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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Do You Flip?

Flipped classroom are required at some schools, but not at our school.  And I think that is good. I think flipping is great, but I think you should want to do it.  I had my reservations before I began.  I was worried about how to make the videos, and I was worried about all of my kids having access to the videos.  I was worried about my time and theirs.

My turning point was a Conference for Advancement of Science Teaching (aka Science Teacher Nerd Camp).  At one CAST workshop I went to I walked away with a two key insights.

1. Jump in

If you think you want to do it - do it.  There is no better way than just jumping in.  If you wait until you have all the answers you may not start.  The best way to learn is by doing.

2.  When it comes to videos: You can have it perfect, or you can have it Tuesday.

My videos are far from perfect. I have my phone ringing in videos, my kid talking to me, Scooby Doo playing in the background.  And I could re-do the videos, but the next one will still be imperfect.  But I am not perfect in class also.

Since then I have been an AP Summer Institute.  Another teacher was at a school that required all classrooms to be flipped.  And this teacher only used other teachers videos.  If I was forced to flip then I may resort to this as well, but for me, I want my kids to be watching me whenever possible.  I will have them watch a video or two by someone else - I refer to these as guest speakers.  They don't show up often, but I want my kiddos to know that there are other options out there if they are need a different explanation or if the need help next year in college.

I am only flipping my AP class at this point.  In my district it is tough to force technology on students.  So my AP class is the only one that makes sense to me at this point.  Most of those kids have smart phones and can access YouTube.  If they don't have that option they are highly motivated enough to make use of technology at school.  They either stay after their zero period class, or can use their teacher's aide or office aide time to watch videos.  And we don't have videos every night at this point.  I figure I have another two years before I have videos for all sections I cover.

As far as making the video I use an app on my iPad called Doceri.  I found Doceri when I was using another app that I liked but it wouldn't post to YouTube, and Doceri does post to YouTube.  I wish I could go back and re-do all of the videos I made before I learned about using their stops, but I am trying to finish all videos before re-making any that are already done.  (I need to keep telling myself this).  To find out more about Doceri, check out Chonte's video.

When I first flipped my classroom it was November (a couple of years back now).  And I had students make review videos first.  This allows us review videos for them to access anytime, and it allows them to see what it takes to make the videos.  Unfortunately those were all made on something that was YouTube-able ... I wonder if it is now ... nope ... still not an option.

Different people flip in different ways for different reason.  My ideas:  I like students taking notes without me standing over their shoulder, I like them working with the information from that lecture with me standing over their shoulder.  I like that the students can take notes at their own pace and can hit pause and rewind.  My general lecture takes about 10-15 minutes without student wait time.  I like that the videos help to make the students independent learners.  I like that the videos can be accessed by the students later for review, and for students who are absent.

What I love most is that your flipped classroom can look like whatever you want it to be!

What concerns or questions do you have about flipping?  What do you like best and least about flipping?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Making Infographics

Infographics are all the rage, and I found a website to allow me and my kiddos to make our own!  Thanks to the article Inventing Infographics: Visual Literacy Meets Written Content by Brett Vogelsinger that I found on Edutopia I have discovered and piktochart.  I am very visual and biology is very visual.  I love the idea of having students read and summarize what they have read as an infographic.

Piktochart seems to work a little better on the iPad, but it is still a little difficult to manipulate some options that are easy to do on a computer.  Piktochart also has a lot of "Pro" options for $290 a year or $29 a month, but choose the education package for $39.99 for the year -- who wants to buy me a year?  And there is a bulk pricing option as well.  I think I will be sticking to the free version. gives you the choice of portrait, landscape or mobile (long).  So if you limit your students to portrait or landscape they could be printed out for meet the teacher night or put in their interactive notebooks. doesn't seem to work well on the iPad at this point, and that means I have to plan ahead, get into the computer lab, and hope the computers work ... feels a lot like Prezi, so if the kids already have experience with Prezi it might be easier.

If you haven't heard of Prezi, it is a zooming, flipping presentation tool.  You could make an infographic in Prezi and present it.  I have used Prezi for years.  It can be used in lecture or as student presentations.  It is good for a change of pace and to demonstrate how to make a concept map, to hide some material and keep everyone together, and now to make infographics.  The possibilities are endless.

