – they were so tangible for all the students involved. So a better question to be left with, then, is not how much do I focus on current events, but how do I increase the number of tangible aspects of my students’ lives that I engage in my classroom? Somewhere, Gloria Ladson-Billings loves the culturally relevant pedagogy-ness of that question.

Ultimately, despite my questions and the challenges I am left with, I agree with Camins’s takeaway from the time he spent in Goldberg and Mosse’s lectures: “I was part of a community trying to make sense of history so we could engage, organize politically and have an impact for the better.” Forget the standards – this is what I want for my students. Now how to get there in a way as personally engaging as Camins found those Vietnam War era lectures…

Thursday, July 5, 2012

An Assessment Cycle in a Flipped-Mastery(ish) History Class

As I see it right now, my 9th grade modern world history class next year will be self-paced and mastery(ish) based. I’d love to say that I will have time to go through all of my curriculum this summer and map it onto California state content and analysis standards and provide students multiple opportunities to meet each content and analysis standard I am focusing on in a unit, but I’m not going to get there. I’m nervous about trying to do too much this summer: all my flipped classroom thinking, collaboration, and work has been incredibly rewarding but I’m going to need to let next year be a part of the evolution of what I want my class to eventually look like. I’m okay with that. Plus, I’ll enjoy my vacation a lot more! But back to the point: what does assessment in a self-paced, mastery(ish) history class look like?

At the beginning of each unit, students will be given a list of assignment that they are expected to show mastery on as they move through the unit. Students will also receive the short answer questions they must show mastery on at the end of the unit. They will work through these assignments at their own pace and must show mastery of a given topic in order to move on to the next assignment. I will be creating checklists with suggested completion dates on them so that their progress can be tracked throughout the unit.

Upon demonstrating mastery on the classwork for each unit, students will receive an 85% for their classwork grade for that unit. (More about getting that missing 15% in the last paragraph.) If students complete the classwork in a unit early, they may work on the extension activities that are outlined below (that final 15% in their classwork grade) or they may choose to work on homework for other classes.

Once students demonstrate mastery on their classwork for a unit, they are ready to take the short answer section of their unit test. They may take this short answer portion of the test whenever they are ready, and may retake the test as many times as they want. All students must demonstrate mastery (score 75% or higher) on the short answer section of a test before they are allowed to move on to the content of the next unit.

Additionally, all students will take a multiple-choice test covering the content of a unit. This test will be administered on the same day for all students in an attempt to keep the results for this portion of the test as fair as possible. Two things about this: yes, I know that Moodle does some crazy cool stuff with randomizing multiple choice questions for tests, so theoretically I could have thousands of versions of the same multiple choice tests. (Again, I’m worried about biting off more than I can chew next year.) And yes, multiple-choice tests are less than awesome for numerous reasons that I won’t go into. However, given the fact that my students need to pass the CAHSEE (California state high school exit exam) and if I could keep my STAR scores somewhat respectable, well, I’m going to bow to the man on this one. Yes, I never take multiple-choice tests in the real world. It isn’t a life skill. Sorry – no teacher is perfect. I’m working to minimize the impact these multiple-choice tests will have on my students’ grades.

Retakes will not be allowed on the multiple-choice test (again, I don’t want to bite off too much next year). However, multiple-choice questions will only account for 1/3 of the points on any given test. Students will have to show mastery on the short answer section (2/3 of the unit test grade) before they move on to the next unit of a test. Plus, I want students to focus on the short answer questions as they move through the unit: this is why they receive these questions at the beginning of the unit.

All students will complete test corrections on their multiple-choice test. In an attempt to have students evaluate their study habits, they will also reflect on each test (both the short answer and multiple choice section). I got some great ideas from Jen Gray about this at FlipCon12. I will ask students to predict whether they think they got a given question correct before they hand their tests in. Upon receiving the test back, they will classify why they got a question wrong. They will also reflect on which of their study strategies seem to be working and which seem to be less effective through this process by looking at what helped them get answers correct – or partially correct. This will become a blog post, and hopefully over the course of the two years that I have my students, they will become more metacognitive about what test strategies work for them.

