Tag Archives: edcamp

EdCamp Dallas 2012: Lessons from a Flipped Classroom

The second presentation I attended at edcampDallas was about the flipped classroom model. Since I have only read about the idea online, I wanted to hear about it from someone who is actually doing it. This session turned out to be pleasantly surprising and informative.

The session was put on by Todd Nesloney and Stacey Huffine, though Todd did most of the talking since he was sharing about his personal experience flipping his 5th grade math class. I was surprised to hear about an elementary teacher flipping his classroom, but since he is only in charge of one subject for 78 students, it made a little more sense.

First of all, just like in the previous session, the speaker was a teacher presenting about their own experiences. I think this is part of what makes edcamps so appealing and successful. These are folks who are doing something themselves and then sharing what works and what doesn’t. It feels very honest. I like that.

Todd admitted right away that while he has students watch videos at home for homework, he doesn’t make one every night; they’re just too much work and sometimes a concept is built over several days so it isn’t needed.

He also shared his thoughts about the process of making the videos. Instead of sitting on his couch, laptop in front of him, Todd actually records his videos while standing in front of and drawing on the interactive whiteboard in his classroom. He says that helps put him in the zone of teaching, rather than the zone of vegging which is normally what we want to do on a couch, and he feels the videos are better as a result.

After watching a few of his videos, some of the students complained that they couldn’t see his face during the videos. To please his audience he figured out a way to embed a window showing him while he’s creating the videos. The result? Half the kids like it and half hate it. Some love the personal connection, but other students find it way too distracting because it means there’s too much to pay attention to. They’re trying to watch him work out a problem and trying to look at his face at the same time, and it just doesn’t work. Since the class is so evenly divided, he’s not sure what to do next.

I start with the videos of course, but as Todd and Stacey said several times in the presentation, the video portion of the flipped classroom model is only 10% of the model. Of course as soon as you mention flipping, people immediately think of the videos and tend to focus on that. The other 90%, according to Todd, is pure awesome. He said this year he has not once taught from the front of the room. Instead his students have been involved in project after project, applying math skills instead of doing worksheets and practice.

  • The students have planned a party where they had to do all the budgeting. He said this helped many students grasp making change much more deeply than they ever did solving practice problems on worksheet.
  • They have also made their own videos to teach a concept to someone else. What I like about his method is that after the students made their first videos, the class watched all of them. They discussed what worked and what didn’t. Most of the students realized their first attempts were terrible! Instead of stopping there, the students have gotten the chance to make videos again, and this time they’re learning from previous mistakes. I love opportunities like this for students to do something more than once, reflect, and slowly improve over time.
  • Currently the students are creating board games. They have to write their own multiplication and division problems for the players to solve to win the game. After the games are made, the students will trade and play each others’ games.

I’m having a hard time believing that watching a 5-10 minute video at home is teaching all of the students so well that they don’t need instruction in the class. (I just wrote about this the other day.) However, it does appear to be giving Todd the confidence to entrust his students to do math projects and activities that he shied away from in the past in favor of direct instruction.

In the end, I think the only complaint I have is that there is a “punishment” for students who don’t watch the videos at home. If you don’t watch the video for homework, then during class you have to watch the video and then spend the rest of class time solving worksheet practice problems. The idea is to make the students realize the fun they’re missing out on by not being responsible at home. It sounds like it’s working for him, but this isn’t the approach I would take.

Beyond that, the flipped classroom model seems to be starting on the right foot for Todd and his students. He is obviously genuinely enthusiastic about what he’s doing, and he is also taking the time to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t. I look forward to seeing him again in the future to hear his thoughts as he has more flipping experience under his belt.

EdCamp Dallas 2012: Blogging in the Classroom

This past weekend I attended edcampDallas. I had never heard of an edcamp until I joined the mathtwitterblogosphere back in August, and I count myself lucky that I stumbled upon the Dallas camp happening on September 29. I almost missed it!

So for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, I encourage you to visit the edcampDallas site linked above. There’s a great section titled “What is EdCamp?” that includes information and videos. Until you have time to do that, I’ll summarize it as follows: a conference put on by teachers for teachers. That hardly does it justice, so when you’re done reading this post, go check out the link!

I attended three sessions on Saturday, and learned a lot from each of them. I’m going to break my notes and thoughts on each one into its own blog post. The first session I attended was called “Blogging in the Elementary Classroom” by Cynthia Alaniz. The session was generally about blogging in the classroom, but Cynthia did a great job of focusing on her personal experiences to get ideas flowing from the rest of the group.

Basically what Cynthia does is collaboratively create a class blog with her 4th graders. She uses the blog as a tool to teach students about writing for a digital audience. While Cynthia writes most of the posts early in the year, she skillfully transfers responsibility more and more to the students as the year progresses. At first they might make suggestions about post topics, but eventually the students generate topics on their own and write the posts themselves.

Cynthia also teaches her students how to be responsible digital citizens as they learn how to comment on the blog. The students learn about proper and improper blog comments and the effects comments have on readers.

In addition to teaching writing skills, Cynthia uses various parts of her blog to teach other skills as well. For example, she uses the site visit counter to practice place value, estimating, and subtraction. The students also learn about geography as they learn about the different countries that have visited their blog. Cynthia keeps a large map out in the hallway, and anytime a visitor stops by their blog from a new country, the class marks it on the map.

What I really like about Cynthia’s blog is that she’s giving her students an authentic audience. When students read a book, for example, they know they have a place to share their thoughts about it with real people! The even get to interact with these people through the site’s comments. Cynthia isn’t artificially inventing a motivator for her students. The blog weaves itself seamlessly into the students’ work while giving them an age-appropriate experience with becoming digital citizens. The students love taking part in it and seeing how they can impact the lives of others beyond the walls of their school.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend checking out the blog:


The class will appreciate it, too, because their goal is to have 25,000 visitors by December, so you’ll be helping out the class while seeing firsthand the power of blogging in the classroom.