Flipping Out for Flipped PD!

As Brady Venables said in the #IMMOOC Google Hangout, “leaders go first.” Just as learners enter our classrooms daily with an assortment of learning styles/needs/interests, our teachers enter PD the same way. It is important to recognize one size DOES NOT fit all when it comes to all learning, including professional learning.

one-size-fits-all

As Brady Venables said in the #IMMOOC Google Hangout, “leaders go first.” Just as learners enter our classrooms daily with an assortment of learning styles/needs/interests, our teachers enter PD the same way.  It is important to recognize one size DOES NOT fit all when it comes to all learning, including professional learning. Yesterday, I flipped our first edtech PD. Inspired by many educators who are pushing the envelope and asking teachers to do the same with regard to innovative pedagogical models, I’ve committed to flipping each professional development model to maximize collegial collaboration, afford teachers more opportunities to think critically and reflect on their classroom practice, and to meet my learners (teachers) where they are, engaging their needs and interests individually.

Admittedly, I’ve been a proponent of flipped learning for more than five years, integrating it into my teaching and presenting nationally on the topic.  I think it’s important as a teacher and educational leader to model best practices for integrating technology and innovative pedagogy.

I recorded a video that combined about half of Eric Sheninger’s TED Talk called “Schools That Work For Kids” with the highlights of mobile learning research. I thought it was important that teachers understand that two things:

  1. Research supports technology integration in PK-12 environments
  2. Pedagogy must come first rather than sprinkling a layer of technology into an otherwise traditional, teacher-centered lesson.

Too often, I believe, teachers feel burdened by the need to integrate technology for the purposes of checking off that box in their lesson or an administrative observation. This type of technology use leads to using technology to accomplish low-level or more traditional tasks, like note-taking. This is not what our teachers want, and this is not what our students need! As Mr. Sheninger says so eloquently, “pedagogy first, technology second (if appropriate).”

With every faculty member (or most) entering the PD with a baseline knowledge of what the research says and hearing from a leader who has been integrating technology for almost a decade, we were able to roll up our sleeves to engage in meaningful discussions surrounding technology integration at our school.

The discussion centered around 3 questions or prompts:

  1. What is the goal for integrating technology into the curriculum?
  2. What does mLearning look like in your class?
  3. What goal(s) can your department set for integrating technology this year?

Although it was the end of a rainy day, I was impressed with the engagement and candor of the faculty when engaging in these discussions within their departments.  Leaving the professional development, I know that each teacher was given a chance to be heard within their department, whether brand new or a seasoned veteran, and that each department now has set a minimum of one department-specific edtech goal to strive for this school year.

Embarking on this flipped PD journey, I am holding true to several tenets:

  • Leaders must go first: In any classroom, we expect teachers to model for students.  Likewise, leaders must model for faculty, thus breaking down any impediments to innovation.
  • Provide time for the Flip: I try to send the flipped video before the weekend prior to the PD along with the goal of the upcoming PD.  This advanced notice gives teachers time to watch the video, while understanding the purpose and importance of previewing the material.  It’s important teachers understand what they should ‘get out’ of the professional learning time.
  • Flip for collegial collaboration: Don’t just send a video for the sake of sending a video! Understand that by removing the presenter-centric portion from the PD, the facilitators role changes to becoming a ‘guide on the side.’ That is the true reason for flipping-it gives teachers meaningful opportunities to engage in conversations that wouldn’t otherwise take place.

Spotlight: VoiceThread

This summer, I was turned on to the webtool VoiceThread through a class I took on Multimodality.  Though I had heard of the tool before, I was quick to dismiss it for lack of understanding its capability.

As the folks at VoiceThread say, it allows you to have “conversations in the cloud.”  Capitalizing on cloud-based software, designers of the tool are filling a need for people who would like to comment (and save the comments) online.  Once I found that not only was VoiceThread literally as easy as 1-2-3 but there was indeed “an app for that,” I was hooked.

With an increase focus on flipping the classroom, I have chosen to investigate this tool due to its ease of use, iOS device friendliness and cloud storage.  Check out my journey…

As you can see, VoiceThread has major implications for:

Recently, the impact of VoiceThread was fully felt when my 7th grade social studies class began collaborating with the 3rd grade class for a unit on debating.  After watching a lively debate in my 7th grade class, 3rd graders debated the answer to which is more important: rights and responsibilities?  Due to scheduling conflicts, my 7th graders were unable to watch the 3rd grade debate live.  Quickly thinking, the 3rd grade teacher recorded the debate to a flash drive.  However, this meant that my students weren’t able to comment…in comes VoiceThread…

I uploaded the video to VoiceThread and my students recorded comments to each team there.  The third grade teacher is planning to play these comments for her students in the upcoming days.

