Friday, August 31, 2012

Summer's Over Already?

Well summer is already over. It seems to always fly by, and I always seem to make the same comment - "it goes by too quick!". I try to decompress and disconnect during my summers; leave the school work, thoughts and ideas behind, and try to just enjoy the sunny, summer days. This year was no exception, and thus the reason why it's been a little while since my last post. However, I will say this, I found myself thinking a lot more of this upcoming school year than in year's past. The reason - it all has to do with 'flipping'.

I wrote a post not too long ago about the flipped classroom model of teaching. Over the last several months I have been researching extensively and putting together ideas for bringing this model to my classroom. A few colleagues and I have decided to jump right into this model, the deep end of course, and use this method of teaching this September. We have administration support, resources and $, and have set up the technology necessary for implementing the flip. I've planned out the videos, the activities that will be used in class, and the process to start the year. It requires quite a bit of planning and prepping and have come to recognize that as much as I don't want to think of school at all until September, if I really want to implement this model I had to get started a little earlier than usual. Surprisingly, I've been okay with this and have become a bit excited to get things going!

The very beginning of this year will require a lot of 'training' for my students to acclimatize them to the process. I plan on taking the first couple days just going through the routine and ensuring that they understand the process. The first day is usually a 'get-to-know-each-other' day anyway, so I figured I will still do this, but focus a bit more on 'get-to-know-the-flipped-classroom' instead. I've put together information for the students and expectations for the class and how to effectively watch the videos. For parents, I've also put together a letter (huge thanks to Crystal Kirsch!) and an information video so that they are completely aware of the situation. I can just imagine the first couple weeks when my students go home every night and watch videos instead of doing homework or other work! I figure laying the groundwork now will pay dividends later on.

The videos have been a bit interesting. It's always so foreign to hear your own voice, and a bit embarrassing talking to a computer screen. I've become a lot more comfortable in creating them however, and recognize the better you make the visuals, the better AND easier creating videos become. I've tried to keep them all between 5-15 minutes and hopefully the students appreciate this.

The last part of this preparation has been the in-class activities - something I've found through researching and online discussions, is often overlooked. I have found too many people focus the majority of their efforts on just creating the videos; unfortunately, this is the less important component of the flipped class model. Therefore, I've really tried to ensure that I focus on the types of activities my students will be engaging in class, after they have watched the concept videos. This I've found to be a challenging part of the preparation, as getting away from creating activities that last 30 minutes, and trying to create activities that last 65-70 minutes is difficult to say the least. 

Overall, I think I'm ready for the challenge. I guess this post is really about what I've experiences so far, and what I'm hoping for to start the school year. I don't expect it to be a seamless transition as this is a new way of learning not only for the students, but myself as well. I plan on continuously updating this blog (more frequently I promise) not only with useful tech tools that can be used in the classroom, but also my experience with flipping my classroom. I expect many of the posts will be me venting my frustration, but I hope to share some positive experiences as well. I think the key going into this whole thing is that this is not a one-semester experiment, but a continuous transition that will take several attempts before I see quality returns. Here's to a successful school year, and fingers crossed!

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