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Teacher Blogs

By Stacey Roshan, Upper School

April 2017

When I first began flipping my math classroom in 2010, the ability to screencast, upload to the web, and have students be able to watch lectures at their own pace was exciting and innovative. Though that was a step in the direction to a more personalized, student-centered classroom, tech tools that have emerged in the past four years have truly revolutionized what is possible. Two of my favorites are Pear Deck and EDpuzzle. These tools provide rich analytics and insight into individual and class needs. Empowered with this information, I can customize and personalize the learning experience for each student in the classroom.

Students typically watch a video for homework so that we can engage in discussion and critical thinking tasks in the classroom. I assign each of my videos through EDpuzzle and embed questions within the video. EDpuzzle's analytics inform—before students even step into the classroom—how I should run class the next day and alert me to individual student needs immediately. I can then design learning tasks customized to the needs of the class, create the most effective student pairings, and identify student-leaders to facilitate peer-to-peer learning.

The ability to monitor student-progress is extremely powerful for the teacher. But real-time feedback is just as important for the student. Embedded quizzes give students the opportunity to check their understanding immediately. And short-answer questions can be used to guide the students to make big-picture connections, summarize concepts, or take a reflective pause. Not only does the interactivity engage students, it forces them to think more critically, and understand areas where they need to focus questions. This way, students can make the most effective use of their class time.

One of my favorite ways to kick-off classroom discussion is using Pear Deck, a formative assessment tool that allows teachers to ask questions within a presentation and display anonymously the responses of the class on the board. I create a guided activity to ramp students up to thinking about and answering bigger-picture questions. Pear Deck allows me to gauge the tone of the classroom, see where students are making connections, and immediately identify who needs what for the day. To further differentiate and meet individual student needs, I use Pear Deck's student-paced mode so that students can respond at their own pace. Traditional classroom discussion often pressure students into quickly responding, or may lead to quick assumptions that a student who is responding slowly does not know the information as well as a peer who immediately raises their hand. With Pear Deck's student-paced mode, students can work through problems at their own pace. I can monitor progress through the dashboard, in real-time, so that I can target individual needs at the same time I am looking at the overall class analytics. This information allows me to move throughout the classroom efficiently and effectively, and sit down with individual students and provide the precise help they need.

Students should have the opportunity to respond in a format that is most comfortable for them. While some are naturally more vocal, others thrive when they have a moment to process and type out their thoughts. Pear Deck gives the quiet and quick students and the louder and more methodical students equal voice. After each student has responded, I can project all responses on the board for a group discussion. This dialogue is an important part of my class, but using tools such as Pear Deck allows me to ask the question differently and to get a far better sense of individual needs than I ever could before.

My flipped classroom has evolved and continues to transform as tech tools provide new and exciting ways to get insight into each student's needs. These tools allow teachers to provide a level of personalization and customization that simply was not possible less than 5 years ago.

By Stacey Roshan, Upper School

April 2017

Teaching Online AP Calculus AB this year has been an incredible experience - from creating a differentiated learning experience for each student in the class to teaching juniors and seniors to be truly resourceful and independent.

"I don't know why I love it [Online AP Calculus] but I tell everyone it's my favorite class. For the first time it's made me really, really enjoy math" ~Hayley Sanders '18

One of my biggest goals in designing the class was to make the course feel connected - both student-to-student and teacher-to-student. I wanted to ensure that my students felt they were part of a class, working collaboratively to build and strengthen understanding, and strongly connected to me, their teacher. One easy solution was to include assignments each week that required teamwork. Learning online does not mean learning in isolation; in fact, some of the most powerful learning moments happen when students help and explain concepts to one another. And as a teacher, the thing I value most is getting to know my students as individuals. It's not just about teaching them math - it's about learning their strengths and weaknesses so that I can help them maximize success, build confidence, and most of all - enjoy the process of learning!

"What I've enjoyed most has been the freedom in the style of course. It suits me and allows me to work in the most focused environment for myself." ~Douglas Hayes '18

Tech tools incorporated in the class were chosen carefully and serve multiple purposes:

To create a strong sense of community in the course, I chose Slack for real-time messaging and chat.

What is Slack: It's real-time messaging, archiving and search for teams (very popular right now among startups!).

What we use Slack for: For students to problem-solve collaboratively (like they might text message a friend for homework help), ask questions and provide support to their classmates. Students can also use it to Direct Message me with questions, and I can send them private feedback.

There are two synchronous components built into the course - one teacher-led full class video chat and one student-led small group video chat.

The full class, one-hour discussion on Tuesday evenings is led through Zoom.

What is Zoom: Zoom is a video conferencing and web conferencing service that is popular among businesses.

What we use Zoom for: For our weekly synchronous sessions. We can all see and hear one another for discussion and I can also do a screen-share so that students can see me write on my screen.

A Peek Intro Our Online Class:

To engage students in the virtual Zoom session, I use Pear Deck.

What is Pear Deck: Pear Deck is an interactive presentation tool used to actively engage students in individual and social learning.

What we use Pear Deck for: In the weekly full class Google Hangout, we start with a Pear Deck warm-up. This is an interactive presentation where students can watch me present and then participate in questions, as prompted. Students plug their Wacom tablets (a pad students can write on with a digital pen) and then are free to write out their responses to questions as they would on a piece of paper. And what's amazing is that I see them writing in real-time, through the teacher dashboard.

I love seeing the students resolve questions via chat and hearing how they're approaching problems. I definitely enjoy 'seeing' my students a couple of times a week and imagine that my students probably appreciate 'seeing' me in the same way. Opportunities for students to verbally 'chat things out' and process information orally are critically important. Discussion boards and instant messaging are awesome, but there is something about hearing students talk that helps me feel more connected to them. It also helps with differentiation, as some students are stronger verbally than in writing.

"You may think since it's an online class class that you're not going to be connected as much with other people in the class or with the teacher. But you actually are always connected through things like Slack. And each week we have a Google Hangout where we interact with the other students." ~Ben Weinberger

The other synchronous component of the course is a student-led video chat which they record and submit to me so that I can leave feedback and clarify any questions/misconceptions. This is, hands-down, one of the components of the course most important to me. Collaboration and peer-to-peer learning are the name of the game in this activity! I gain so much insight into individual and class needs by reviewing these videos—hearing students problem-solve together and chat out trouble spots with their peers. This is something I value most in my flipped classroom, and which I wanted to preserve and recreate for the online class. These small group video chats serve that purpose.

Initially, I wasn't so sure how this would go, but I have been absolutely amazed by how much good work gets done by students in these 30-minute chats. Students take full responsibility for their learning and stay accountable because they know that I am going to take the time to watch their recording and give weight to this component of their classwork. They also quickly realize that asking good questions in these sessions generates the most valuable feedback.

"[This course has] helped me build skills to be independent and also to reach out and ask questions when I don't understand something. Previously, especially in math, I wouldn't want to ask questions if I didn't understand something because I would be embarrassed. But that does not happen at all in this class. I ask questions whenever I need and it's really great." ~Hayley Sanders

Two-thirds of the way through this first year teaching Online AP Calculus AB, I have spent the most time and energy ensuring collaboration and creating a strong sense of class community. We are constantly chatting and interacting. Instead of asking a friend a question, students enter a question in the class Slack channel. Instead of me asking a student to come in for extra instruction, I DM that student in Slack and leave a short video response if necessary. It is amazing how much we can do online and how well we have gotten to know one another. I have a fantastic group of students to thank for such a powerful first year, filled with many lessons learned for each of us!

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