Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Flipping the Classroom Lodge McCammon Style

Dr. Lodge McCammon was a featured speaker at the Upstate Technology Conference in June. I enjoyed his keynote address as well as his engaging enthusiasm and energy. While I had heard about the concept of flipping the classroom before, I had never been presented with compelling data to support it, and I had never seen it done in McCammon style. Flipping the classroom essentially moves the lecture to being homework and the application, drill, practice and activities to being classwork. It makes sense. In a flipped classroom the teacher spends more time with students practicing a skill or concept and less time lecturing. The lecture is video recorded using a simple flip camera and white board tiles or chart paper rather than power point or movie maker slides as seen in the video clip below. No fancy technology is needed.

After listening to Dr. McCammon speak I think that even if a classroom or a school isn't completely flipped, there are benefits to using McCammon's flipped classroom techniques to improve teaching and learning. According to McCammon, a 60 minute in-class lecture is equal to an eight minute video lecture. This is purely due to classroom management. I am not saying poor classroom management either. It is simply the regular management of 25 or more students in a classroom that makes delivering content take a long time. Most teachers know this as their daily reality.

In a truly flipped classroom students view lecture videos at home as their homework. Let's just say the  issues of students choosing not to watch the lecture or being unable to watch the lecture due to lack of technology at home make doing this unrealistic for you. Even recording lectures and playing them during class is  worthwhile.  If a teacher video recorded her lesson and played it to her students even during class, this would reduce lecture time, enable easy repeat viewing in class or at home, and allow the teacher to spend less energy giving the same lecture four to six times a day. In addition, there would essentially be two versions of the same teacher, one that is live and one that is on video. This would enable the teacher to be the ultimate zen master of classroom management during the lecture. The lecture would be able to be paused, repeated, forwarded, and used again. This approach would lessen teacher fatigue and enable the teacher to use her energy in a more meaningful way.

One of the points that McCammon made that really stuck with me was that the relationship with the classroom teacher has a direct influence in the student's learning and performance. McCammon provided convincing evidence that content is much more meaningful and powerful when it comes from the student's own teacher. That realization makes teacher-student relationships in traditional classrooms something to emphasize and re-evaluate. It gives weight to that old saying, "Your students will not care what you know, until they know that you care."

After hearing Dr. McCammon speak, looking at his website and videos, I am convinced that teachers can benefit from learning about this concept even if they have no intention of trying it out in their own classrooms.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Auntie Librarian vs the Evil Laminator of Doom

It's back to school time. It's that time of year when we teachers converge on the lone laminating machine in the teacher work room with a powerful desire to coat countless documents in shiny clear plastic.

In the final day or two before the students return, during that push to create vibrant, colorful learning spaces for our students, the laminator ALWAYS runs out of film. Someone must load the machine with new rolls of laminating film, quickly. It's an emergency. Today, that someone was me.

I was working in the library when the summons came. It was only a matter of time before it happened. The person who had changed the film on the laminator for over 20 years had retired.  And now, the duty was falling to me.  "Mrs. Tazerouti, the laminator is out of film and the sixth grade teachers need to laminate their id cards!" said the teacher. I put my stack of books on the table and headed to the teacher workroom.

"Wish me luck. I’ve never done this before." I said nervously as I walked past the teachers in the work room remembering the laminating disasters of years past that sent teachers flocking to other schools to use their laminators.   “Good Luck,” they said. 

Evil Laminator of Doom
I looked at the machine.  I studied how the film passed through the rollers, over and under the rollers, and out the back of the machine.

Then, I turned around and went to the front office to make an announcement on the school’s PA system. “If there is ANYONE in the building who knows how to load film in the laminator, please come to the workroom now.”

No one came.  

“Is there something wrong?” my fellow teachers asked with concerned faces. “No” I told them, “I just don’t want to mess it up.” 

I load the film and turn on the machine. Another teacher helps. The film wraps around the middle roller several times instead of coming out the back of the machine.  I had failed to use a piece of cardboard or a manila folder to thread the film through the machine. The other teacher leaves, and I spend the next 45 minutes using an exacto knife, scissors, pliers and big tweezers from the science lab to pull and cut away the thick layers of laminating film from the middle roller. I am sweating. Teachers pop into the workroom to check my progress.  “What will we do?” I hear one teacher whisper to another. “Where will we go?”

Jumbled up words! Oh No!
After de-laminating the middle roller, it is time to try again. This time I have the necessary manila folder, but I am scared. Google. That’s it, I’ll search up a step by step guide or even watch a video showing me how to do this correctly. I do a quick search.  Access Denied. The sites are blocked! The phone rings, it’s someone from the high school, their laminator is out of film too.  Like me, the person at the high school has just freed their middle roller of laminating film and wants to know how to access an online how-to guide that is not blocked by the filter. We laugh and swap stories. It is good to know someone else shares my struggle. But secretly I worry. “What will we do if I can’t fix this? We can’t go to the high school now, and those elementary teachers will never let us near their laminator!”
Today is the last work day before the students return. I keep digging online until I find an unblocked “how to load your laminator” web page. When I print it something makes the words jumble together, making it impossible to read the crucial steps two and three. I copy and paste the web page into Word and print it. Then, I fax a copy over to the high school and head to the workroom to conquer the laminator.

With the help of the principal and another teacher, I thread the machine. We’ve done it. The machine heats up and it actually works! The squeaky sound of the plastic feeding through the machine is music to my ears.
Victory! Word gets out that the laminator is fixed and happy teachers flood the workroom. Let the laminating begin!

Welcome back to school! Happy laminating everybody!