Friday, November 30, 2012

Jessica's Project

How did it go?
My original project proposal was to create a blog for my classroom that would illustrate both aspects of transparent and reverse teaching. I wanted to use the blog as the vehicle to keep the parents of my students informed about what was going on in the classroom. It would also provide my three sixth grade classes with the opportunity to communicate.

This was my first year at a new school. I teach both Social Studies and Language Arts in a Humanities approach during one hour. Teaching two subjects in one hour is an ambitious task in itself. What I also didn't realize was how much pre-teaching would be involved in creating the type of blog that I wanted to set up. My school is completely standards based which is both wonderful and a challenge. Many of my students have gaps in their basic skill sets. The blog has really only just started to take the form in the way I hoped for in the last couple weeks.

What worked?
The students were tasked with writing a historical fiction short story on their own individual blog. I set up the blog to represent the transparent piece of our writing process in Humanities. Each aspect of the writing process would be reflected in the blog either through the students' posts or the students' comments.

The students posted their rough drafts directly on the blogs. Once their rough draft was posted, they needed to make revision comments on other posts. Students made revisions to their post based on their peer comments. I asked students to put the changes they made to their post in either bold or underlined font.  Peer revision became transparent for the parents. One of the most challenging things I find explaining to parents is how the peer revision and editing process works in my classroom.

Students then began the editing process. First they were required to self-edit their blog. They made editing comments on each others posts and then made the editing changes to their draft. They were required to put their editing changes in red. Again the editing process is transparent in the classroom.

What really works about this for me is the management. When I normally run writing workshop in the classroom, I have students in a variety of places and I keep notes about where everyone is in the writing process. Instead of keeping a binder full of notes that parents can't see, I keep track of everything through the blog. Everyone is on a different step in the writing process and I can easily keep track of who has finished rough drafts, peer revision and editing, and who has published the final draft.

What didn't work?
I didn't realize how long it would be before we would get to actually posting on the blog. Between NECAPs, NWEAs, assemblies, interruptions, and a mandated test taking strategies unit, we didn't start our research for their stories until after the beginning of the second quarter.

I was unprepared for my students lack of understanding in the writing process. On top of teaching students the research skills I wanted them to have prior to beginning their stories, I had to teach the steps in the writing process. Going over what a rough draft was and the difference between revision and editing was not on my original agenda.

I was also unprepared for students lack of basic computer skills. I had quite a few students who had difficulty with the basic navigation of a computer. I still remember my shock at helping sixth grade students learn how to press the up and down arrows to scroll in order to see the rest of a page.

What's next?
Students are all over the place in the writing process and completing their stories. The majority of students have their rough drafts posted, but they are still working through the revision and editing steps in the writing process. I want to use the blog in other ways. I would like for students to communicate about what they are reading in their literature circles. With three sixth grade classes it would be the perfect opportunity to create asynchronous groups.

How will you change it?
I want students to have more of a role in the reverse teaching aspect of the classroom. I would like to have students create explanations of our mini lessons in class to share with other students. I want to have the students taking on more responsibility for the lessons.

Link to my website (reverse teaching)
Miss Longstreet

Link to some of the examples from our blog (transparent teaching)
Note: I have temporarily lifted our security block of requiring a password to read the posts.

Our Middle Ages Blog

Blog Example 1
Blog Example 2
Blog Example 3

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Martha's Project

How'd It Go?
So my proposed plan was to have student begin collecting work to compile onto a Google Site. How far did we get? Definitely not that far. What we have done as a class, however, is on track to get there eventually however. My students have been introduced to and are becoming proficient at several Google Apps. They have been recording all the books they've been reading during their independent Reading Workshop on Google Books. They use Google Docs for all their documents and presentations. We've stored pictures of the happenings in our classroom on Picasa. And my favorite yet, using Blogger.

