Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Resources for Flipped Learning

Did you read my last post that summarized what blended learning was?  If not, you should check it out.  Well, one of the more common forms of blended learning is flipped learning.  Many schools and districts are experimenting with flipping some of their lessons.  The idea behind flipped learning is having your kids watch videos of lessons or lectures at home or on their own time, and then you can use class time to do projects, discussion, and practice.

Getting started with flipped learning can seem overwhelming. The idea of having to create a ton of your own videos and then find a way to easily share them with your students seems daunting.  I thought I would share a couple easy suggestions to help you get started.

Resources for Videos Already Made

These are suggestions of websites that already have a lot of videos and you can search them for ones that might apply to a lesson you want to teach.

WatchKnowLearn - WatchKnowLearn is pretty easy to search.  They have a pretty big selection of videos by lots of different subjects and domains.

LearnZillion - LearnZillion focuses on Common Core resources so the videos are for Math and Language Arts.  Most of them are short, engaging, and pretty easy to understand.

KhanAcademy - This one is obvious.

StudyJams - I really like Study Jams for Math and Science.  The videos are short and animated,  They are a little cheesy, but they are good for summarizing information and making it easy to understand.

Resources for Creating Your Own Videos

Creating Animated Videos 

Below are resources for creating short, animated or photo-based videos.  These seem like they would be fun and engaging.




Creating Videos with White Boards in the Background

The iPad has a lot of great apps for this, but for web-based options here is one:


Storing Videos

A lot of websites have file size limits, so some of them can be tricky to use.

Youtube - This is probably the most obvious and easiest option.

Schooltube and Teachertube - These will have more protected backgrounds than Youtube, but I found they had file size limits that did not work with what I needed.

Edpuzzle - This is my favorite solution that I found.  We use Edmodo and this ties into our Edmodo account.  I can upload videos without a limit.  I then assign the videos to the kids on the day that I want them to watch them, and it gives me a progress update on how many people have watched them.

What are your favorite resources for creating and storing videos?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What is blended learning?

Since I work in a blended learning environment, I thought it might be good to share some information on theories and models of blended learning.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning is essentially a blend of a traditional school and online learning.  Usually, online learning courses are used at a physical school location and blended with face-to-face instruction and small-group student interaction to personalize learning for students. HERE is a post from Blackboard with some overviews of different definitions.

What does blended learning look like?

Blended learning is considered by many to be the future direction of education. As technology leads to an ever-increasing globalized world, we want students to be prepared for the 21st century.  One of my first introductions to the ideas behind blended learning was Sir Ken Robinson's ted talk on "Changing Education Paradigms."

Now to better understand blended learning, it is good to understand some of the different approaches to this new form of educating students.   You can find a good article to summarize them here HERE.

Clayton Christensen in his book Disrupting Class explains the need for disrupting innovation.

Sustaining innovations are meant to improve existing models of doing things, where disruptive innovations offer something new or a completely new way of doing things.  You can read HERE for more information about Christensen's ideas on these two types of innovation.  It is not that one type of innovation is necessarily better than the other.  Many times in industries both are needed for different purposes and in different situations.

In the world of blended learning, some models are considered sustaining innovation and some are disruptive innovations.

Sustaining Innovation Models of Blended Learning

The Rotation Model

  • Station Rotation
    • This model works really well in a workshop (reading, writing, or math) approach to teaching.  Students rotate through different dedicated stations, with online-learning being one of those stations in the classroom. 
    • Other stations would be small-group instruction, games, projects, centers for practice, etc. Stations are usually all completed within the self-contained classroom.
    • Stations require a lot of modeling, scaffolding, organization, and routine. 
  • Lab Rotation
    • Students rotate through stations, but one of the stations is a computer lab for the online learning. 
    • In the lab, students work at a more individualized pace through usually reading or math content/practice. 
    • Labs are supervised by an assistant, not necessarily a certified teacher. 
    • This frees up the teacher to spend time doing small-group instruction without having to focus as much energy on classroom management because not all students are in the room at the same time. 
  • Flipped Learning
    • This approach is one of the most common "buzz words" in teaching right now.  
    • Many schools and districts are transitioning to flipped learning.In this model, usually students watch videos of a a teacher lecture at home and then come to class to practice and apply the concepts from the lecture.  Thus, the normal process of lecture in class and homework done at home is "flipped."  The "homework" is done in class.
    • Be careful not to over-use this approach because watching too many videos at home for too many subjects could quickly get to boring.
    • Difficult in schools where students have limited access to internet at home.
  • Individual Rotation
    • In this approach to rotations or stations, not all students may have the same rotations or online courses.  
    • Teacher can assign and use as needed.