I am thinking about having the students learn to make infographics in forensics when they research different jobs in forensics.  This would make it easy to compare the different roles, responsibilities, and requirements of the jobs.  Then the students would have "making infographics" in their toolbox of options to use in other projects.  I think I may put them in groups and everyone make an infographic using a different site or template so we can compare within groups and between groups.

I think that my AP students could use infographics to present research on hot topics using infographics.  This may even play into our mini-posters for lab.  I like the idea of students being able to practice writing, summarizing, making visual representations of data, and practicing presenting information in a clear way.

What would you have your kids do with infographics?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Plickers - Classroom Clicker App!!!

I just found a new app today (thanks to Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers) and I am so excited!  The app is called Plickers, it is available on iOS and Android.  I downloaded it on my iPad (but it is an iPhone app).    So why am I excited?  It allows you to get clicker feedback without the clicker -- all you need is a few printouts and a smart phone or tablet!  I have a great set of clickers, but have to share with another teacher.  Now I have clicker options all the time.  

To use you need to download the app, and visit their website.  At the website you download and print off the Plickers cards can set up your classes and students, so that you can get individual results, you can also use the demo class for anonymous results.  And I especially like the idea of taking attendance with the app ... since I usually so excited to get class started that taking attendance has slipped my mind a time or two.  You could also use plickers for questions within your lessons, bellringers, polls, review games, etc.  Did I mention this is a free app?  It is!

What do you think?  Would this be a useful app in your classroom?  Have you already used it.  Share your knowledge and ideas or other potential uses.
To read the original posts I read click on the titles below.
You could probably spend the rest of your summer break on Free Technology for Teachers -- it is a great site!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Making Posters & Signs for your classroom

As a high school teacher, I am not always able to find classroom posters that are age appropriate and that I can afford.  So I make my own.  Am I an amazing artist?  No way! I have several tricks that help me make a poster to my liking.

1.  My Projector
I will either type what I want or draw it smaller (and take a picture, email it, and put it into PowerPoint for easy manipulation of size).  Then using my computer projector I project the image onto poster board, butcher paper or cheap paper from IKEA, and lightly trace the image or words.

This allows me to make sure the letters are spaced properly and my lines of words don't slant up or down (if I tape my poster/paper level).  I do not spend time on getting the exactly outline of letters typically, just general shape and size.

2. Rulers 
If I am working on a smaller project I use rulers to make sure things are spaced properly and straight. (I am concrete sequential.)  If I am measuring anything I use metric (I think in decimals not fractions) - I am a science teacher :).

3. Graph Paper
For other small project I will use graph paper.  After I do all my work in pencil, I trace over it in black sharpie, tape it to a window, tape white paper over it and trace again in pencil.  This is a trick I do at home a lot, because my classroom doesn't have windows.  My back door gets used as a light box quite often.

4.  Good Erasers
I do all my work in pencil first and because of this I need good erasers.  I love these white polymer erasers, they don't tear up the paper and remove stray marks easily.  Once you color over a pencil line you can no longer erase it.  If you look closely at a few of the posters in my room you can see pencil marks under pink and yellow marker ... I don't make this mistake anymore ... even though I know I am the only one who notices it.

I let my students borrow these sometimes, but I always tell them how much I love this eraser, and how it is my favorite and it keeps them from keeping it and poking holes in it with their pencils.

5. Multiple Drafts
Sometimes I use multiple sheets of paper before I end up with my finished products.  I may work on graph paper and then trace it onto computer paper.  I may just need a really-rough-draft to plan even before I type or use graph paper.  I may do all of my multiple drafts on the same page ... wait ... what?  Usually have light pencil (from tracing or measuring somehow), and then I go over it in marker, erase, and go back over it again.  Go over it again? Why?

6. Go Over It Again
I know this was in #5 but this is the most important step that most people never do!  When you go over your writing or drawing again it gives you the opportunity to hide all imperfections.  It takes something that looks like ordinary handwriting and make it look impressive. (note the difference in Learning in the previous two photos.)