What Worked/What Didn't?
Let's start first with what didn't work. I aimed too high. There was no way in three short months that I'd get as far as I expected to. Teaching two subjects this year, taking an online class, having another part time job, and coaching JV soccer was much more than I had expected. What's working? We're slowly inching our way towards my goal. On our Blogger accounts, each student created a pseudonym, or a pen name, for themselves. This tied in perfectly with our SS unit at the beginning of the year with the authors of the Federalists papers having written with a pen name. Though my kids are kind of silly, they really understood the rationale behind not having their real name out on the web, and also like the secrecy of even their peers not knowing (at first) who they were. Though, as far as I know, we're the only classroom using several of the Google Apps, the entire school has now moved to using Docs. This has made it so much easier when it comes to kids losing their laptops, forgetting their laptops, losing their hard drive, etc. On Student Led Conference night, students shared with their parents our classroom website, our classroom Blog and their own, and their reading record - all virtually. Teachers were a little confused when I sent them a letter that all my kids would need was their laptop. But really, that's all they DID need! I also have a student who has been out most of the year due to health issues - this has been a great way for him to remain connected to our classroom.

What's Next? How Will You Change It?
I plan to continue teaching my students about the various apps that Google offers, leading up to them having collected enough work throughout the year to create their own Google site. I plan for the site to be a final evaluation for their Language Arts grade at the end of the school year. I had created a site which I use to teach Google Sites to teachers in our district, and was able to add a lot more to it with some of the tools from this summer. Though it's a lot of information, I'll probably still use some of these resources (and at least make the link available) when we finally do get to using this with students. (Thank you so much for showing us how to screen capture with Quicktime - it's so helpful, and easy!!)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jen's Project

How did it go?  
My proposed project was to create a classroom blog so that my third grade students would have an online presence. The goal was two-fold. First, I wanted to have students explain classroom procedures and routines (the behavior chart, morning meeting, writers' workshop, etc.) using both text and visual images, so that parents would have an open view of the daily happenings in their child's classroom. This was the transparency piece. The second goal was to have students create tutorials, much like those found on Khan Academy, on various math topics. I had hoped this type of activity would not only strengthen students' understanding of the content as they created the tutorials, but that absent students or even parents who needed further clarification could watch the tutorials for help. This was the reverse teaching piece.

What worked? What didn't?
Much to my surprise and relief, my principal gave me permission to create a blog that my students would contribute to. This is a huge step forward for my district, as policies in the past have forbidden teachers from having websites and from posting student work online. However, with a new grades 3-5 school currently under construction, a new superintendent, and a new assistant principal, there has been a renaissance of technology taking place. I am now a STEM lead teacher, with a major emphasis on technology integration. All of these key changes have helped push our district into focusing on 21st Century learning experiences.
I originally planned to use Blogger or Google Sites to create the classroom blog. However, after a lot of online research and a few failed attempts of trying Blogger, I decided upon Edublogs allows each student in my class to have a blog "under" me. I can choose to have students contribute to the main blog (mine), to their own, or to both. I can also manipulate the privacy settings in a plethora of ways. At this time, student blogs are only accessible through the main blog, and cannot be searched for though a search engine. I also have an option to make the blogs completely password protected, meaning that visitors would need to create their own accounts in order to access the pages. This availability of privacy options helped me sell the idea of a classroom blog to my principal.
As far as the blog itself, my students have created screen names and avatars, most of which have been uploaded to the blog. Unfortunately, this process took much longer than I had hoped. By the time I received permission to have the blog, with the two-week NECAP testing window and an additional two weeks of NWEA taking over the computer labs, it was difficult competing for lab time. However, my students now know how to log in to their accounts and are just now learning how to navigate the dashboard. 
But despite not yet having made their own posts, a lot of work has already taken place--offline. During class, we have discussed Internet safety, the need to keep passwords private (between student and parent/teacher), and good netizenship. We have reviewed other elementary classroom blogs and have dicussed the types of information we'd like to include in our own blog. Students have learned how to operate the digital cameras, and have practiced taking photos that do not include the faces of other students (current district policy). As a class, students brainstormed a list of topics they feel should be addressed in the blog, and they have worked in small groups to hand-write their blog entries. 
Whats next?  How will you change it?
As students haven't yet been able to make a post, this is the next step in the process. In order for this to be effective, I need to have students in a computer lab where I can demonstrate how to create posts and upload photos. Students at the third grade level need repeated practice of specific skills before most are able to do the tasks independently, so I anticipate several trips to the lab will be in order. As soon as a few students learn the process, I will be able to have them help others who still need assistance. 
Eventually, I'd like students to be able to work independently on one of three desktop computers in my classroom, as part of a weekly rotation system. My plan is to have specific days of the week that each student is responsible for posting a new blog entry or responding to the (teacher-monitored) comments from visitors.
Although my original goal was to have a transparent classroom with elements of reverse teaching, I'd also like to work toward a third goal of maintaining student portfolios within the blog. Since each student has a blog space, this seems like the perfect opportunity for them to display the work they are proud of and to share it with their parents and extended family.
My project is still a work-in-progress, but I'm liking the direction it is headed.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Transparency and Reverse Teaching Project  Summary

