Friday, November 18, 2011

Don't MAKE me right-click you!

From my perspective, the class that had the most negative feedback about flipping last week went much better this week. In fact, I think it's that feedback that may well have saved that particular class from entering a death spiral. What's with the right-click? In the live, virtual classroom, it's all I need to remove a student. Significant to today's topic....

My week (why didn't I do this one day at a time?!?):

Monday: Face the music.
I let them all know that I had read their comments about flipping very carefully and taken them very seriously. I told them the main themes I had inferred, paraphrased of course:
  • too many voicethreads to watch in a week
  • too much work to do in a week
  • not enough time during class for questions and individual help
  • not enough teacher to go around for all the people who need help
  • foolish banter going on in the chat during class is very distracting
  • nobody wants to ask questions on the voicethread because nobody wants to look stupid
  • it's better to learn something live with a group so you can hear their questions
Then I gave them my pledge to do the following:
  • I will control my urge to talk
  • no more than 3 voicethreads per week
  • which will result in less work
  • I will give more time for questions during class
  • I will be more systematic about helping people
  • Which will result in more teacher to go around
  • I will remove from class anyone who continues to distract with foolish banter (everyone is one right-click away from that in the online class!)
  • I will mix things up so that sometimes we are doing a lesson and sometimes we are doing work.
What I ask of them:
  • control your urge to banter foolishly
  • ask for help only after you have made the effort - ie watched the lesson, or tried some examples, or something
  • take the responsibility to prove to me that you have made the effort - ie leave a comment on the voicethread, hand things in, keep your checklist up to date, use it to ask for help
  • if you are too self-conscious to post a question on the voicethread, make it a private question, which I will answer publicly, but without identifying who asked it
That little speech took a while, of course, so right away, on Monday, they did not have enough time to get the gizmo and the worksheet on distance formula done....oh well, I told them today is an exception. They worked well, things were quiet. Voicethread on slope for homework.

Tuesday: Taking it out for a test drive.
Started out with foolish banter! Incredible! Did Audrey do what she said she would? No. Wimp that I am, I scolded with "Seriously? After what I said yesterday?"  "Sorry miss". The rest of the period was work, questions, help, etc, great. I got to everyone that needed me, but not too many needed me. No voicethread for homework.

Wednesday: Right-click day
Foolish banter. Wow. Right-clicked one kid out of there. Did not even have to tell anyone why. Foolish banter stopped immediately. Did an activity on slope with everyone in the class. Because I need to talk to them as a class a little bit and because they need to work together and know what they are all thinking. And I thought it would give a visual on what we're doing next. But it took too long. Sigh. They had only 25 minutes to do work/ask questions. So I eliminated one item from the checklist. I figured I'm the one who should pay, not them. One girl immediately thanked me! Nice! Tonight: voicethread on midpoint.

Thursday: Turning point? Maybe?
No banter. I got an inspiration: I wrote the current tasks on the eboard and systematically went through them like "Who has questions about this?", starting with the least recent item. I then helped that group in a bor. Came back to main room, repeated for the next task. Answered everyone's questions, got in some practice with those who needed it. I had 8 minutes left at the end of the period for miscellaneous stuff, like questions about tomorrow's topic, from someone going ahead! Wow. That felt good. I also had a talk with the one who got right-clicked. All good. I noticed that one person had already filled in the feedback paragraph for this week, and she is very happy with the new structure. She even said that she likes having a place to give feedback! Can't ask for more than that.

Friday: Bring it on.
We'll see what happens. I hope I don't have to right-click, but I got my finger on the trigger. I enjoyed yesterday too much to slide back now, and I think everyone else did too. Last night they had to watch the third and final voicethread for the week, on division points of a line segment. So far, I see 5 comments (out of 11 students). I'll group them as yesterday, but this time I'll start with the most recent task, which is the division point practice questions. That way, the kids who are the most up to date don't have to wait for everyone else, and hey, maybe they'll even be able to help the others. 
Now that things are more organized, I can think straight. My deep thoughts are flowing.
  • Every week from now on, every class will be invited to give feedback. For now, I'll suggest a topic, but it will always be open-ended. It's absolutely invaluable. Thanks to just this one week, I feel so much better about this class. I knew it was getting off track, but I just couldn't get my hands back on the steering wheel. Thank goodness for these kids and their intelligent, honest, constructive words.
  • Immediately after each voicethread, their first task will be a super-quick quiz, like 4 or 5 questions, with immediate feedback for them AND for me, something that shows up at my end right away so I can see who is doing it and how they are doing. Like the gizmo assessment questions at explorelearning, or the khan academy practice questions, or, if I can get my act together, my own questions using Andy Schwen's assessment template. The key is- I don't have to spend any time checking their checklists, or asking them, to find out if it's done or if they're getting it. I just have to look at my computer screen. Then it is ON, and I know where to start to fix any basic problems before they dive into the fun stuff. It could even be a way for some of them to skip over a voicethread! I just thought of that - if they already know something, they shouldn't have to "learn" it from me!
  • Once a week, I'll have a period in which we all do the same thing, either all together or in groups, whatever, an activity in which we learn/discuss/react to/process something together. That day there will be no work to hand in or correct. So it will have to be on something that they are ready to go deeper into, or maybe an intro to what's next. There might be a voicethread for homework, but that's it. That will be their work for the day. Ideas for that:
  • Individual or small group presentations.
  • A Malcolm Swann activity in small groups.
  • Watch a video and react to it.
  • Read a blog and react to it.
  • A webquest.
Now I don't want to give the impression that I enjoyed kicking someone out of my class. My own reluctance to follow through with it is proof of that. I much prefer getting my message across by modelling the behaviours I value, like maturity, accountability, open-mindedness etc, but you know how it is. Sometimes people just need more than that, myself included, After all, I needed to hear the brutal truth from my students in order to grow as a teacher. It was kind of like being right-clicked. I didn't like it but it ultimately helped, which I hope is the same outcome for these kids.

Fingers crossed. And poised on the mouse.

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