Finally, what about that final 15% students will not get credit for when they demonstrate mastery on their assigned classwork for a unit? For some, getting a solid B on their classwork will be satisfactory and they will choose to do no more work. For others, they may have been intrigued by the big ideas from the unit or just want to get more than a B on their classwork. To make up this last 15%, students can do several things, all of which revolve around choice and their interests:
  • dig deeper into the historical content of a unit and create a product to show the understanding they have gained from this work,
  • look into where the big ideas from the unit are currently still appearing in the world today and create a product to show the understanding they have gained from this work,
  • or they work on answering a question from the collaborative Blank White Paper project (outline of the BWP project is located here).

That’s how I see assessment looking in my flipped-mastery(ish) class next year. What am I missing? What should I rethink? Thanks in advance for pushing my thinking on this.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Explore-Flip-Apply in a history class

Thanks, Snagit!
On Saturday I happened upon a conversation between two people that I follow on Twitter, Tom Driscoll and Ramsey Musallam. Tom was curious about social studies teachers using Ramsey’s Explore-Flip-Apply (EFA) framework in a flipped classroom. I had begun outlining a blog post about how I planned to use EFA in my classroom next year, but this conversation put some urgency behind finishing this post.

As I understand it, EFA begins with students exploring, via inquiry, a problem posed to them by their teacher. Students build knowledge about this problem in the explore phase, and come to partial (or more than partial) answers to the problem posed by the teacher. In the flip phase, gaps in knowledge and student misconceptions are corrected with direct instruction around content knowledge, often in the form of teacher-created screencasts. To quote Ramsey, “…the most rewarding aspect of delaying direct instruction…is observing students construct, and in many instances even master, content before I take an active instructional role.” (source) After the flip, students are asked to apply their newly gained knowledge in a novel way. Again, this was a bare bones description; one of Ramsey’s more detailed write-ups of EFA can be found here. Ramsey’s write-up for using EFA in a chemistry (or other lab-based) class is a compelling one, but I am a history teacher.  I can see EFA playing out in two different ways in a history class.

EFA in H/SS, Version 1

I see the one possible way of using the EFA framework at the beginning of a unit. For the explore phase, which will occur on the first day of a unit, I will give students time to wrestle with the essential question for a unit. A brief note to differentiate essential questions from unit questions: unit questions are more specific in referencing, in my case, a historical time period, while essential questions are asked broadly about the big ideas of a unit. For instance, an essential question for a unit on imperialism might ask, “What is the best way for an oppressed people to try to gain their freedom?” while the unit question would ask, “What is the best way for an imperialized people to try to gain freedom?” By giving students time to work around these more general big ideas and questions from a unit through the unit’s essential question, and doing it collaboratively, I hope to have students both activating relevant schema they have regarding the big ideas from the essential question while also allowing time for kids to teach each other and build each other’s schema around the ideas a given unit is based around. This explore phase would start with individual brainstorming, followed by a group share-out. I can see students then moving on to create something more concrete to solidify the schema they activated or gained from the explore phase: concept maps, written pieces, or other ways they deem appropriate to share their knowledge. In the essential question above about an imperialism unit, a T-chart would be a natural way to compare possible ways people overcome oppression.
EFA Version 1 (excuse the rudimentary graphics...)

In this version, I see the flip and apply phases as a recursive process throughout the unit (see right). To further use the imperialism example, students would gain knowledge via video and primary and secondary source documents (the flip) about the reasons behind imperialism then apply that knowledge, perhaps in a critical paragraph. Next, the flip would happen again and expose students to different resistance methods used by imperialized nations. Students then apply their knowledge creating a recommendation for countries to most successfully resist or end oppression by looking into resistance movements – both successful and unsuccessful – in imperialized countries. So while this example is over generalized, but hopefully the point is clear: one initial explore session followed by a recursive flip-apply loop.

