Wednesday, September 5, 2012

So Flippin' Excited!

I was nervous, well still am nervous. Monday night I couldn't sleep, Tuesday I felt like I had a caffeine drip in my veins, Flip Class was getting the best of me - I couldn't wait to show off my baby. Boy have I learned a few things in just two days. Here are my reflections!

1. This generation of kids, and I'll have you know I am NOT that far removed from them, while they have been around technology all their lives are NOT technologically intelligent by default. I realized that while it was safe to assume a few things, most things would have to be taught. Yes they know what YouTube is, yes they know what Google is, yes they can access our LMS. Have they ever really used any of these things (other than the LMS) for educational purposes, no. So to teach them how to use them along these lines was quite the task. In two days, I hope I have scratched the service.

2. Over the summer I lovingly referred to my new Civics class (the syllabus, the flipped model, the ideas, thoughts etc.) as my baby. So I thought it no big deal to do this in my class. The conversation went something like this.

  • Ms. P: So this class is my baby, I have spent many hours nurturing it, and I love it. You don't have to love it back, but you certainly cannot call it ugly! And I'd love whatever feedback, positive and negative, you can give me.
  • Student: YOU HAD A BABY, but you weren't fat in June?
  • Ms. P: No, student, I did not have a baby over the summer. I was making a comparison between a parent raising a baby and me creating this class. Where I have created it and am now setting it free into the world to see how others will interact and react to it.
  • Student: Oh, that does make more sense.
Let me tell you - if a rumor got out that I did have a baby (AND I DIDN'T!) there would be some interesting conversations between me and the powers that be!

3. Students are very willing to give feedback and are great at it all you have to do is ask. I'm curious as to why they haven't before. Perhaps it's because of the typical student teacher relationship and there is some sort of boundary, or if they just never thought to - but I intend to do it much more often this year!

4. Their first flipped assignment is due by tomorrow at 7am - and as of right now I have 40/68 responses - with 3 emails asking for help and those 3 submitted. So tomorrow we'll recap with what to do. I spent today going back over what we did yesterday in terms of homework expectations and how to do it. I pretended I was again a 15 year old doing this homework and had them guide me through it - so I took wrong turns (clicks) and became side tracked. To them it was amusing but got the point across. Again it goes back to this idea of asking for feedback - a student suggested that I have them walk me through the process to see if they could remember. Sometimes my students are so smart!

Overall, I'm excited to see what the rest of the week brings - how have your first weeks been going?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Orientation Days

The last weeks of summer flew by and so did Orientation Days at school! I have to say that this year if the first year that I haven't been totally excited to go back to school and after talking with friends at school many of us are in the same boat - it has a lot to do with the past, hopefully we can all move forward and make this year AMAZING!

I can already see some positive changes with our new Vice Principal, while I miss Mr. C, the new Mr. C is awesome. Very positive, upbeat, and upfront. What you see if what you get and I think the kids will respond to it. Yesterday we had the freshman and today the sophomores and juniors came in for a half day - just seeing how he interacted with them improved my mood - however, not to the point where I'm jumping for joy (yet!).

All I've really done with classes is hand out my syllabus, take roll, and chat a bit - during orientation days they only run their through schedule for about 45 minutes meeting with each class for about 5-7 minutes. Not that useful but enough to get some annoying things out of the way.

Each year students and parents have to fill out the Academic Honesty sheet (no cheating, plagiarism, lying etc.) and I usually have parents fill out contact information as well - this year I decided to use Google Forms to do this. I also added in a question "What should I know about your student that would help me teach them better." Not many parents have filled it all out yet, but those who have, have offered some amazing insight to their child. Such as seating arrangement help, behavioral issues and how to deal with them - amaze what parents will offer to teachers they have never met! I LOVE IT!

I'm planning on asking students the same question on the first real day I have with them. For the freshmen this actually won't be until NEXT FRIDAY! How crazy is that, with technology training (with our IT person), the summer reading test and review, I am giving up 3 full days next week for them to do non-history "things".

I was nervous about my sophomores this year, with a few issues that happened last year, I was curious, nervous, and interested to see what the relationship and reaction would be. Thankfully it is like we picked up right where we left off. We'll see how long this lasts - they are sophomores! A few of them were very happy about the late work policy being lifted and were curious as to why - I left them with the cliffhanger that they'd find out Tuesday. Woohoo FlipClass!

