Photo by Susanica

Over the course of the past year we have been slowly, piece-by-piece, thought-by-thought, prejudice-by-prejudice, reexamining our view of what our classroom of digital natives should look like.  We have implemented small changes here and there to either integrate (or hopefully embed) technology into individual lessons, but it is now time to take that big step and create a unit that utilizes technology.

When considering options for this process the idea of a flipped classroom was very intriguing.  However, I feel it would be impractical to try and implement a flipped classroom for one unit so close to the end of the year.  As Brian Bennett mentioned in his google hangout presentation during our last COETAIL TAS face-to-face meeting, it takes time and patience to train a class in the ways that most effectively utilize the idea of a flipped classroom.  So before I flip, I want to take the time to work through the “training” stage for a class.  If I have not clearly thought through how to implement a flipped classroom, then I set the process up for failure. Whenever we take a risk, failure is a possible outcome, but I do not want that failure to be simply because I did not do my part in preparing.  To start getting a clearer picture of how the process works though, I am going to try and implement a flipped classroom on a small scale in a couple of individual lessons now but I will save a full unit until I have gained greater confidence with the process.

Hell Freezes Over by erutan

Instead, for my project I want to go back to an idea I addressed in Course I: the digital gathering of notes.  In the post Shortcomings … and Hell Freezing Over” I said:

The Techticker site maintained by Mike Bogle, Educational Technologist at the University of New South Wales contained one entry in particular that has inspired me:  “Student Engagement and Technology in the Classroom”.  Mike Bogle uses Richard Buckland as an example of how “the combination of an engaging instructor and empowering technology can have incredible results for student participation.”  Richard Buckland did what I am afraid to do.  Having identified that students were not taking notes in his classes and therefore had trouble recalling details in the future, he began to post his notes on a wiki.  Richard’s presentation “Wikis for Collaborative Learning and Teaching” on this problem can be accessed through this or directly from Youtube.  This presentation intrigued me because Richard Buckland began with some of the same fears that I have, yet his courage to open his notes to the world enhanced the learning experience for students in his class. …

So if you check my OLC, you won’t find my notes posted there yet.  I am still cautious, but I am considering the possibility of changing.  See … miracles do still happen … and I think you will see my “notes”, as generated by students in my classes posted long before Hell freezes over!”

So let’s make a miracle!

The current intention is to have either one or both of my Honors Calculus A classes take notes using googledocs for one chapter.  Though I have not worked out all the details, I intend to have one student responsible for taking notes each class.  These notes will be designed to present the main ideas of the lesson, the key underlying concepts to understand, the “tricks” or hints to look for or help with solving problems and connections with previous topics.  The number of examples they include will be up to them.  The reason for having only one student take notes at this point is two-fold.  Firstly, if the whole class is taking notes on one googledoc, there will be some students who will be off task, letting the rest of the class take their notes for them.  Having one or two official note-takers each class will hopefully help the note-taker stay focused despite having their computer open; and since the class will not see the quality of the notes being produced, they will hopefully be motivated to stay focused.  Secondly, once the notes have been taken, everyone else will have to write a summary reflection on the content of the class as presented by the notetaker(s).  The benefit of this reflection is that students will become reflective thinkers and learn to provide constructive criticism.

It is hoped that these notes will provide benefits for both the students and for me.

For the students, this experience will:

  • Encourage collaboration as they build knowledge as a community of learners.
  • Allow them to go back and revise their notes as their knowledge improves.
  • Archive their growth as learners.
  • Provide them with the same content from multiple sources (classtime, notes and peer reflections).
  • Provide a valuable review tool in the form of a personalized textbook.

For me, this experience will:

  • Provide me with an extra avenue of feedback for students.
  • Allow me to rapidly identify misconceptions.
  • Provide data that will hopefully highlight whether my current method of presenting notes is cumbersome and restrictive or beneficial and directed.

Some of the challenges will be

  • Embracing the changes that occur in the classroom where one or two computers are always open.
  • Structuring pre-project information so students know exactly what is expected of them.
  • Surrendering the control!

Initially there is a strong potential for this to have a disruptive impact on the class simply because it is different from the way we have run class for the previous six months.  Anytime we change routine, there is a period of transition.  Strong scaffolding will be needed to help students know what is expected of them.  This relates to both the note-taking and the reflective comments.  A rubric for tone and quality on how they take notes and comment will be essential.  An example of notes taken in another class would help give direction; as would previewing comments that address both the content of the notes and any missing information, highlighting positives to encourage the note-taker and identifying areas for improvement.

Having started to think through the structure and implications of this project my innate fear is beginning to be transformed into eager anticipation.  I can see the possibilities and dream of the benefits that will result.  For example, how cool would it be if the note-takers began to supplement the notes with external resources they have researched and found, such as YouTube videos, or online university material?  Imagine if the reflective comments began to do the same.  The students would be creating their own version of a flipped classroom where the supplemental material directly addresses the issues they are having rather than the ones I think they might have.  Imagine if the person addressing their areas of uncertainty were their peers through the reflective comments.  Imagine if the reflective comments helped them gain a deeper sense of empathy for others as they see how positive and constructive comments can benefit, encourage, challenge and build up, but destructive comments tear down and destroy.  Imagine if they went back later and referenced where a particular days material was used (eg: “This content is important for when we study derivatives.”) or linked it to content they already know.  Imagine …

Well the groundwork has been laid.  Now all that is left is just to  … JUMP …