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The Progression of a Tech-neophyte in the STEM Classroom

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Welcome to series of Blog Posts brought to you by some amazing past Siemens STEM Institute and STARs Fellows. Today's guest blogger is Mike Fellows who teaches 10th grade Biology, Chemistry, and Advanced Biology: Forensics at Lakewood High School in the Lakewood School District in North Lakewood, WA. Take a moment to discover more about Mike  following his  post. Please be sure to read and share…  make sure you give us a  follow on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad . As always, thanks for joining us at the Siemens STEM Academy!  Now… read on… and  have a STEMtastic week! – Mike Gorman

Edmodo. Flipping the Classroom. Makey-makey. These were as foreign to me as Timbuktu or Machu Pichu. . .  until I was a participant in the Siemens STEM Institute in August 2013. I learned about these and many more educational technologies during the week long Institute. There were definitely times during the week when I felt overwhelmed, but I also got over these times quickly with the help of my colleagues and the Institute staff. I was learning to overcome my apprehension about technology, and my use of it in the classroom. I was used to using a computer and a SmartBoard, but I knew that I  use them as effectively as I could in the classroom.

I knew that I couldn't use all of the new things I learned in one year, so before I even left the Institute I decided to flip one of my courses. I figured that flipping my chemistry classes would be the best, since the students were college-bound juniors and seniors and I only had two classes of chem. I was thinking about just how I would flip my chem classes as I packed my bags and traveled to the airport at the end of the Institute. As luck would have it I sat next to a teenager who was traveling with his family from Virginia to Alaska, via Seattle.

I told the young man that I was a teacher and that I had learned a ton of really cool things, and I asked him if I could pick his brain for a little while. (He was on vacation and I didn't want to talk too much about school!) He agreed and I asked him how he would feel about watching videos at home that were assigned by a teacher. He told me that he already did that in one of his middle school classes the past school year. He told me that his teacher assigned “whisk” assignments occasionally that he would watch at home. I asked what “whisk” meant and he explained that it was “WSQ” which stood for “Watch, Summarize, Questions”. So, being the experienced teacher I am I told the young man that I would steal this idea to use in my classes!! He seemed very pleased that he helped me.

I recorded a couple of videos before school even started, and posted them to YouTube as unlisted videos.  The first day of classes I polled my chemistry students and found that all but one had internet access either at home or on their phones. The “one” student said that he could easily go to a friend’s or relative’s home to access the internet, so I knew I was in business. A few days later I explained to the classes the idea of flipping the classroom and I showed them the first video in class (www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0rqNfoAXi8). I asked them for questions and feedback. It was very helpful.

I recorded more videos and assigned them as homework. I set up a chemistry group on Edmodo, and posted the WSQ assignments on Edmodo throughout the year. My students had no problem getting into Edmodo and accessing the videos.

I learned many things this year regarding flipping the classroom. I took the advice of many of the Fellows at the Institute who had flipped their classes already and made sure that I kept the videos short (under ten minutes) and made sure that there weren't too many “slides”. Rather than using boards that I would slide out of the picture (like Dr. McCammon showed us), I made a template on the SmartBoard and just clicked through the four to six “slides” per video. I also made a “storyboard” sheet that I used to plan out exactly what I would present. One thing I really like about the flipping concept is that it forces me to distill the presentation to exactly what the kids need to learn on a particular topic. Another thing I learned was how easy it was to let time slip away from me in terms of recording; I realized that I needed to be more diligent about planning and recording videos rather than simply “going back to things as usual.” Initially I thought the videos were going to most useful for presenting processes (such as how to solve molarity problems), but later I realized that concepts/information could be presented equally as well – I just needed to be even better at distilling down to the primary concepts. (An example of this type of video is: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdY-z7eseP4) I also learned that turning off the classroom lights so the colors could be seen was better (and I wasn't as visible either, an extra bonus!).

I was really curious to find out what my students thought about the usefulness of the WSQ assignments. I give my students an evaluation form at the end of each year to find out what they think I do well, and what I need to improve, to help them learn. One of the questions I asked this year was “Do you think the WSQ assignments were useful or not, and explain why?”  I was pleasantly surprised to find that 80% of my students found them useful, and many students thought I should have made more videos throughout the year. Many students also felt that I could bypass Edmodo and just give the YouTube links directly.

I plan to continue flipping my courses. I will flip my Advanced Biology: Forensics course this coming year and probably flip the 10th grade Biology course the next year. I think I will give the YouTube links directly to the students and bypass Edmodo. I may use Edmodo again later for other things but I will concentrate now on the flipping of my courses.

