Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to FIRE up your flip in four EASY steps (Step 2:Interact): Technology Tuesday

As I stated in part 1, last year I decided to take the leap and flip my middle school science class.  I did not flip every lesson, only the beginning of every unit.  At the end of every quarter I always asked the students to reflect on their learning and my teaching.  The results on the flipped lessons were always the same. More than 95% of my students continuously said the flipped lessons were the most useful in helping them learn the basic information.  

In the first part of this series I explain why my students like the flip and how to chose the format so make sure you check out part 1: Format

To help me in making my "flip" easier I came up with an acronym FIRE: Format, Interact, Reflect, and Extend.  By following these four easy steps it made flipping my class a lot easier.

Step 2: Interact

    The second step you need to consider is how are the students going to interact with the format.  One way you can have the students interact is by having them take notes.   When you ask them to take notes make sure you give them some questions you would like them to be able to answer.  This way they will be better focused when they are doing their assignment.  I found that if I just told my students to take notes they would either have way to much and would write everything down or they would have very little and missed the most important parts.  By providing them a road map with the questions, it helped them to focus in on what type of information needed to go into their notes and it improved their note-taking skills.

     Another way you can have them interact is by using a program like edpuzzle or zaption.  These programs allow you to embed questions throughout the video.  I use edpuzzle along with notes when my students are watching a video.  I usually embed comments on key questions they should be answering and multiple choice questions.  I like the fact that I can have more than one answer for the multiple choice.  I can also put in open ended questions and do voice comments if I want to point out something and have the students focus on a particular part.

      It doesn't matter what you chose as long as the students are interacting with the content.  Flipping your class is not about watching videos, it is about learning the basics.  To learn the basics it is imperative that the students are interacting with their learning.

     Check in next week for part 3 in this series: Review.

If you have flipped your class, what did you do to have your students engage with the flip? Tell us in the comments.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How to FIRE up your flip in four EASY steps (Step 1:Format): Technology Tuesday

Last year I decided to take the leap and flip my middle school science class.  I did not flip every lesson, only the beginning of every unit.  At the end of every quarter I always asked the students to reflect on their learning and my teaching.  The results on the flipped lessons were always the same. More than 95% of my students continuously said the flipped lessons were the most useful in helping them learn the basic information.  

Here are a few of their reasons:
       - I am able to go back and watch the videos before the tests
       - I can pause and re-watch the parts I don't understand
       - I know right away if I didn't understand something and I can go back and learn it again

Along with most of my students loving this model of teaching (yes, it did take awhile for them to get used to it since it is so different from what they are used to) I discovered that:
   1. It helped me to better meet the needs of my students. I was able to discover right away if they understood the information or not and could intervene before they got to far behind.
   2. When I had a substitute I turned my lesson into a flipped lesson and I was able to check in on them from far away
   3. I was able to tackle more higher level activities and challenge them in the class so that they would have more support from me and their peers when doing the higher level assignments

To help me in making my "flip" easier I came up with an acronym FIRE: Format, Interact, Reflect, and Extend.  By following these four easy steps it made flipping my class a lot easier.

Step 1: Format

The first step you need to do is choose your format.  Although most flipped lessons have students watching videos at home, it doesn't have to be a video.  The main point of the flipped lesson is for students to learn the basic information at home so you can spend more time in class tackling the higher level thinking activities.   With format you need to chose if you are going to have them watch a video or read a piece of text.


If you chose to have them watch a video you have some choices.
    1. Will you make your own or will you find one already created for you? Youtube is an excellent place to find videos already created from other teachers.  If you make your own you will need some type of screen casting software.  I use screencast-o-matic.  Its free and can be used with both mac's and PC's.
    2. Make sure your videos are no longer than 5 minutes.  After polling my students many times and asking for feedback, they suggested, and I agree, that 3-5 minutes is a good time frame.  I teach middle school so high school could possibly go to about 7 minutes.  Keep in mind that although the video is only 5 minutes long, the students will be watching, pausing, taking notes, and re-watching.  A 5 minute video could take students 15 minutes to complete depending on the information and the level of learner you have.
   3. Keep the information in the video short and simple.  They should be able to put everything on one page of notes.  Remember they are learning just the basics.

- Text:

When you do a flipped lesson it is important to have some way for students to access the lesson the next day in class for those that were absent and missed the assignment, forgot about it, discovered that their internet was not working, or for what ever reason they didn't do it.  If like me your chromebooks, tablets, or computers are being used in another classroom than you will want to assign them text as homework instead.
    1. Make the text they are reading short.  It should take the average student 5-10 minutes to read.
    2. The text should have just the basic information and possibly a few examples.  The summary of a section is great for this plus reading the diagrams.
    3. The information they will be taking notes on should be able to fit on one page.

