Sunday, June 23, 2013

CanFlip13: #BetterTogether

I had the distinct pleasure of attending CanFlip13 last week. CanFlip, a Canadian flipped learning conference, was started last year by two teachers in Kelowna, British Columbia - Graham Johnson and Carolyn Durley. It was an incredibly well-run conference with a very relaxed vibe to it.

I look up to both Graham and Carolyn for the work they do in the flipclass community, and this conference really hammered home just how much they do. Attendance at CanFlip13 more than doubled from last year. I met four presenters at this year’s conference who attended last year’s conference and came back and presented this year - I’m guessing there were others I didn’t meet as well. Talk about growing your own all-stars!

Graham and Carolyn are everything you would expect them to be - dedicated, brilliant, passionate, and full of an infectious, seemingly boundless energy that is absolutely awesome to be around: hanging out with them is an absolute blast.

Really, that is what this blogpost is going to be about: meeting people and relationships. As I often toss around with my PLN, we are always #BetterTogether. To me, that was what stuck out to me at CanFlip13: with all of these friends - some new, some old - we all are better together. So who’d I get to meet?

I had the honor of meeting Troy Stein, a former German teacher who now works for Techsmith. Troy is a super thoughtful guy and I had the pleasure of sharing several conversations with him about school and structures around school. Andy Miller, a science teacher from BC, was another long-time member of my PLN that I was excited to get to meet. I was bummed I didn’t get to spend more time talking to Scott Harkness who had some fascinating things to say in the few moments I got to talk to him. I got to meet Valerie Lees, Lynda Hall, and Peggy Drolet, all people I’ve followed for a long time on Twitter. Plus, I got to hang out with Ramsey Musallam and Audrey McLaren-McGoldrick again!

I was also excited to get to find out about - and meet! - some more collaborative flipclass teachers: Tara Cody-Simpson and Val Pereira co-presented about their first year flipping together and listening to Ben Arcuri’s sessions it was clear how much he and Scott Harkness work together.

So yes, like in my - or any - classroom, relationships are what I am left with after CanFlip13. I’m so glad to have gotten to meet so many great people, and so excited to continue to learn with a ton of talented British Columbia educators that I’m now following on Twitter!

And I hope Graham and Carolyn will have me back next year...

A whole lot of #EduAwesome! #BetterTogether

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Canflip13 Initial Thoughts, Part II

I don't always present about social media, but when I do, I only present with flipclass all-stars. #Nowitzki (I presented on social media with Delia Bush at the Michigan Flipped Learning Conference and Carolyn Durley at the Canadian Flipped Learning Conference).

Sorry for the lack of #EduHumility and for the name-drop. It is just SO AWESOME to get to present with such smart, talented people about something that has revolutionized my teaching.

CanFlip13 Initial Thoughts

I got to meet Graham Johnson and Carolyn Durley!!!

They are just as #EduBadass in person as you would expect them to be. Allow me to most accurately complete this sentiment with a tweet I sent out the evening after the conference ended:

Friday, June 21, 2013

#canflip13 Presenentations

I had the absolute honor of attending and presenting at CanFlip these last two days. While more parts of my experience and some reflections are coming, here are the two presentations that I did.

Connected Teacher, Connected Classroom with my buddy Carolyn Durley

Starting Your FlipClass Year Right

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Funding Technology In My Classroom

Some context. Because, you know, I’m a history teacher: we always need context. I live and teach in Silicon Valley, the technology capital of the world. I have one school desktop in my room that is supposed to be for my personal use - students use way more often than I do. I have eight Chromebooks in my room that I was lucky enough to get funded through Donors Choose. They are awesome and are heavily used in class. Other classes at my school don’t have devices this powerful. There are netbook carts that live with our ELD program, but many of them struggle to run any of the Google apps that get heavy usage in my class. This isn’t typed out of jealousy, pride, or anger, but just as a fact: my students regularly have access to eight of the most powerful devices that go into student hands at from school.

Yes, there is a tech issue at my school. And in my district. I’m working on that. As part of the instructional technology committee (it is what it sounds like) as well as the district digital task force (who spent the year looking at what 1:1 implementation would look like in our district), I have tried to get involved in these conversations. As the year would down and the digital task force made their recommendation for starting a 1:1 pilot at school sites next year, I was not thrilled with the results. There will be somewhere between two and five laptop carts given to each site. How those will be assigned is unclear. They might be assigned to one teacher. A cart could get assigned to a group of teachers. It was very unclear.

I also made another decision: while eight devices was great, my classroom was going to be 1:1 next year. That meant I needed twenty more Chromebooks. By the start of the next school year. And I was going to have to come up with the money to fundraise them.

Donors Choose to the rescue! I put together a Donors Choose project proposal and got it approved. Twenty Chromebooks through Donors Choose? $6,062.26. Now, to come up with the $6K plus...

Thankfully, I’ve got some awesome friends and family and they raised about $3,000 pretty quickly. So, the question becomes - how to find that rest of the money? And here is where the story gets interesting.

Could my school fund it? I talked to our education foundation (the fact that public high schools need an education foundation to fund classes and supplies is for another time). Well, they aren’t supposed to be buying technology for teacher and student use: technology is supposed to come from the district. It isn’t. The foundation could only donate money if they were directed to by our school’s governing council.

Could the school’s governing council fund my project? That’s a sticky, sticky question (and a reason I never want to be an administrator). I made a request for the funds and spoke at the meeting - no money for this project.

What about my parents - could I ask them for money to fund this project? When I broached this idea with my principal, I knew the loaded nature of the question. Yes, another loaded question. We aren’t supposed to ask for anything from parents (outside of money for field trips, no more than $10). There is one ask for money per year by our school, by our education foundation, at the beginning of the school year. Teachers at my school are never supposed to make direct requests for anything from our parents. So could I ask my parents to support my project?

“Wow. Well, I bet you’d raise $2,000 to $3,000 in no time at all.”

That number suprised me, but that is also only $18-$25 per family. And I was able to ask them, and many parents supported my project. Which is, you know, all kinds of awesome.

But these facts remain: my classroom will be 1:1 next year. And these devices won’t come from my district. And they won’t come from my school site. They will come from the generosity of my friends, family, and parents of current and former students. And this leaves me feeling, well, something. Far beyond grateful to have such a supporting group of people behind me. That is for darn sure. But also concerned. When a teacher with a compelling vision for a 1:1 classroom can’t make that happen without incredible generosity of their community? Something isn’t right here.

The Right Way to Flip Your Class

There seems to be an implicit value judgment in the labeling of various ways to flip your class. Mastery. Self-paced. Standards-based grading. Flip 101. Project (or problem) based learning. Universal design for learning. Homework. No homework. Lectures. No lectures. Inquiry. POGIL. Explore-flip-apply. Etc etc etc forever and ever.

News flash - there isn’t a best kind of flipclass. The best kind of flipped classroom is the one you run: you know your students best. You know their needs. If you are willing to look at the huge variety of ways that you can flip your class, judge them based on what your students need, experiment and tweek classroom implementation, then continue to reflect on what works best for your students in your classroom, then you are flipping your class the right way.

#GTACHI Application

After getting rejected from #GTAMTV in December, I just submitted my application to the Google Teacher Academy in Chicago this summer. I'm hopeful...

Want to check out my application? The answers to the longer questions in the application are linked here. I embedded the video below.