- Emergency Preparedness Distance Learning - October 18, 2016
- Educational Renaissance: Veteran Teachers Vest in Change - October 10, 2016
- Breaking out of the Norm with Breakout Edu - April 29, 2016
- Mini Thought Bubble on Performance Assessments - April 12, 2016
- The Sensibilities of Mind Mapping - March 15, 2016
- Pioneering Nearpod - January 28, 2016
- Classroom Work Flow Before the Holidays - December 15, 2015
- Surviving the Doldrums of Education - December 1, 2015
- E-Sub Plans for Educators - November 17, 2015
- Presenting Missing Histories - November 2, 2015
Every once in a while, I have to take a sick day as a result of my own human frailty. A foot surgery scheduled for April was suddenly bumped up to last week, leaving me three days to prepare. As an educator, I hate missing school and I despise writing sub plans. Even with the most intuitive and competent substitutes, the dynamics in the classroom change. Students will put off or set aside the classwork hoping that it somehow doesn't hold the same value. If I set up a video or film, students will ignore even the most celebrated Oscar nominated films while sneakily texting or gaming. The true test of 1:1 classroom technology as an improvement over past educational practice is to be able to observe, from a distance, the dynamics of a classroom that can run itself.
I worked through the night learning a new app, Explain Everything, and left both a video sub plan of my instructions and an illustrated model approach to completing an assignment we had already begun. Explain Everything allows the designer to set up images and documents into individual slides with audio recording and screen casting. I captured images and websites that I would have used for a research project and set up a model example of how to disseminate resources into a possible classroom presentation. The app allows me to record and rerecord audio instructions per slide while highlighting, or illustrating the text that would be the basis of the argument presented. I chose the recent crisis in the Ukraine and the US interest in Liquid Natural Gas as a cause for debate between political factions supportive of job growth versus support for environmental protections. Viewing this issue through the lesn of 18th century philosophers can pose an ageless question: How does an enlightened society balance the needs of a majority with the rights of the minorities? Students are always eager to argue or discuss contemporary issues but to reach the culminating point in which meaningful discussion based on historic context takes many steps and individual attentions that I was unable to give. I had to rely on my faith in a flipped classroom.
The flipped classroom is one in which lecture and group instruction can be recorded for viewing multiple times while the individualized work usually assigned as homework is done in school. I was able to post videos to our management platform accompanied by a list of daily tasks. The sub utilized the list to navigate the classroom, and discuss with each student, what order of tasks they would assign themselves. If the sub felt that a student was disengaged or abusive of the technology, they could assign them to take an online quiz I had created. I also hung some writing activities on the actual walls of the room that counted as one of the choice tasks. Every once in awhile it is nice to set technology aside, stand up, stretch and engage in a hands on activity. Plus, it also gave the sub another tool of authority. If a student asked to leave the classroom or needed redirection, this was an acceptable task to expect students to complete as a first option.
I returned to the classroom the day after surgery; I could not write sub plans while recovering from the weariness of pain medication. An impending nor'easter storm was expected to hit the whole state and shut down schools for one or two days further disrupting the learning process. I am fortunate to have a supportive faculty and students who love helping a teacher on crutches. I moved the classroom to the library where I could comfortably elevate my leg while students huddled me, scrunched into a bean bag chair. I felt as if I was a football coach and they were the players planning the touch down. I listened to each student state their progress and then gave a few directions. I set a timer on the iPad and gave them a set amount of independent work time. Some students wanted to make their own Explain Everything instead of presenting aloud in class so I met individually with them.
We then gathered for a whole class discussion. Since I was unable to stand and deliver, I used a web based tool, Todaysmeet.com to post the discussion question and students logged into the live stream with their answers. Lying on my back I could observe student engagement just as easily if I was walking between rows of desks. Discussion led me to a necessary review of history but not without choices. Students could take their notes either from a chapter reading or a link to a Crash Course in History episode. I followed this up with an assessment opened in Socrative. The class flow was productive, I expended little energy and students were engaged in meaningful tasks that would help them survive school cancelations with the expectation of returning for meaningful dialogue. I ended my day with a sigh of relief and amazed at how the iGeners seem to be taking real responsibility for their learning. This is a new world for me and it is exciting to be in the thick of it.