I am becoming more comfortable with educational technologies. Using and searching out new technologies (like those learned at the Institute) come much more quickly to me than they did a year ago. I am still a tech-neophyte, but not as much as I was!  

Mike Fellows, N. Lakewood, WA Lakewood High School

Mike Fellows teaches 10th grade Biology, Chemistry, and Advanced Biology: Forensics at Lakewood High School in the Lakewood School District in North Lakewood, WA. Mike earned a B.A. in Biology from Linfield College, a B.S. in Wildlife Science from Oregon State University, and then finally figured out what he wanted to be when he grew up and earned both a teaching certificate in Biology and General Science and an M.S. in Biology from Central Washington University, and later earned National Board Certification in AYA/Science. "I am very excited to be chosen as a Fellow in the Siemens STEM Institute during the summer of 2013, and I am really looking forward to learning many new things in areas that are not my forte. The information and techniques that I learn in the Institute will help me develop real life examples and analogies which I can use in my classes to help students see the relevancy of what they're learning to their lives. I believe that when students see how their learning is relevant, they become even more curious and confident in their learning."

  We hope you enjoyed reading about making that STEM Tech Integration plan with Mike.  Please take the time to retweet and pass this information out to other STEM educators you think might be interested!  Now is also a great time to sign up for an RSS feed and also follow us on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad.  We have more great STEM information coming your way including more STEM ideas from our past Fellows. Have a great week  and take some time to start making your own STEMtastic learning connections… today. – Mike Gorman (21centuryedtech)  

 

Posted on July 29, 2014 by Michael Gorman
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Evolution of a Flipped Classroom

Welcome to series of Blog Posts brought to you by some amazing past Siemens STEM Institute and STARs Fellows. Today's guest blogger is Azucena Overman who teaches geometry and coaches the UIL Number Sense, Calculator and Mathematics teams at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, Texas. Take a moment to discover more about Azucena  following her  post. Please be sure to read and share…  make sure you give us a  follow on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad .  As always, thanks for joining us at the Siemens STEM Academy!  Now… read on… and  have a STEMtastic week! – Mike Gorman

When I first signed up for Flipped Classroom training in the fall of 2012 I did not realize how much it would impact my classroom.  I had already been experimenting with doing video lessons for my substitutes but the workshop made me rethink what my classroom could look like.  Here are a few of the reasons I decided to make the switch:

  1. My biggest personal challenge was pacing.  I can explain well but I like to spend a lot of time questioning the students which extends the lesson.  I also had to spend time on classroom management while teaching the lesson.  Add in the irksome interruptions like messages coming from the office, phone calls, etc. and I was lucky to get sufficient practice time before sending my students off with their homework.
  2. I was excited about having the videos as a resource for students who were out sick or for school activities.  It was my first year teaching high school and I didn't realize how handy this would be in the spring which is even worse than the fall for student activities.
  3. I also hoped that my ELL students would take advantage of the fact that they could do the video at their own pace and rewind and pause as needed.

I knew that the best way to fail is not to commit so I decided to completely flip starting in January 2013 and worked on flipping the next unit over Christmas break.  It was my first year of teaching Geometry and I discovered that flipping makes me work further ahead making me a better prepared teacher.  The other reason that I completely flipped was to establish a routine and structure for my students so they wouldn’t have to guess if this lesson would be flipped or not. Here are some of the big pieces of my flipped classroom and how they have evolved.