Stories like these could occur in any setting, whether in education or not, where time is a precious commodity.  With the help of VoiceThread, educators and professionals alike can move their conversations to the cloud…and store them for future reference!

Dive in!

#edupunk

This week I learned a new term…Edupunk.  Apparently I am an edupunk (or so I think).  In its most vague terms, Jim Groom’s term Edupunk refers to “an approach to teaching and learning which results from a Do-It-Yourself attitude that avoids mainstream tools.” (Wikipedia)  In my book, that is what Ed. Tech. advocates do on a day-to-day basis.  I had called it being progressive.  Others call it bucking the trend or going against the establishment.

Before discussing my own feelings toward Edupunk, I want to distinguish how I am defining the term.  Teaching with progressive pedagogy refers to implementing new tools which advocate for best practices in teaching and learning.  For example, a progressive, technology-infused teacher would use Edmodo to allow students to post their thoughts (as a means of formative assessment).  Edupunks go a step further.  Not only do Edupunks consistently tweak their lessons, read articles and implement emerging technologies to enhance their teaching and learning like progressives.  They also advocate for their fellow educators to do the same.  For this reason, I would call myself a blossoming edupunk.

With the recent rise in popularity of MOOC’s, PLEs and using social media in education, nobody can deny there is a movement building which advocates for progressives to turn edupunk.  But it isn’t that easy…

Like any tradition, right or wrong, it’s hard to step away.  Personally, in my short career in education, I have gravitated toward progressive thinkers such as Will RichardsonSir Ken Robinson and Scott McLeod, each of whom are edupunks in their own right, consistently advocating for change in the interest of the learners.

Image

Before going edupunk, ask yourself:

Do you feel comfortable stepping away from institutionally-supported tools (like LMS)?

I struggle with this.  Though I see no point in using the archaic LMS tools like Blackboard and web portals which act as gated databases to store info, I have come to appreciate newer, hybrid models like Canvas which combines the necessary features of an LMS (grade storing, comments, document sharing) with more web 2.0 tools (wikis, blogs, etc).  Of course, in essence, it is still an LMS.

I have read many articles and case studies advocating the use of blogs or ePortfolios to track and manage learning.  This is exciting and I would love to try it!  However, in order to be successful implementing such a progressive shift, I feel the change needs to be advocated from the top and accepted by all constituencies.

What are the implications of going edupunk for learners?

I’ve been racking my brain for three days trying to come up with negative impacts on learning when teachers or schools go edupunk.  I have come up with very little.  I feel that in addition to students learning the content presented, in a much more learner-friendly way, they would also learn the soft skills needed to succeed “down the road.”  (Wherever the road takes them)  However, until colleges and universities, parents and communities are comfortable with the new normal, it will remain a fringe (punk) concept.

Like the adventurous punk bands of the 1970s, blossoming edupunks need to band together to create a new genre for teaching and learning.

Until then, meet with fellow edupunks but attending an Edcamp near you…

 

Lifelong Learning in the 21st Century

A lot of buzz surrounds the need for teachers to be lifelong learners, consistently seeking to better their craft.  Though, as we know, “there are only so many hours in the day.”  Or, so the excuse goes.  With the rise of the Maker Movement, MOOCs and the ever-increasing popularity of using social media for professional development, the excuses diminish and the need to stay up with best practices increases.  As a self-prescribed progressive educator, it is time to put my money where my social mouth is (here!)…

DIY Learning: The Flipped Classroom

Teaching in a world where students are inundated with technology forces my hand so-to-speak so that I am able to use current technology as a tool to boost student engagement, achievement and learning.  I decided that this year was going to be my year to implement “the Flipped Classroom” approach in my middle school social studies classes.  Just one problem, I have never attended a professional development geared specifically toward Flipping…

 

After reading about the use of social media for PD on Scott McLeoud’s blog, I decided that would be one venue with which to begin my quest to learn how to flip my classes.  Naturally, if given an unlimited amount of time, I would attend a few conferences and webinars to learn the latest and most effective flipping strategies.  However, I’m in education, the time is now.

 

 

If given one year to learn to flip…

  • attend the PAIS conference on the Flipped Classroom
  • Follow-up with the presenter(s) and fellow educ
  • ators attending to seek out continued conversations
  • attend EduCon to understand how its being implemented “just up the road” in Philadelphia
  • attend ISTE 2013 to specifically seek out workshops geared toward this approach.
  • Enroll in a MOOC geared toward Flipping
  • Begin now creating “flipped” videos and presentations in preparation for implementation in the 2013-14 school year.

