Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Clearing Up Misconceptions

I had to write a letter to my students as we entered the second semester of this flipped classroom set up.  I had 5 students drop my class. 2 students dropped because they did not like the new set up. 3 dropped due to the rigor of the class.  I have 8 left.

Dear Flipped Students,

The process of flipping the classroom is still something we are all making adjustments to. We have done a survey, and I hope that you took the time to give me feedback, so I can contemplate the necessary changes and reflect on things I have not thought of. We have kind of talked things out too in class. I want you to know that I am listening, and I am trying to figure out ways to help adapt to this new learning environment.

Some key issues have come up during the discussions about this flipped classroom we have had is class. Below I tackled some of the misconceptions you and/or I may have had at the beginning of this, and I have reflected over some of the changes we could do to make this work out better:

Misconcetion 1: The flipped classroom would result in more/less work

                I want to address that if any of us thought this would make learning easier, that is not the case. This was not meant to make learning easier or reduce the work required to learn. Just as much work will need to go into practicing and trying to understand the key concepts.

 On the other hand, I do not think this is more work for you either. Again, I am going to bring up the word adjustment. I do believe there is an extra learning process that is a consequence of changing how we are learning the material. You all are going to need to learn how to learn from the videos. This initial adjustment is an extra job and challenge that unfortunately is running along side of the challenge to learn the material. As we transition into knowing this class is video-based, we have to establish techniques on how to learn from the videos. Just like learning how to take effective notes, listening actively in class, doing practice problems, etc. are study skills we have acquired over the years and developed (and still are developing), you all will need to learn another study skill of using videos to learn.

If we would have stuck with our class routine before, of course this extra adjustment and consequence would not exist. At the same time, we would never take a stab at the possible benefits of what a flipped classroom can do for us. And truly, if we are successful with this, the learning and productivity can be great.

Misconception 2: The videos should be more entertaining

                The videos are not meant for entertainment. At the start of this, I had this vision that my videos would be awesome and I could do neat effects that would get you engaged in the concepts and skills I was trying to teach through my videos. At this point, we are learning the basics of Calculus, and in all honesty, I just do not have it in my skill right now to be making explosive dramas that will relate to the things I am trying to teach you. When you learned how to add way long ago, the skill itself is not that fun to learn. The applications that come later are what make the skills more interesting.

                My goal and focus needs to be on teaching you the concepts and skills you need to be successful in building connections and learning the concepts of Calculus. Sorry.

                I will be attempting to change up the style of some of the videos. I am not sure how it will be, but I do wish for the lesson videos to be more interactive. Let me know other suggestions that may be helpful to the objective for these videos to teach and help you discover connections and skills.

Key issues and possible solutions that will improve this experience:

Asking questions during the videos:

                Of the feedback I have received about why some students do not like this set up, I find the most concerning one to be the inability to ask questions while the lesson is going on. Some of you have said you had a question come up at certain parts of the video. Now, this set-up does allow you to come to class with those questions, but most of you cannot keep track of all of the questions that arise.

This is big. Questions should not just go unanswered.

My possible solutions for this include arranging a certain time for everyone to watch the video at night so you can post questions on Youtube.  I will be on, and I could refresh my screen and be answering questions as they are posted. Similar to this, we could also arrange for an hour Skype time, where you can be watching the video, and I will be sitting, ready on Skype.  Another solution for you would be to make a journal of questions for each video. Just record the time and your question. The next day, we can pull up that moment in the video and I can explain it in class.

Do not forget that you have an infinite number of resources out there. There is Khan’s Academy, other Youtube videos, practice problems worked out on websites, and many more. Please do not cheat yourself out on the many resources available. We can discuss in class some of these ideas for solutions.

Maintaining a pace.

Some of you may have this sense of not feeling the pressure to be keeping up with homework. This is a class now that requires self-motivation and responsibility. I understand you have a lot on your plate, which is why you do have leeway in the pace. I say at most you should be spending two days on a lesson. I think that is fair. Some lessons may only really take one day for you to understand. Go at that pace. Do not stretch out the lessons you  could accomplish within a day.  If you break ahead, it would allow you to take three days on a section you may be struggling with.

I do assign large homework practice sets. However, if you look at it like this:                    

 The pace gives two days to a lesson. Night one, you go home and spend 45 minutes to an hour taking notes over the 30 minute video. Day one, you have 45 minutes to work on the assignment with me available which leads you to night 2 of homework for 45 minutes. You return back to school for your day two of in class time to finish it off- asking any more last questions. You go home that night to watch the next video and repeat the process. Overall, the reality is that there is no less than 2 hours and 15 minutes dedicated to practice problems/”homework.”  Yes, there are quite a few problems, but you also have a decent amount of paced time.

Try not to fall behind. Feel the pressure and the necessity of giving this time.  I am asking for at least 1.5 hours of homework over the span of two nights.45 minutes of that 90 minutes is note-taking/videowatching. I promise you, I am spending just as much time on this process at home as you are.

The progress grade I hope is sufficient incentive to make you keep up with pace. Your progress is worth 30% of your Calculus grade. As long as you are keeping up with pace, completing the majority of the homework assignments, and taking good notes for your binder, you have 60% in this class. The tests are 40% of your grade which you need to receive at least 70%.  Do the math. You sit at a 90% with the lowest test scores possible as long as you do your homework and stay to pace.