  • Videos: I create my own videos because as the teacher, I want to be able to shape the lesson.  Secondly, I felt that my role as video creator establishes my credibility with both students and their parents.  My prior substitute videos were too long so I wanted to speed things up.  Instead of capturing video as I wrote the lesson, I prewrote the lesson and animated each step.  Initially this may have involved scans of notes but I noticed that many of my students preferred to use their phones with their smaller screens to do their homework so now I primarily use PowerPoint, so I can have larger handwriting and fonts.  I create the slides and then add in handwriting using the ink tools and animate each step.  This provides the advantage that I have carefully thought out the lesson and I am almost always able to capture it in one take.  I also intersperse screen capture video of virtual manipulatives like Geogebra to better illustrate the concepts. I used to try to capture the entire lesson in one video but find it is better when I parse the videos into the 2 or 3 main concepts.  Now that I am using Cornell notes, I frequently have 1 video for each page of notes.  It’s not necessary to create fancy videos.  My most popular video with over 4000 views shows how to find the apothem with just a document camera, a sheet of school paper and a few markers.  This illustrates how a well-structured lesson is more important than all the bells and whistles.  That said, I still like bells and whistles so I also created a short history of geometry video by capturing myself drawing the illustrations and then speeding up the video and adding in narration and a royalty free soundtrack.  That’s my second most popular video.  For students who have internet access challenges, I have burned DVD’s that could be played in a normal DVD player.  I have noticed a large drop in demand for this just in the past year.
  • Notes: Geometry is highly visual and good images are important so I was already creating notes for students to fill in.  Additionally, note-taking is one of the most effective strategies to improve student learning.  I initially started with a combination of fill in the blank notes and few examples.  I graded the notes for completion as I took attendance.  It’s surprising how many high school students initially only copy the answers instead of the work for the examples.    I noticed that my students improved at showing work on their tests and quizzes because they had to show work when copying the examples in the notes. This past spring I made a switch to a Cornell notes framework where I still use some fill in the blank but now add in questions on the margins for them.  I would have all of the information for the right side in the videos but would just pose the questions in the margins.  At the beginning of class, we recap the lesson by having the students provide their answers to the questions.  In the fall, I will still start with a more complete framework but will migrate the students to creating their own questions over the course of the year.  Some teachers ask what happens if they don’t do their notes.  Since I personally check the notes as I take attendance and set an expectation that they will do it, a fairly large portion will do the notes. Admittedly, they may have just copied them from a classmate but on the bright side, I got them to write notes, which was always a challenge in the traditional classroom.
  • Classwork:  After doing a warm up and a quick review of the notes, the students work in pairs or small groups.  Their packet includes answer keys because it’s impossible for me to assess everything done by everyone in the classroom.  Because they have the answers, they are expected to show work to support the answers.  Surprisingly some students refuse to look at the keys and forget that they are there.  I spend most of the class walking around helping students which gives me the luxury of also getting to know them better mathematically and personally. After a specified length of time, we regroup as a class to discuss the answers and fix common misconceptions. It sometimes surprises me how much more engaged they become during group work as the year progresses because they learn to help each other and question each other.
  • Geogebra Applets:  I also find and make my own Geogebra applets to better illustrate the concepts.  These are both shown in the videos but links to the applets are also on the lesson web page so the students can play with these on their own.

How will this classroom evolve next year?  Well I was fortunate enough to be selected as the pilot for the Next Generation Digital Classroom on my high school campus.  Currently we are looking at getting a classroom set of tablets.  Now instead of hoping my students will play with the Geogebra applets on their own, we can have the entire class use them.  Taking it a step further, they should even create their own applets.  I’m also incorporating Edmodo and Twitter in the classroom since accessibility will be less of an issue.  I’m looking forward to spending this summer exploring apps to make their lessons more engaging and relevant.  

Azucena Overman, Round Rock, TX ..... Cedar Ridge High School

Azucena Overman teaches geometry and coaches the UIL Number Sense, Calculator and Mathematics teams at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, Texas. After obtaining a B.S. in Physics from the University of Texas at Austin, she worked in various industries, including analytical instrumentation, rapid prototyping, advanced materials and structural health monitoring, eventually earning a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Texas Executive MBA program in Austin. After joking for many years that she would teach math when she retired, she stopped waiting and was accepted into the Texas Teaching Fellows program for teachers in high needs areas including mathematics and science.  "Having worked in technology and education, I can see the importance and challenge of preparing our students to be future real world problem solvers. The Siemens STEM Institute is an invaluable opportunity to enhance my classroom with real world STEM experiences and increase both rigor and student engagement."  

We hope you enjoyed reading about making that STEM Tech Integration plan with Azucena.  Please take the time to retweet and pass this information out to other STEM educators you think might be interested!  Now is also a great time to sign up for an RSS  feed and also follow us on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad.  We have more great STEM information coming your way including more STEM ideas from our past Fellows. Have a great week  and take some time to start making your own STEMtastic learning connections… today. – Mike Gorman (21centuryedtech)    

Posted on July 20, 2014 by Michael Gorman
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Evolving Gameplay to Create Engaged STEM Learners: Make Time for Tech!

Welcome to series of Blog Posts brought to you by some amazing past Siemens STEM Institute and STARs Fellows. Today's guest blogger is Tim Kubinak who teaches 6th grade mathematics at John Yeates Middle School in Suffolk, Virginia. Take a moment to discover more about Tim  following his  post. Please be sure to read and share…  make sure you give us a  follow on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad . As always, thanks for joining us at the Siemens STEM Academy!  Now… read on… and  have a STEMtastic week! – Mike Gorman

As teachers’ time, patience, and funds are stretched thinner and thinner by increased expectations and workloads, our vocational mandate remains the same…to REACH children, to work with them where they are, and bring them up by whatever means necessary. It’s what WE do; it’s what we DO.