Hopefully tomorrow with my senior homeroom goes just as smoothly!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

NYSCATE Flipped Conference

What a way to get back into the swing of things! I must say the two days of professional development I just had were the best two days I have ever had. Sure, I've sought out PD before on my own and chosen the topic, but it was never quite driven by what I truly wanted to do. These two PD days, were exactly what I wanted and needed!

My first day of PD was at NYSCATEs Flipped Conference which was held at Pace University's Lubin Graduate Center in White Plains; it quite a trek for me from central Connecticut but it was well worth it! I felt connected with other "techy geeks" and not shunned for bringing a laptop and actually using it! We were encouraged to tweet out about the sessions and ask questions in that platform, it actually made the panel discussion go more smoothly than others I've seen. Perhaps because the question types could all be seen and discussed as a group rather than people jockeying for a microphone and to be heard!

Aaron Sams (@chemicalsams) was the keynote, you can read more about him, as well as other pioneer flippers on the Flipped Learning Network. To feel his energy and his passion was uplifting and inspiring. At this point in the summer I am starting to doubt if this is going to work in my classroom, are the kids going to buy into this method - and he won me over yet again! Showing me that there is an answer for every doubt and every problem that comes my way.

One of the best quotes that came from the day was "natural consequences have a place in flip classrooms". I am a firm believer in natural consequences, you threw food in the cafeteria and now your project is a gooey mess - what solution do you see here? You decided watching YouTube videos of cats dribbling basketballs was a better use of your time then watching my 5 minute video to prepare for class - I suppose you'll have to watch it in class and miss the discussion.

Also presenting were Kristin Daniels (@kadaniels) from Minnesota (also a part of FLN), Marc Seigel from New Jersey, Helaine Marshall from Long Island University, and Kristin Siano a student from LIU. It was great to hear a students perspective, although she was a non-traditional college student. I would like to hear from a high school or middle school student what they have found to be useful, non-useful, and great in this format.

In Marc Seigel's (@daretochem) session on Flipping Assessment Mindset, we discussed the philosophy of assessment in a flipped classroom. The idea that there is a spot for collaboration for ALL assessments, even unit end ones. Collaboration is a 21st Century skills (while perhaps not technological!) that students need to know how to do effectively. They need to know what they don't know and then how to get that information, with collaboration that is brought to the forefront and gives them the opportunity to figure it out, in a low risk environment.

The collaboration and expose to great minds was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I met wonderful people, and even two from the central CT area! They will be the ones who are creating CREC's version of the Flipped Conference in November that I'm hoping to attend (there are a few conflicts on the horizon already!). If I had just stopped here at this one day, I would have been ready to go back to school filled with ideas and energy. But thankfully in Marc's session he had plugged EdCamps! A quick Google search led me to find that CT was holding their's the very next day - but there was a waiting list, I put my name on it and by the end of the Flipped Conference I was off and signed up to go. So glad I made that decision. But more about that in the next post!

Thank you to NYSCATE for putting together this one day Flipped Conference - it was what I think many of us needed.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Reflections coming soon!

I went to NYSCATE's One Day Flipped Conference today and it was amazing!! I plan on writing a reflection post but am so exhausted from traveling and learning from everyone that my brain can't wrap around everything! That and I'm heading to EdCampCT tomorrow in Simsbury. So excited for all this PD! Now if I could just get out of the first two days of my school's PD - that would be amazing!
Plotting my way out of it as we speak...

Reflection on NYSCATE and EdCampCT to come!

Monday, July 30, 2012


As the calendar almost flips to August I'm starting to feel overwhelmed with what my summer plans WERE. Back in June, as I do every June, I make a list of what I'd love to accomplish, full well knowing it'll never happen because I always have some odd ball full time job I have to work. Well this summer, that wasn't the case. I had all summer off to do all of these GOALS!

So what was my summer bucket list? Unfortunately nothing too awesome when I think about it, all practical things, but here it is none the less:
  • Remodel the kitchen
Before the remodel - cardboard for the countertop, industrial white sink, rubber toe kick backsplash, and a door beneath the sink that I couldn't open!
Kitchen complete bare with a new coat of paint. Walls were repaired after the blue tile came down!
How the kitchen looks today!! Added uppers above the "island" a microwave above the stove and a seltzer machine in the corner!
  • Paint all baseboards on the lower floor
  • Clean all the grout in the house
Yes I'm aware the last one is oh so house wifeish, I just need to find me a husband. Perhaps that's why it didn't get done!
  • Redesign Civics (semester course) using Flipped model
  • Align Honors World notes with new book
I've definitely started Civics - the first unit is COMPLETELY done, and I'm starting the second unit. The unit plan is done, now for all the details; videos, quizzes, in class assignments/discussions, etc. But that leaves me with 4-5 more units to plan out. If each unit takes me a week, I'm into September. And where does that leave me for Honors? And for all the other fun stuff I want to do? Oh yeah, I forgot the fun stuff bucket list!
  • Hang out with my niece
  • Plan a super cool secret bash - SHHHHH - I can't say anything!
  • Lake George
Kyle and I in Lake George AFTER the remodel!