Disruptive Innovation Models of Blended Learning

The Flex Model

The private school I work at would be considered a flex model.  We use online-learning content created by vendors to deliver the instruction in some courses.  We pair this with small-group projects, some face-to-face teaching, and a lot of individual tutoring. Students in the same classroom may work at different paces and levels, providing a lot of opportunity for acceleration.  We also have other courses where more of the instruction may be directly from the teacher, and we use technology for enrichment, practice, application, student engagement and choice, and demonstration of learning.

The A-La-Carte Model

In this model, students may take just certain courses completely online to supplement other face-to-face classes they take at a physical school.  This can be a good option when a school does not provide the particular course that a student wants or needs in person.

The Enriched Virtual Model

This version of blended learning is used in often in graduate school programs (like Executive MBA programs) for their online courses.  Much of the content is taught and discussed online, but the class will have required face-to-face classes periodically to enrich the online content and provide opportunity for face-to-face discussion or a project. At the collegiate level, this option provides flexibility for individuals who are pursuing further higher-education while working.

Have you used any version of blended learning in your classroom?  How do you use technology to help differentiate in your classroom?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Getting Started with Socratic Circles

I am always looking for ways to build critical thinking in my classroom.  One of the teaching strategies I wanted to try this year was socratic seminars or the socratic circle. I have used literature circles and other small group discussions and a lot of whole group discussion over the years, but I have never used socratic circles.

My first introduction to some form of the socratic seminar was in graduate school.  I studied Business at  Texas A&M for my undergrad so there was very little discussion.  Most of my classes were hundreds of students, so the classes were primarily lecture. For my Masters, I studied Humanities with a focus in Literary Studies.  In most of my classes, we had a book or section of a book to read every week.  Then, when we came to class, the professors expected us to lead most of the discussion.  They would pose questions, but everyone was expected to participate and offer critique.  Participation was usually a chunk of our grade for accountability. I thoroughly enjoyed most of my classes.  Because it was Humanities, often our classes included people of various ages and backgrounds with different interests and specialties.  It always made for interesting discussion.

I started preparing to use Socratic Seminars by reading Socratic Circles by Matt Copeland.

There are different ways to approach Socratic Circles.  One of the more common approaches is also sometimes called Fishbowl discussions.  You divide the class in half.  Half the class sits in an inner circle in the center of the room, and the other half sits in an outer circle. The inner circle discusses a text and the outer circle observes. The outer circle gives the inner circle feedback on the discussion afterward.  There seem to be a couple different approaches.  You can have the outer circle give the questions to the inner circle to discuss.  You can have one person in the outer circle observe one person in the inner circle.  You also can just have the outer circle generally give feedback to the inner circle.

You usually have everyone read the same text.  It often is a short piece of text, so they are forced to analyze very closely.  You can use for History, Science, Math, Poetry, Nonfiction, Fiction, etc. You could use the discussion more as a debate or to work on persuasion.

My classes are small.  So I still divided my class in half.  Half sits in a circle to discuss while the other half sit in their normal tables.  I had each group have a discussion leader.   The discussion leader came up with questions and helped keep the discussion moving.  Discussions were usually 10-30 minutes.  The group observing had to take notes on the discussion and give feedback afterward. My 8th graders discussed short stories during class, and my 7th graders discussed sections of Walk Two Moons. As Walk Two Moons has two different plot lines, I had each group focus on a different plot line for the discussions.

After each discussion, we discuss what went well and what could have gone better.  What I am enjoying about socratic seminars is that the learning and even most of the guiding of the learning is placed in the student's hands. I only jump in with questions when I feel they have not gone deep enough or elaborated enough.  However, I have found I really do not have to jump in very often at all. Each discussion has gotten a little better than the last because they have learned from the feedback they have received from one another. In a very short time, they have gotten so much better at giving feedback and receiving feedback.  Usually students are either rude or afraid to give constructive criticism.  My 7th graders this next weeks are finishing their final essays on Walk Two Moons, so I am excited to see if the ability to give good feedback translates to giving good peer feedback on writing.  They also are getting better at thinking on their feet and speaking up with confidence.

Variations I Still Want to Use This Year with the Socratic Seminar:

1. Use a smaller text like nonfiction articles, poetry, or small excerpts of a text.  Great practice for close reading!
2. Break into smaller groups and then come back as a larger group to discuss. 
3. Have the outer group create the questions for the inner circle.
4.  Discuss creating higher-order thinking questions as a class. 
5. Have students help create a rubric for the discussions.
6. Have an outer circle student observe an inner circle student very closely, and then they switch.
7. Try Socratic Seminars in another subject.

Things I will do Different Next Year To Get Started:

1. Do a lesson on Socrates first.
2. Set up the norms for the discussions a little better.
3. Discuss creating higher-order thinking questions before starting the discussions.

For more ideas on Socratic Circles, check out my Pinterest Board on the Socratic Seminar.   Have you used socratic circles in your classroom?
Pin It button on image hover