Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beginning Anew

So, as with many other teachers across the country, I decided to flip my classroom this school year.  After using some videos from Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman last year in my AP class, I decided that videos were a great way to reach out to students today.

I did my due diligence and spent a lot of the summer researching, scouring blogs, watching videos, and basically getting my mindset right for such a drastic change.  And it is a big change.  I've been teaching science for 12 years and Chemistry specifically for 11.  I have a hard drive that I carry around like a security blanket with 11 years of accumulated tests, lecture notes, worksheets, labs, etc.  When we get a new chem teacher at my school, I can easily set them up with a ton of prepared stuff to help them out.

Not to say that all of that just gets thrown out of the window, but flip classrooms aren't like other classrooms in a lot of ways.  The pedagogical philosophy behind it is far different than I've ever used.  I've always been a sort of traditionalist in the classroom, a lot of lecture, a lot of practice, really hard tests, all backed up by a willingness to help any student out at just about any time.  And to start a theme that will probably be constant in this blog, I'm a pretty good lecturer.  I'm usually one of the favorite teachers of most of my students...and did I mention that I teach Chemistry?!?  One of my best compliments from a student was that I am able to speak dumb...which I took to me that I can bring stuff like quantum numbers and stoichiometry down to the level where the average student can get it.

But to flip my classroom, I was going to have to drastically change all of that.  I've been moving away in some baby steps for the past couple of years, dabbling with things like PBL and whole class inquiry that have a lot of awesome potential and will always be a part of what I do.  Still, the bulk of class has still centered around lecture.  I've switched from giving lots of homework to doing more in class, but with the lecture there everyday, that doesn't leave a ton of time for homework, group work, and more importantly, just allowing some fun back in the chemistry classroom without being stressed about time every day.

Flipping is the thing that is really going to change that I believe.  If you don't know what flipping is, there are far more elegant descriptions of it out there than I will ever manage.  Guys like Sams, Bergmann, Bennett, and Musallam are amazing at what they do and such great advocates for it.  There is a great infographic out there too that really spells it out.

What I've decided to do is try to do weekly updates this semester as it is the first time I've been able to fully implement the flip model, along with some other stuff like using google forms for assessments, doing standards based grading and all of that.  I intended to do this in the fall term last year, but there was no real chance, as I spent most of the semester actually making the videos, not that the videos are what the flip is about, but they were pretty vital for the overall plan that I wanted to put into effect.

I'll be sure to post the problems and trials as well, as I know that what happens sometimes is you hear how awesome it is, but no one tells you how much effort it took, or how 8 other things didn't work first before they got to the current method.

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