Category Archives: technology, flipped, education

A Hypocrit’s Resolution

I’m guilty, or rather I have been in the past and that is something that I am going to change. What am I guilty of exactly? I am guilty of having my face buried in my phone to a detrimental level. For this new year I resolve to put down my phone when I am bored, waiting, procrastinating, etc. and I am determined to spread that message to the students of my school. I write this now, because I know that if I don’t get it out of my head and out into the world that I will be less apt to make a change.

The thought for this resolution came from a great podcast on How Stuff Works called, “Is computer addiction a thing?” and it evolved in my head into the realization that yes, people are way too focused on their phones; I’m too focused on my phone. In the race to unite people through email, text messaging, and social media people have actually accepted the practice of ignoring those in their immediate vicinity. I think of the cafeteria at my school as a prime example. When most people think about a high school cafeteria at lunch they think about loud, raucous teenagers gouging themselves before heading off to their next class. At the beginning of my career, this was the case. Now, however, when I walk the rows of tables the volume has decreased considerably. They still jam as much food down their throats as possible, but they are doing so one-handed with the other firmly grasping their phones. Most students don’t even notice me as I walk by because their faces are buried in a game or a social account. And there is the kicker; they are in the most loosely structured social environment of their entire school day, where they can sit with whomever they like and talk about whatever they like (within reason) and instead they are focused solely on virtual relationships, while the human relationships suffer.

I fear that the quick development of dependency on cell phones, coupled with the attraction of social media has created a behavioral block that is hindering the development of interpersonal relationships. I did not grow up with a cell phone, in fact, I did not get my first phone until after my first year of college. I grew up in a time when I had to memorize my friend’s phone numbers, and getting to spend time with friends was valuable catching up time. I knew a different way before I became addicted to my phone; our young people have never known a life without immediate access and therefore do not place the same value on a good face-to-face conversation.

When the first automobiles came out, there weren’t any traffic laws. Over time, the rise in popularity in the car lead to congestion and safety concerns. Laws were created and regulations put in place to ensure the safety of not just pedestrians, but the drivers of the vehicles themselves. Cell phones and social media have gone unchecked and unregulated for long enough and the immediate risk is that people are being crippled in the art of communication. It is quite ironic when you think about it; we are now more connected than at any other time in history, yet our ability to communicate is deteriorating over time.

I resolve this new year to put down my phone and have meaningful conversations and relationships. I resolve to spread that word to my students and to lead by example. I’m not abandoning technology, but rather recognizing that when to use it is just as important as when not to use it.



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Blended and Flipped Learning

Blended and flipped learning are two of the most thrown about phrases in education today, but they are different from one another. In my last post, I discussed how it is important for teachers to adapt their delivery to reach a student population that learns much different than the teachers themselves learned. In order to do so teachers need to be adaptive, reflective, and experimental. Though there are many ways to evolve your style as a teacher, one element that should be incorporated is technology integration. When I use this phrase, technology integration, I do not mean neglecting all of the face-to-face interaction that makes teaching such an exciting career. I do, however, mean allowing technology to become one of the vehicles of delivery of instruction (not the only vehicle). This in a nutshell is blended learning. Flipped learning is a blended learning, though unfortunately it is often lumped together with it. For those that work best in black and white, here is what I think about when it comes to these concepts:

FLIPPED LEARNING = instruction is viewed by students at home, while class time is devoted to higher level discussions and practicing of the concepts learned at home (usually through instructional videos). Primarily used to develop deeper understanding of the material and to maximize class time for student led discussions and practice

BLENDED LEARNING = using technology as a tool in the learning process to share the responsibility of instruction with the classroom teacher. This is primarily used in classrooms with the purpose of letting students drive their own learning. The teacher reduces the amount of direct instruction to the entire class and focuses on getting students through roadblocks to their learning and planning small group activities. Teacher time with students is more likely to occur in small groups of 2-3 students at a time.

The blog post linked here provides great insight into what blended learning can do for your classroom. It includes two videos that provide some insight into how to set up a blended classroom and some of the benefits of it. As I alluded to in my last post, teachers need to be flexible and ever-evolving in their instructional technique in order to best meet the needs of the diverse learners that we have in our classrooms. Blended learning, some form of it, may be the answer for reaching some of those students who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

We have many examples of this being used at Marine City High School today. Blended learning is used by teachers to record lessons when they are out and a sub is in the class, they are used for ACT Prep and MME review, they are used to carve out more time for in-depth higher-level class discussions, and for other reasons as well.