Gray - New Gloucester Middle School Tech Ed

How did it go?......
Way back last summer when the living was easy, I proposed that to provide transparency for students I would post on the web the Tech Ed standards and the associated tasks I assign to meet them. I wrote "I have already organized most of the Tech standards into units by grade level and have developed tasks or activities for many of the standards. I would like to present the standards and tasks for each unit in two column charts and post the charts online for students to access."

I used my wikispace to post the standards and tasks - see  My GNGTech Wikispace. The wiki home page shows the grade levels in color coded rectangles with some of the respective units for the grade levels listed beneath. The unit name is a link to the standards.

At first I had the unit name link to all the standards for the unit with the "I cans" ( this is what we call the breakdown of the standard into what a student must be able to do to show proficiency) for each standard listed in one column and the tasks in the next column. This set up was extremely wordy and it was difficult for students to find what they were working on. I changed the set up so the unit name links to a list of the standards for the unit. Each standard links to the list of "I cans" and tasks.

For the reverse teaching part of the project, I created some how-to videos for the tasks so that students would be able to watch the videos when they were ready for that part of the task. 
What worked? 
For the most part, having the videos available anytime for students to access was very helpful. I did not have to give refresher directions and students payed better attention to video than they would have to me giving a demonstration. 
It was helpful to have the lists of tasks in one spot for students to follow through. 

What didn't work?
The text design for the standards and tasks is still too wordy and looks overwhelming. I had to help students find where they were supposed to be. 

If there was a lapse of a few days between when I showed students where they could access the video and when they got around to doing the task, they would not remember that there are videos and would ask me how to do the task. And sometimes it seemed faster to tell them how than to show them how to access the videos.

Sometime students would say that they watched the video and didn't understand it. The quicker students would watch the video and get things done and the students who usually need extra help would be slower about getting things done and get around to the task a few days later. So they would all be asking for help and saying they didn't understand the video at about the same time.

Whats next?  How will you change it? 

Perhaps if I had more work done on the site so it was used consistently, students would get accustomed to the format and be able to find their way around. A lot of the links I have students use are on a portaportal because that was a reliable and district sanctioned venue for links. I am still having students use the portaportal and now have the wiki as well. It will be better when I get the tasks and links organized in one spot.

To reduce the wordy overwhelming look of the standards pages, I plan to continue linking the unit name with the listing of standards but change the standard to a title that sums up what the standard is about. For example "TE.03.TS.01.01 - Explain how Agriculture and Biotechnologies interact with society, sometimes bringing about changes in a society’s economy, politics, and culture and often leading to the creation of new needs and wants." would become something simpler that zeroes in on the topic like "Agriculture Changes Society". Students would be able to find the topic they are working on and click it to go to their tasks.

Of course I have a lot more to do on the site and more videos to create. I think some of the videos could have better quality. I'm still trying to figure out how to get the mike to pick up my voice better and how to get rid of the buzzing sound. The big issue is time because of the number of different things I teach, the number of classes I teach, and the number of things the administration thinks up for us to do.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Final Project - Reverse Teaching and Transparency

I have been trying a variety of things to meet the guidelines (transparency and reverse teaching) set forth during this summers course.  Some have of them have worked out fine, while others have flopped.  My biggest issue has been getting the technology to work with me.

I had to modify my original plan (Gloster posters) for my Human Anatomy classes after some major tech issues made it virtually impossible to get it working.  To make it happen would have taken considerable class time. Luckily, the test run I did with my Astronomy class did work out.    So I replaced my prior Human Anatomy assignment with a straight forward Googledoc project.

By backup plan was to have my Astronomy students use Moonbase Alpha in a collaborative fashion.  They were going to learn the game rules and functionality through tutorials and the instruction manuals.  Sadily,  but we STILL do not have it working at my school.   I was hoping to catalog their progress through screencasting and images.  Most of our outdated tech will not run it and since its a Steam based application it has take a great deal of salesmanship to get it approved. So it will most likely be able to use it just after Christmas (if I am lucky).