I've spent a few years experimenting with using gameplay in my classroom. I've been to the workshops hawking software; I've battled with admin over website filters and efficacy of such programs. I've played all of the games kids swoon over, and vigorously debated their appropriateness in school settings. I've made the mistakes, learned a lot, and if you’ll humor me for a few paragraphs, I’ll illustrate a framework for creating your own gameplay program, on your own terms, for student benefit.

First, this requires considerations of TIME and MONEY. If you have one, and not the other, you might make it work. Having both- even better chances. Neither, and maybe you can come back when conditions are better.

My goal for setting up my gameplay program (Play Your GAMES (PYG): Generating Academic Meaning from Entertainment Systems) was to create a FREE program that pulls in gameplay opportunities across multiple platforms, STEM methodology, problem solving awareness, and academic accountability to benefit overall student achievement across disciplines. I know, a mouthful, but all these words equate to “exploiting student interest”- using what students already do and love and uncovering the high-level abilities they possess.

During a typical week, student groups will qualify for their PYG time-in-game by determining their group average using current grade data. Based on the group average kids earn more playing time. Those not qualified to play for a full session (about 45 minutes), use some of their time to do remediation, enrichment, or assessment correction.

On Friday, our typical PYG gameplay session day, students bring in mobile devices (with permission, of course) or use my hardware to access vetted games (checked by me for adult themes, illegal/inappropriate content). A PYG templateis used to guide students through the process of playing, analyzing, and identifying key STEM concepts. Roles are agreed upon by group members and are rotated as necessary.

For those (admin) who need justification for such an expensive venture, the use of pre- and post-testing can generate data that can determine program efficacy. In addition, data from standards related to problem solving may serve the same purpose. Granted, skeptics may infer any gains in student achievement result from instruction, and to a point they may be right, but isn’t that the point… that continued, progressive exposure to situations requiring problem-solving skills results in better problem solving?

Again, the conversation must return to time and money. Depending on your funding outlook, grant prospects, and district support of your program, finding funds to purchase software licenses may be quite simple or incredibly difficult. For PYG, I use only free games…demos or simple games, for my laptops, tablets, and student mobile devices. Considering the age of the student, the timeframe in which games are to be played, and the hardware resources available is key in determining how your program will work.

As gameplay takes time, both to plan and implement, I feel that I wouldn't have been in a position to conduct such a program if not for my decision to flip my classroom instruction. There are a multitude of presenters and resources for realigning your instruction; Lodge McCammon and Anthony Dove come to mind first, and their methods create opportunities to apply, engage, and reflect. That said, streamlining instruction creates the time needed to play games, as long as it does not impede instruction. That’s not the easiest proposal to make to administrators, but worth the work nonetheless. Thought you were justgoing to play some games, huh?

In the end, it’s a tall order to pull together a variety of resources….time, hardware, software, (money), and knowledge, among others…to do something that may (or may not) result in a quantifiable gain in student achievement. But, then again, if you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in engagement and STEM immersion, things for which test scores are irrelevant.

Tim Kubinak, Suffolk, VA...... John Yeates Middle School

Tim Kubinak, of Suffolk, Virginia, teaches sixth grade mathematics enrichment at John Yeates Middle School for Suffolk Public Schools. He received a B.S. in Wildlife Sciences from Auburn University in 2001; his internship and work experience as a wildlife damage management specialist for USDA's Wildlife Services division led him back to the classroom, to share his knowledge and experience in the sciences to a new generation of STEM-interested students. In his eighth year of teaching, Tim has taught physical science, life science, and world geography, as well as 6th and 7th grade mathematics. "I believe that unique experiences, as well as the everyday situations through which we all live, are ideal opportunities for teaching and learning not only the basics of science and mathematics, but also the intricate physical workings of our planet, our universe, and ourselves. The Siemens STEM Institute is a vehicle for beginning, and continuing, that type of STEM immersion necessary to create a new generation of thinkers, tinkerers, and innovators."

Twitter: @MrKteachesSTEM

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/timkubinak/

We hope you enjoyed reading about making that STEM Tech Integration plan with Tim.  Please take the time to retweet and pass this information out to other STEM educators you think might be interested!  Now is also a great time to sign up for an RSS feed and also follow us on twitter at SiemensSTEMAcad.  We have more great STEM information coming your way including more STEM ideas from our past Fellows. Have a great week  and take some time to start making your own STEMtastic learning connections… today. – Mike Gorman (21centuryedtech)

Posted on July 14, 2014 by Michael Gorman
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