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Flipped Classroom – A Year-End Review

This past semester I tried a new approach to the way that I teach chemistry, the flipped classroom. It is an idea that I was excited, but also skeptical about from the start. At the semester change, when I started with an entirely new group of students I made the decision to throw myself completely into the idea with one of my three chemistry classes. I selected a small class (19 students) of advanced level students to pilot the idea. From my standpoint, the class was success, but more than that it changed the way that approached each day. Through the delivery of lecture at home, I was able to provide my students with a repeatable source of information about the topic. By freeing up time in the classroom, students were able to master the math concepts of chemistry and discuss topics in greater depth.

Below is a graph of the test grades of my flipped class versus the traditional approach that I used in my other two sections. A couple of points to remember when looking at this graph are: that all of my classes are composed of a mix of general and gifted learners, my flipped class was taught as an “advanced level” course which means that they learned at a quicker pace and learned more material in-depth, that my flipped class was a small group (19) in comparison with the two combined sections of the traditional approach (50), and that my flipped class had a different, more difficult test than my traditional classes. With that being said, here is the data.

On the whole, I am very pleased with the results that I have had from this study. Next year I plan on using the flipped approach with 3 sections of general chemistry. I am not sure what to expect, but there are some changes that I will make in order to improve the process and increase accountability. I did not have much of an issue getting students to watch my video lessons this semester due to the naturally high motivation levels of advanced learners. In fact, for the 65 lessons that I created this semester I received 14,060 views! I understand that all of those are not by my students, but judging by the conversations and questions that we have had in class, the vast majority of students watched every video.

Here are my plans for improving the approach next year:

  • Post all lessons for a unit at the beginning of each unit with a specific date to be viewed by
    • this semester I was writing and posting the lessons either the day before or the day that my students were required to view it
  • Embed all lessons as videos into my class website
    • this way, students will not have navigate in and out of different sites to view their homework
  • Include a small assessment (2-3 questions) with each lesson
    • provides student accountability
  • Use Remind101 to schedule reminders
    • send scheduled text message reminders to students to watch the videos
    • encourage parents to also register to receive the texts.

I could speak about the effectiveness of the flipped classroom all day, but whether or not I find the approach worthwhile is secondary to how students view it. With that in mind, I conducted an anonymous survey of my students earlier this week to elicit true opinions of the flipped classroom. Their thoughts can be found here:

Some of the highlights of the survey that jump out to me are:

    • 74% enjoyed the approach (15 of my 19 students submitted responses)
    • 67% claimed to have learned better with the flipped classroom
    • 86% took active notes and formulated questions to ask in class while watching the videos at home


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Flipped Classroom 3/12/12

The experiment with the flipped classroom has been successful thus far in the semester. The biggest issue that we have had to contend with is watching the videos when they are posted. To help with this problem the students asked if I could text them when I post a new video to be watched. Although I didn’t like the idea of the students having my phone number we managed to find a happy third option, a free to use third party texting program. There are many options out there, but one of my teaching peers, Ms. Lowe, turned me onto to This is a free service that allows me to send out reminders at scheduled times and is completely anonymous; I don’t know their numbers and they don’t know mine. This has helped in the number of views of students prior to discussion of the topic in class.

The other noticeable issue that I have had to contend with is absent make up work. This is an issue that is difficult to deal with in the regular set up but with the flipped approach it can be especially tricky due to the fact that we spend our class time doing group work and practice instead of more individualized assignments. Unfortunately this is where I have seen the most missed assignments manifest themselves. The best option that I have been able to develop is to offer alternative assessment. One example would be when a student missed out on a group presentation and I had him make up what was lost with a narrated PowerPoint.

My flipped class has taken an added dimension in the last couple of weeks with the introduction of an iPad being placed in the hands of every student. The idea seems to be taking off and many students have commented that they wish all of their classes were taught this way. One thing has become abundantly clear throughout this process, students love technology and are eager to apply what they know with technology to learning new material.



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