Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Strange #flipclass Benefit

My last day of school was today. Well, my last day with students was today. I have a teacher workday tomorrow and three days of voluntary PD that I’ll be attending next week but I won’t see my kiddos again (I loop with my students and have them again next year) until mid-August. The reflections from my year in a self-paced mastery based classroom will come out in bits and pieces. Here’s an initial one that I realized today.

Yes, in a self-paced classroom all I do on self-paced workdays (about 60-70% of the time) is walk around and talk to students. It’s freaking awesome. Answer questions, check-in about a piano recital or soccer game, maybe some small group instruction if a group of students are struggling on the same thing. As I’ve written before, I got to know students very quickly this year, both as people and as students.

But on to the realization. I think, because I’ve gotten to know students pretty darn well this year because I’ve spent more time than ever before talking to them, that I am hearing more negative feedback and concerns than I have in the past. Yes, I’m sure there is a ton of negative feedback I’m not hearing - I’m not delusional. But I think, just because of the sheer number of conversations I’ve had with kids this year, they have gotten more comfortable being honest with me.

Two students came in after the last final today: one that regularly challenges me on why I do things the way I do them and one that I haven’t heard a ton of negative feedback from. After some small talk, the regular said, “Come on, dude. Just tell him.” And so this student explained the issue they had with my class.

And it was great! Not that they had an issue, but that they felt comfortable sharing it. Because if you want to push on what a classroom is and what a classroom can be - in the name of creating a more student-centered classroom - there will be mistakes made (that blog post is coming) and students might be uncomfortable with all or some of the changes. And if you want to make your classroom student-centered, student concerns better be heard and addressed! So much the better that those concerns get shared with me - or that more of them get shared with me than in the past.

And that - hearing more student concerns and negative feedback - is unexpected flipclass benefit #1.

Inquiry-Based History Curriculum

I’ve discussed the awesomeness of Professor Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) before. Their literacy and critical thinking infused history curriculum is an approach that I absolutely believe in. (Full disclosure: I was lucky enough to get my masters studying under Professor Wineburg and some of the SHEG folks.) Given the onset of Common Core (regardless of your opinions about the CCSS), this style of teaching a history class is finding more and more interested folks.

I got into a conversation last night with Joe (no last name given on his Twitter handle) about checking out some SHEG type lessons. I passed along a few things I have uploaded on my Google Drive. I figured linking them here wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world either.

A structured academic controversy about whether or not the partition of India was necessary is linked here.

The prep materials for a Socratic Seminar about whether World War I was a just war can be found here. The materials for a Socratic about the British outlawing sati in India are here.

The documents for an inquiry as to why the US entered World War I can be found here.



Saturday, May 18, 2013

121writing Google Hangout

I got to chat with Sam Patterson, Gary Strickland, and Max from on a Google hangout today. We chatted about my experiences using Voice Comments (121writing's Google Chrome extension, which you can check out here), heard about Max's plans for the future, and got some good questions from Sam and Gary about how Voice Comments could be used. Check it out below!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


My ninth graders (all 110 of them in our smaller learning community) just finished a career project where they used their strengths as people and the skills and priorities they would bring to future careers to do some research and then create a deliverable (most used Google presos, some did Glogsters or Prezis). Several students researched teaching as one of their possible careers. This description of how teaching fit with their priorities initially hurt my soul.

Teachers don't have any venue to be curious or talented?

But then I thought about it some more. Isn't this also a public perception issue? Hasn't this students, who is in their tenth year of school, seen an awful lot of teachers? If they feel like teaching doesn't let you use your curiosity or talent, that strikes me as a pretty big problem.