EFA in H/SS, Version 2

A way to beef this up, to try to give students an opportunity for think through the ideas of sections of a unit as opposed to only the overarching question of the unit, would be to chop up the recursive flip-apply process I described in the paragraph above. Students could still use the initial explore section based around the essential question for the unit I described above for the entire unit – it is never a bad idea to activate and build relevant schema – but then could jump into the truer EFA cycle. If the initial content in an imperialism unit is the causes of imperialism, students could spend time working through a question like ‘what causes people to prioritize their needs over the needs of others?’ These answers could come from life experiences, movies, books, or anywhere else students see answers to this question. Then students would gain knowledge via video and primary and secondary source documents (the flip) about the reasons behind imperialism then apply that knowledge, perhaps in a critical paragraph like I described above.

Next, a new EFA loop could begin about resistance to imperialism. Based on the simplified unit structure listed above, students could then go back and review their initial brainstorm around the essential question for the unit and add to their initial response – in whatever form it was in – with information about the motives behind imperialism that had been covered in class since the initial explore session around resistance to oppression. Then, the flip-apply section I described earlier could occur: students research resistance movements against imperialism and create advise for countries dealing with imperializers.

However, there are some problems here.
  • EFA makes so much sense for a lab-based class – the inquiry has real value and is so tangible: students are exploring and learning in such an engaging way. Could the explore sections I wrote about above be spiced up with something more visual than a simple question? Certainly a video or a short written piece could be used. To me, without having tried to teach using EFA in my classroom yet, there just seems to be just a bit less authenticity to the way I am currently conceptualizing the explore section.
  • How does EFA fit into a self-paced, mastery style of flipped class? My initial thought is that the explore section loses some of the intensity and authenticity if it is done in small groups (who are working through the unit at a similar pace) than if the explore section is done as an entire class.
  • If I use EFA version one from above – one giant whole group explore session followed by the recursive loop of flip-apply done self-paced – how do you keep that desire to know, which comes from the explore section of EFA, high? Refer often back to your initial work around the essential question? Update the product of that brainstorm day, whatever it is, often?

I’m left with a lot of questions. Clearly, getting back into my classroom in the middle of August and trying this out will answer some of them. I’d love feedback though – how are teachers using EFA in non-lab-based classes? How do you envision EFA fitting into a history classroom? What ways of applying EFA in a history (or non-lab-based) class did I not think of? Thanks in advance!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Final(ish) FlipCon12 thoughts

Now that I’ve had about a week and a half to percolate the ideas from FlipCon12, it seems like a good time to get some final thoughts out about the conference. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the quantity of really smart people and the quality of pedagogical discussion that was present throughout the conference was, in a word, exhilarating. I came away from the conference, which was only two weeks after I ended my school year, incredibly energized for August to roll around. Usually the energized feeling happens sometime in July on my mountain bike way up in the Rockies in Colorado, but it came early this year.

So the final(ish) thoughts? First, the #flipclass community is so positive and supportive. The number of people who are willing to talk, help, and discuss ideas at a moment’s notice is pretty incredible. Second is assessment: Jen Gray’s and Marc Seigel’s sessions really challenged me to think about what, why, and how I assess in my class; there will be more on this later for sure. Third, it was great to connect with some fellow history flippers – there aren’t a lot of us, and it was nice to build a support network of folks who will be doing similar things in the fall. Finally, I went to FlipCon12 with the idea that next year I would be doing what is termed as Flipping 101 – move direct instruction to out of the classroom to video and run a normal classroom with more time in class to discuss the big ideas in a unit as well as current events relevant to a given unit. Well, all that goes out the window. I’d love to say there was an ‘ah-ha’ moment, or a great session that pushed me to make this choice, but it was a cumulative effect of the conference: I can’t do Flipping 101 next year. I’m all in – my world history class will be a self-paced mastery class next year. And I’m so excited to start!

I’ve titled this a final(ish) set of takeaways from FlipCon12 because the ideas are still going to get banged around in my head. I haven’t had a chance yet to go back and watch the FlipCon12 sessions I was unable to attend. I will continue to blog about my thoughts for my class next year and hopefully get some helpful feedback from the #flipclass community. The journey – with a healthy kick from FlipCon12 – has barely begun.