If given one week to learn to flip…

  • Google Search “Flipping the Classroom”…read top 10 results to determine which agencies, people and blogs to connect with.
  • Search Twitter for the hashtag #flipclass and setup a Twitterfall to link in to the current conversation
  • After reading some articles, blogs andthe like, I would hope to have a decent understanding of who is flipping and advocating for this approach.  I would connect with these groups and people on both Twitter and Google+
  • Once connected, setup a Google Hangout (and record it!) with a few people who are currently flipping around the country
  • Watch several videos from the Youtube results
  • Toward the tail end of the week, I would choose the class and lesson which I’d like to flip and begin to design a lesson or a mini-unit (depending on comfort level)

If given ten minutes to learn to flip…

  • Google It!
  • #edtechchat, #edchat and #flipclass
  • Give it a try…documenting and refining as I go.

By implementing social media and MOOCs, I am confident I could learn almost anything necessary to continue my development as a technology-integrated educator.  What would you learn?

Personal Learning Network(s)

My task this week is to investigate a reputable organization and analyze a few followers, ultimately deciding whether or not to add them to my PLN. But first, a little background.

There is a lot of research pointing toward the benefits of a personal learning network to educators. Essentially, a personal learning network can be a group of fellow educators (or related field) who connect via social media to discuss and share information regarding the improvement of their practice. A teacher should determine their personal learning network, or PLN, based on not only their content area but also their interests in education. For me, many of the people I try to connect with on social media are not fellow social studies teachers. They are in the field of education technology in one way or another.

There are many ways to begin creating your PLN. Check out the article on the Innovative Educator blog!

Over the past few years, I have really developed an interest in implementing technology to improve teaching and learning. As part of this improvement, I signed up for several listservs and attending tech-related conferences like ISTE and Edmodo. With each PD opportunity came one or two more “connections” or additions made to my PLN. Recently, my interests have led me to focus on the use of mobile learning opportunities. One such organization focusing on implementing cutting edge pedagogy and tools is Edutopia, founded by The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

On a daily basis, I read Edutopia articles which mainly are communicated with me through their tweets. Often, these articles are the gems which I wrote of in the Aggregating vs. Curating post last week. They are chalk full of tools, links to sites, other edtech bloggers and the like.

The Great Edutopia Investigation

Because I generally receive articles from their listserv or twitter, I decided to branch out by examining their Google + page. Though Google + is relatively new to the social media realm, it is a great professional resource. Google + enables members to post articles, rather than solely their links, in addition to many of the same functions twitter allows for.

I had never been to Edutopia’s Google + page. At first glance, it was stocked with many of the same articles I had read while deciding what content to curate and share with my Twitter followers. But then, jackpot! When I began to examine who is posting on the page, it really got interesting…

By sorting the posts using the “best of…” feature, I was able to see the most popular (and hopefully best) posts first. Lisa Dabbs had commented on an article which I just sent to members of my school’s faculty discussing mLearning. I decided to check her out. Upon closer review, she struck me as someone worth following since she’s investigating both mobile and blended learning and seems to post frequently.

Juan Domingo Farnos was next on my list of frequent visitors to the Edutopia page. He too posted quite frequently, however, his topics seemed to not align as closely with my own. I decided not to follow him directly, but wait for him to post relevant items to Edutopia’s page.

I blew right by Woody Phillips and Shari Austin who had commented on an Edutopia blog about incorporating arts education. Not only was this topic not of interest to me, but also upon inspecting their pages, they appeared to use Google + way less frequently than those discussed above. Therefore, they aren’t worth adding to my PLN.

After seeing three more posts from Lisa Dabbs (she’s everywhere!), I landed on Audrey Watters. About half of her individual posts were relevant and could lead to a few gems. On the other hand, she seemed to be working for an edtech startup. After weighing whether it’s worth hearing about this company more frequently or not, I chose not to follow her, but to wait for her to post on edutopia as well.

So, 5 users socially stalked resulting in 1 follower and 2 on the “watch” list. Not bad. Honestly, when choosing to investigate Edutopia further, I expected to see a lot of EdTech non-profits posting and was shocked I hadn’t. Maybe Google + isn’t used as often as I thought by such companies…

In the end, I feel that finding a strong, legitimate organization in your content or interest is best. They’ll aggregate all the stories and curate them to those who follow.

Until next time…