Tuesday, June 30, 2015

ISTE2015 Day One

This is Philadelphia. I walked outside the Philadelphia Convention Center to snap a picture of this Masonic Temple. This is #ISTE2015!

Before I start, I just want to remind you that laptops need to be out with your shoes at the security checkpoint in the airport. I forgot that and they held me. I had to run to my gate and barely made the flight.

When I arrived in Philadelphia, it was already 3pm. After our District dinner at 6pm, the only event/session available was the in-person #TXEDUCHAT at 9pm ET at the PLN Lounge near Broad St. It was quite exciting to meet Whitney Kilgore in real life. She shared her passion. She just got her Doctorate on that. Certain passions cannot be shared in a series of 140 characters through Twitter.

I soon learned that she will be partnering up with the #AussieEd participants from Australia. I was excited since I'm currently looking to connect with educators outside of United States so my students can learn math with a global perspective. Don't ask me how I'm going to do it or what specifically I want to do. Brian Jones recently inspired me with his #GCLchat so I just know I wanna do it and I need my connections. We'll go from there.  So of course I got excited when I met Shane Mason and Grant Mitchell. They are deputy principals in Australia.

Their accent is beautiful to my ears. They sounded even more beautiful when they promised me they will have one of their math teachers contact me. We talked about using Touchcast so students can communicate with each other asynchronously (Hope this works. Fingers crossed)

A few participants of #TXEDUChat stopped by here and there. Soon Tom Kilgore walked in with his daughter. He was returning from his poster session on Makerspaces. I stayed after the chat was over to ask Tom a few questions about Makerspaces.

Perris Union High School District, where I work, is currently creating a Makerspace at our middle school. I am very excited about this even though I don't work at that site. I already plan on playing there before the summer is over. And since I know that my awesome principal will also create Makerspaces at my site (Perris High School), I wanted to know what I can do to encourage my students to use the space effectively.

Tom and Whitney shared a story. There was this student. He was not really motivated to embark on a project. Tom learned that the student loved Thor. So Tom asked, "Why don't you build a prototype of Thor's hammer using different material and estimate the weight?"

There was another student. I think Tom said he/she was a fifth grader. This student recreated the Boston Tea Party by calculating the amount of Tea dumped at the Boston Harbor, the size of the ship and the harbor.  He said that the student's parent reported that the student worked on it diligently for more than three weeks and asked if her calculations/creation was accurate. He said, "You see, I don't know. But the important thing is that the student did all that work. The amount of learning that goes on during that time is invaluable"

In the end, Tom left me with this comment.

"You see, I thought Makerspaces was about space. I even had a catchy name for it (Imagination Lab). But now I see that it's not about spaces."

I saw this post on Twitter today.

I now understand what that means thanks to Tom and Whitney.

It's only Day 1 and I'm getting some profound stuff.

I can't wait till Day 2. Catch you later!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Best Blended Lesson Model This Semester!

So I am that teacher. The one that makes them learn from videos. Who learns from videos anyway?

Nobody told my students that they would have to watch educational videos online when they received their Chromebooks from the District. So it was a great shock to them when they learned they had to with Ms. Choi.

Truth is, I didn't know what I was going to do when I learned my students were going to receive Chromebooks. I continued to teach the old way and got frustrated because they kept watching non-educational videos online.

Then I thought, "hey, why not record myself while I teach, then play it in my other classes so I won't have to repeat myself?" This was a great idea. I had time to walk around the classroom and help students who were behind. The fast learners did not get bored since they didn't have to wait for me. Back then, I had a Sophomore Algebra II class and a Repeating Algebra I class with Juniors and Seniors.

I noticed something. My Algebra II sophomores wanted me to upload my video links on Haiku the day before the lesson. They wanted to watch the videos at home and have me check their answer in the classroom. My Algebra I Juniors and Seniors used their swift finger movements to switch their tab as fast as they can so I won't catch them watching their music videos or basketball games. This was the 2013-14 school year.

Then this school year, I got the regular Math 1 and Math 2 students. I got excited. I decided to Flip my lessons. I thought my students would love it!

Well, they hated it.

I wanted students to be self learners and self advocates. I wanted them to watch the videos at home. Then I wanted them to come to class filled with curiosity. How do you solve the homework questions? How do you move on to the next step? I thought students would walk into my room asking me these questions. I told them they can work in groups. I wanted them to use the boards plastered all around my room to work out problems. How much better would they learn if they first started by asking questions to each other, then seek my help? I almost felt like a superhero.

Instead, what I received were angry students and parents. "How do you learn from a video? What are you here for?" These were some of the questions I received.

So I kept on going. 

Yes. I didn't give up. 





But I modified my flipped lessons throughout the semester. This is how it looked like toward the end of the semester.

  1. The videos got shorter (from 45 minutes to 17 minutes max).
  2. Students got 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class to watch the video.
  3. Then they went to the boards and wrote down 1 to 3 things they remembered from the video.
  4. Everyone took notes from the board into their notebook or Google Docs (crowdsourcing).
  5. I solved ONE problem without allowing students to ask questions using my Wacom tablet projected on my screen. 
  6. Then I made ALL students go to the boards again to solve a similar question (checking for understanding). And yes, they could collaborate with each other. 
  7. Finally it's time for them to solve more questions either in their notebook or on the board in groups and I walk around to help. 

Time flew since students were doing different things every 5 to 7 minutes. Students felt like I was teaching them something. They didn't have to feel embarrassed about not watching the video prior to the lesson. When they felt lost, they had the video, their friends and maybe even me to fall back on.

The semester is over.

I am proud to say that the students in my classes did great on the district finals. They did better than the district average. And my school almost always has a lower average than the district. So this is a great accomplishment.

Most of you who know me knows that this is not a 5-day-a-week thing. I do other stuff too.

But I wanted to share how my blended model evolved. Most importantly, I wanted to share how I stayed strong despite parents, students and other teachers telling me blended doesn't work.

I know my system is not perfect. But results were good this semester and I will continue to tweak and improve my model so it will work for me and my group of students.

Please leave me comments since I know you are dying to share different perspectives. I would like to learn from you! :)