Yeah the fun stuff I definitely did and did like IT WAS MY JOB! Perhaps that means I'm back to the daily grind. I have to admit, it's nice to be able to plan on my own terms, at my own pace, without scrambling the night before. Perhaps I've kicked the procrastination bug! The house stuff will just have to wait until next summer!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

All that for this?

I know flipping isn't about the videos, but lately that has been what is on my mind. Yesterday my goal was to get a few scripts done and then play around with a screen casting to get it all figured out.

Boy were there a lot of logistics! First off, I am definitely a penny pincher, even though I'm not buying any of the tech myself, and neither is my school (Thank you Stanton Foundation!) I still want to use my money wisely - so if I could find a way to use what is existing on my computer and put the $75 somewhere else, like iPod touches for the classroom, speaker fees, and professional development. Yes, I know $75 wouldn't cover ALL of that!

I facebooked with a college friend who is a tech guru (I thought I knew a lot, geez I am out of the loop) and he said well QuickTime will screen capture and record your face at the same time. AWESOME! Don't have to buy Camtasia! Then I sat down to do it with a Keynote presentation. When you're in fullscreen the record your face goes away, wha wha - back to buying Camtasia.

Then I found they have a free trial - WOOT WOOT! So this morning I sat down and downloaded it. Purposes of Government - Take 1: Had my script (just words) and went to town, that is until the lawn boys started cutting the lawn outside my condo!

Purposes of Government - Take 2: Started back up from the beginning because I didn't know how to work the editing capabilities. Got through a few of my Keynote slides until I realized I had no idea when I wanted to click or advance slides. So I annotated my script.

Purposes of Government - Take 3: LET'S GO! I recorded about 3 minutes so I could see what was going on. I had my script to the right of the computer and it totally showed. So I spent about 45 minutes coming up with a contraption of old yearbooks (5) and a shoebox to tape my script to.

Purposes of Government - Take 4: Again went for 3 minutes to check things out, now I look like I have some sort of eye disorder where I'm constantly rolling my eyes. I'm going to have students thinking "Great this teacher is a loon!". So I cut my script into half sheets held them in front of my screen so I couldn't see a darn thing on it!

Purposes of Government - Take 5: FINALLY, it all fell into place! After the editing (I had to respeak a few slides) I had a project I was willing to upload to YouTube.

6 takes and editing took about an hour and a half - hopefully it goes quicker next time!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back to School nightmares!

It's not even August and the nightmares have begun! They have never started this early and I am definitely more relaxed this summer than I have been in years past!

Last week I dreamt that my principal came in and yelled at my entire class for something I had just told them to do. As she was yelling she was crying and I had to calm her down! Yikes - hopefully this dream doesn't come true, not a position I want to be in!

Last nights dreams though really lit the fire under my bum! I dreamt that it was the week of Orientation (we have 2 days of PD, then Wed Freshmen full day, Thursday is Soph/Jr. 1/2 day, and Friday Seniors 1/2 day - a bit odd but ok) and I had not copied my syllabi. I was happy to find that I had no Homeroom BUT was teaching 5 classes in a row! When I got to my 5th class in a row (one of the flipped ones) the previous class hadn't put the desks back so everyone was everywhere and a female student plugged in a boom box (one from the 80s) I asked her to unplug it and she didn't, she turned it up - so it was clear I was not structured enough! I had to go back and unplug it and she slapped me! Well I went to the VPs office with her, but the new VP hadn't started yet and the old VP was long gone. It was bad - I woke up so anxious!

So on the agenda today - some scripts for the first week. I'm currently working on Tech 101 - how to access everything you need to succeed, we'll watch this one in class together. I think instead of doing screencasts within the video, I'll pause the video and try it out with them in class. For example, when I say "sign into Edline and navigate to our classpage". I'll pause the video and have a volunteer come up and log in and navigate. So the kids get the interactiveness of the video and that you can pause and try things if you don't understand.