So what I ended up doing is focusing on what I have been trying to do all along with my Astronomy class.  All year I have been using them as guinea pigs to try out some of these different teaching strategies.  For my Astronomy course I  enhanced the amount of reverse teaching elements and transparency I typically use in my classes.  Luckily, I have been using these features all along and I have (in the past couple months) worked on adding additional elements.  While its far from perfect, I think the work I have done demonstrates clear evidence that I have tried to implement that which you shared this summer.

I have attached a short paper explaining what I feel I have accomplished and where I plan on going from here.

the paper-->
Reverse Instruction and Transparency Project Results
By Arthur Libby

The purpose of this project was to add transparency and reverse instruction to an existing class structure. The original project was going to have the students in Human Anatomy use Glogster to create a Diary of Disease post. Unfortunately technology issues prevent this from happening. I have therefore adjusted the project to focus on these two principles using my Astronomy class. I will address each of these issues and discuss the current outcomes. This is on ongoing project and will continue to be used for the remainder of the semester. I am going to build on and hopefully improve on this concept for the next Astronomy the following semester.

Reverse Instruction (reverse teaching, flipped classroom).
Reverse instruction is teaching in way that empowers students to become self motivated learners. This does not mean that the teacher does nothing but instead guides the students through the learning process and intervenes when necessary.
I have modified my class this year to use reverse instruction. I have accomplished this in two major ways.
  1. Course Materials: I have modified the course to remove m as the figure where all knowledge is given. I am not the holder of content. I have set up my Moodle to power the students to view course content using podcasts and instructional videos. Instead of having the students rely on me for the source of course content the students watch podcasts. This is their homework. They then come to class prepared with notes over the material. These instructional resources enable the students to learn the content at their own pace and in a setting that they are the most comfortable. I have included some screenshots at the end of the document to show the setup.
Here are a few examples of these videos.
Results – Most students look favorably to these resources because of the reasons I outlined earlier. They also appreciate the additional time in class that is used for hands on activities and labs. The class is busy and productive.
Next steps – I am going to continue using this strategy for the next itineration of the course. One thing I would like to do over time is create more of my own videos. While most videos online meet my requirements it would be nice to include some of my own. I just need the time to do it.

  1. Technological Tools: I have the students use a variety of online tools throughout the school year. Instead of telling them what to do I have provided materials and videos for them to learn how to use the tools and then practice these skills in the classroom prior to making their products. Many of these videos are readily available on Youtube so its typically a matter of finding the appropriate video and linking it to my Moodle.

How to use and make a blog.
How to use and make Glogster.

How a save screenshots with a PC

How to create a form in Googledocs.


This one was a littler harder since we had to work within the schools guidelines. I lack digital cameras that the kids can use and I have had mixed success with students using their own (which is also prohibited by the school). The school prohibits cell phone cameras as well, so we mainly rely on the laptop webcams which are a bit limiting. I worked to accomplish this goal in a variety of ways.

  1. I had each student create a blog where they added images and descriptions of projects and activities they have completed or are working on in class. Each blog serves as a record of some of the class experiences as well and a window into the classroom. I hope to add additional content as the course progresses.
      Here are some examples of the student blogs
Next Steps: This project worked fairly well. You can get a feel for what the students are doing.
  • Students need to explain what they are doing in the images more.
  • I need to have students get into the habit of uploading ALL the things we are working on.
  • I think student comments would be useful here.
  • I need to try to incorporate video as well as stills on the blog
  1. Some of the we web based projects (such as the Glogsters) are available for others to see. These projects are viewable to a wider audience then a traditional inclass project.
Here are some examples of students Glogsters.

Next Steps
My goal is to increase the number of web based projects (or digitize more of them) to allow for a wider audience.

I feel I have made some strong progress in both of these areas. Though neither of these are at my desired levels. I think I have a good handle on the basics and can build on what I have started. Rome was not built in a day and neither can a new course format. As I develop this course further and streamline the process to make both transparency and reverse teaching core aspects of the course I can apply this process to my other courses as well.

Screenshots of the the Astronomy class Moodle

Here is on of the student Glogsters

Ok! Make Sure you send me your projects?

How did it go?  What worked? what didn't?

Whats next?  How will you change it?

ITS OK IF IT DIDN'T WORK!  But tell me why? and what will you try different!