- Check in next week for part 2 in this series, Step 2: Interact

If you flip your class, how long are your videos? Do you make them yourself or find them?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Yellowstone and DNA, What do they have in common?: Science Saturday

This past week my family and I visited the first National Park, Yellowstone.  As you take in the beauty and diversity of this landscape it's easy to see why it was so important to protect this National treasure.  When President Grant put aside this land to be forever protected I don't think he had any idea of how important this land will become.  

     Yellowstone has over 10,000 geothermal features and different types of bacteria are found in each.  In fact, the colors you see are due to the different types of bacteria that live in them and their response to the sunlight.  Different bacteria live at different temperatures and how they respond to sunlight causes some of the thermal features to be a deep crystal blue and others to be a dark red.  You can determine the approximate temperature of the hot spring by looking at the color.  Red represents a relatively cool temperature, around 110oC, while blue represents the hottest temperatures, 198oC and above.

In 1969, Thomas D. Brock discovered a new bacteria living in the Lower Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park.  In the 1970's scientists became aware that it contained a DNA polymerase that was heat resistant and could handle the high temperatures needed for PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction).  Scientists use PCR for DNA fingerprinting.  With this new discovery scientists are now able to create millions of copies of DNA in a couple of hours.  This new bacteria has paved the way for biotechnology.  According to Pat Dawson, "The Gold in Yellowstone's MicrobesTIME, November 21, 2007, we have discovered less than 1% of the microbes found in Yellowstone. Imagine what new advances we can make when we discover the rest.

Thank you President Grant. Because of your wisdom and the wisdom of others that saw the beauty in this land you have not only preserved the beauty of this unique place but you have also protected the many microscopic treasures it holds.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Back to School: Science Saturday

Its back to school time. New classes, new students, a fresh start to things.  Imagine you are one of your students.  You are going through your first day back getting to know your teachers names, listening to their class rules, procedures, what you are going to learn that year, how they grade, and so on and so on.  By the time your last day of class comes, your bored and can't imagine sitting through what feels like another lecture.  You enter your last class, science, and right away you know that something is different.  What are those items doing on the table over there?  Why are there all these instruments and tools? What's on the teachers desk?  By the time you leave your last class you are excited. You know that it is going to be a great year and you can't wait until science class tomorrow to find out what will happen next.        What is it about that class that was different than the rest of the classes? In one word, Inquiry. 
       By the time students are in secondary school they are familiar with the basic rules and procedures of school so I save that for later.  Instead, I want them to get excited about school and science right away and set the tone of my class by doing an inquiry investigation.   

My first day of school:

     When the students enter my class I stay at the door, shake their hand, say welcome and my name, and then ask for their name.  I do this every day and the students get so used to it that when I'm gone they let me know how much they missed the handshake.
      I then do a quick 2-3 minute introduction about me and move right into the inquiry investigation.  I have different investigations depending on the level of my students. 

Basic Inquiry Investigation-

     For my regular Core science classes I do a Consumer Task Force challenge, aka paper towel testing.  All I provide is the paper towels and then many different testing materials like graduated cylinders, cups, rubber bands, pennies, eye droppers, scissors, and rulers.  The students have to decide, either as a class or a group, how they will test the paper towels, and what criterion's they are looking for that determines a great paper towel.   My job is to offer support and materials.  I ask a lot of questions during the investigation about why and how.  If I see groups struggling I don't step in, they need to learn how to problem solve through a struggle.  Instead I allow them to go out, like scientists would, and find out what other groups are doing to get ideas from them.  If I see a group having many different variables I might ask them how would they know if it was one variable affecting the outcome and not the other to get them thinking about changing one variable only.  Its a great way to remind them about the scientific method without listing the steps.

Advanced Inquiry Investigation-

     For my Pre-AP students I try and challenge them a little more. They have to compete in the Creative Cup Competition and there is only one winner.  In this challenge the groups have to create the best cup and beat last years winner, a regular styrofoam cup.  Again I provide a lot of materials like aluminum foil, paper cups, left over fabric, sponges left over from other projects, and I allow them to bring in their own materials.  The class and groups have to determine what it is they will be testing and looking for to determine the winner and to determine if their cup is better than last years.  Its great to watch how creative the students can be: putting cups inside of cups, creating their own lids, making handles on their cups, and many more unique ideas.  
       Both of these investigations take two days so they have a chance to think about what they are going to do and sleep on it.  The testing and analyzing happens on the second day.  While they are doing the activity we talk about group collaboration do's and don'ts, about procedures for getting materials and returning materials, signals for getting the classes attention and expectations of the class.  Its a learn as you go approach instead of getting all the information and being expected to remember it all.  It makes the first two days really enjoyable and I find out right away the type of students I have, who the leaders are, who the critical thinkers are, who the quiet ones are, and so on.   You can do any lab as an inquiry investigation on the first day of school but if you want the ones I did you can find them in my store.

If you have a fun activity you do on the first few days of school I would love to hear about it.  Please share what you do in the comments.