I wrote the intro to a flipped class (2nd video they'll watch, 1st on their own) and am feeling better. I think it'll set the tone for the class and so they know what to expect for a normal class period.

My anxiety is decreasing, but my cats anxiety has risen - a nice thunderstorm is passing through and both cats are in the downstairs closet - they are each others thunder buddies! Emma ran away when I tried to take their picture, Callie loves her picture taken!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

First Unit

I get frustrated a lot when planning - and last week I hit a wall! I was attempting to redesign and realign my syllabus using UBD (Understanding by Design) - that was a mistake! Not the theory, but how I was trying to do it. I took the weekend off of everything Flipped, UBD, school etc., and boy did that make the difference!

Monday afternoon after watching my mindless TV (DOOL if you were curious!) I had the stroke of genius. I wasn't looking to redesign the nuts and bolts of my units, so let me redesign the assessments for the units coming from a PBL (Project Based Learning) viewpoint. From there I can flesh out the standards which will lead me to the EUs (Enduring Understandings) and EQs (Essential Questions). As soon as I rephrased my problem, it made total sense and I was IN THE ZONE!

I have since planned out the first unit that allows students to choose their assessment, depending if they want to work individually or in a group setting. Next on the agenda is writing the scripts for the videos, and writing out the projects in details, creating the rubrics, and some daily discussion points for guidance. After this unit is done I think I'm going to feel like I'm in a better place.

Next on the docket - intro videos for parents/students to Flipping/technology etc., and start reading my new World History text. I thought it was a good idea to change my Honors text for this coming year while creating pretty much a brand new Civics class. What am I thinking?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Coming Out

For the past 6 months or so I've been toying with the idea of flipping. Trolling the internet for articles, how-to's, and blogs of those who have gone before. Shamelessly asking questions such as "just how do you make the video, no like step by step." I'm not kidding, I asked someone this (if it was you, I'm sorry!). I think I've come a long way since then! 

In the last quarter of the year I successfully flipped a unit, although it was more Flipped 001 than Flipped 101. I've shared my thoughts, successes, and failures with a few trusted colleagues who will back me up no matter what and give me the encouragement and kick in the rear when needed but I hadn't shared it with my sister, a fellow teacher...until today!

I have been extremely nervous to tell her what I was planning on doing. You see, I am the younger sister and have followed her wherever I go, since, well birth! I was nervous that she might not "get it", understand why I was doing it, or think that I had finally jumped into the deep end. I'm sure my family has a pool going for when this actually does happen!

Thankfully she was fully supportive and was truly interested in knowing just what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. When I started to speak aloud about my ideas they came flooding out and I realized I am further along in my planning than I thought - what a relief! I also realized just how much this is backed up by theory to make the "big guys" happy.

Having the short conversation with her this afternoon gave me renewed hope that this will work, the kids will enjoy it, and the outcomes will be there. My hard work will pay off and I'm going to have a lot of fun doing it! So thanks for the encouragement!
This is the most recent photo I could find of us (without my niece)! Taken April 2008 when we went to San Diego together - before she had my niece and during my first year of teaching!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What's in a name?

It took me a while to create a title for this blog. For one, I don't consider myself creative and once I get it in my head that I'm not creative I get a block - hence it taking me an hour (yes, an hour) to come up with the title of my blog. Other titles in the running:

  • Technological Diffusion
  • Bursting through the Dark Ages (hey I'm a Social Studies teacher and LOVE the Middle Ages!)
  • Crazed Flipper 
You get the idea right? I was running on E! 

A bit about me - I'm a 28 year old Social Studies teacher (Civics and Ancient World history) teaching in a private school in CT. 2012-2013 will be my 6th year teaching and I love every crazy, exciting, hair pulling, tear jerking, ah-ha, drama filled moment of it! I am currently enrolled in a program for School Counseling and will (hopefully) be done with that in December of 2014.

This year I received a grant from the Stanton Foundation in NYC to increase technology in my  Civics classroom and so I have set about to completely reform and revamp my Civics curriculum. I am flipping my classroom (read about flipping here) as well as implementing Project Based Learning. I tried it out with my absolute last unit in Civics last year (I know I know silly me) and surprisingly it went over well!

I am very excited to continue this into the new school year and am working on it feverishly this summer. It's been fun and amazing to start connecting with other educators and create my PLN on Twitter, now I'm starting to branch out on the Blogosphere! So please bear with me as I figure out how this works!