Saturday, December 8, 2012

Big Changes

This year I have changed how I teach my biology classes.  

I have always been interested in technology and have integrated it into my classroom since I began teaching in 2000.  From Smart Boards to student response remotes, digital stories and vodcasts using our school's mac cart, I have found ways to incorporate technology to increase student engagement.  But I learned about something new, Flipped Teaching, last spring.  I knew I wanted to try it, but wasn't sure how I could make it work in my classroom.  This summer I went to a worskhop led by CUE at the Krause Center for Innovation, and knew that I couldn't just try out a lesson or two, I had to completely flip.  

Students creating a video review for an exam
Beginning this fall, I have recorded all of my biology lectures using Camtasia for Mac, and have posted all the lessons with google surveys at the end of them, on  Students watch the videos, take Cornell Notes, and fill out the online survey for homework.  In class, we get to discuss the notes and the students have created videos, diagrams, and screencasts explaining what they have learned.  In the past, students just took notes in class, and we moved on to the next planned activity.  Flipping has allowed me to really let the students have time to figure things out by asking questions and working collaboratively in class.  I am able to see what they are thinking by reading their online survey answers and questions, and can address any misconceptions or reteach concepts that they still don't understand.  Students also get to practice higher order thinking skills by taking the information from the notes and connecting concepts, analyzing ideas, making predictions, and really digging into the content.  We are using iPads as a tool for students to share their learning and to teach others.  Without the students watching the videos at home, I wouldn't have time to do this. 

One of the big goals of flip teaching is that the teacher has more one on one time with each student in class.  I do have more time as I can walk around and talk to each group as they discuss the notes from the previous night.  When they are working on their iPads, I can stop and talk to them about what they have learned.  I can have them share their progress adn final products by having them mirror their iPad over the Apple TV.  However I still don't feel that I have enough one on one time with them. 

My goal for our first unit of the new year is to switch over to more of a mastery unit, where the students can work at their own pace through all the activities.  I plan on using the iPads to help facilitate this.  The students love working on them and they love having choices.  My plan is to map out the standards and objectives of the unit and  then give the students choices of how to meet those objectives.  They can get the basic knowledge of the concepts by watching my screencasts or by reading a section of a CK12 book.  They can watch tutorials on how to solve punnet squares, or review step by step instructions online.  Then I will have sets of genetics problems that they can practice with and labs and activities to complete.  At the end of the section, they wil have an assessment to show me that they have met that standard.  It could be a quiz or maybe they can make a screencast or book that shows that they know the material.  If they pass, they move on to the next objective.  If not, they have to do more work, review, etc and reassess.  It will be interesting to see how this will work in a class of 35, and if they all manage to complete the work before we do our big biotech unit (which we all have to be on the same pace for).  
My iPad Cart

I am wrapping my head around all of this right now.  I have found lots of great ideas from posts on twitter, blogs, and facebook.   It is hard to do this without having others in my department doing this, although I get to collaborate with a special ed teacher who I coteach two periods with.  I wish that there were more biology teachers near me who were doing the same things that I could plan with.  I am hoping to go to lots of tech conferences and workshops this summer to learn more.  And I am hoping to get some great comments and suggestions from any readers (if there are any) of this blog.  

In future posts I will share some of the activities and technology and apps that I have used in class, as well as how my genetics unit goes next semester.  Wish me luck!

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