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Day 1: The Setup

Recently, I recorded a TeacherCast Podcast with Brett Clark on the concept of a Flipped Classroom.  Brett is an E-Learning coach from the great state of Indiana and has been an invaluable resource to TeacherCast.  The concept of a Flipped Classroom is a very basic, yet revolutionary concept.  The learning of the subject, and the acquiring of knowledge is done by the student with the guidance of the instructor.  The topic is a hot button on all of the social networks.  Before recording the podcast, both Brett and I sent twitter messages asking our followers to suggest questions and topics to hit while we record the podcast. We each received an overwhelming response from our global network of educators.  It was one of the most enjoyable podcasts I have done yet.  Halfway during the recording of the podcast, I had the idea to ask teachers to contact us through Skype and ask Brett a question voice to voice.  Within seconds, we had a response from an administrator from New York online chatting with us.  I couldn’t believe that without much notice, the TeacherCast Podcast had turned into a fully functional “Radio Call-in Show”.  

The concept of doing a flipped classroom was foreign to me, yet I was determined to put it into action in my school.  I teach a Music Theory class made up of students who are both seasoned performers, and students who are new to note reading.  I teach in a computer lab containing 30 iMacs, and a laptop cart with a projector.  It is through these tools that I inspire my students to change the world. . . one quarter note at a time.  

Currently, we are in the middle of our chapter where we learn about building major scales.  The students have a workbook that we complete sections of each day and we also have an extensive website that I have put together to supplement the classroom activities.  We have been working on this chapter for a few days now, in the typical classroom format I would lead the group discussion and the student would take notes.  We also do activities that involve singing, rhythm dictation and I often ask students to come to the board and work out various examples.

To prepare for our Flipped Classroom experiment, I told the kids on Wednesday that they are going to be given an assignment where they were required to come up and teach the class a concept from our chapter.  I told them that everyone’s homework was to learn about the remaining three sections of the chapter and that I would call on them randomly to come up and teach the class, then be able to field questions.  They were all a little taken back by this sense of the unknown, but were eager to work on the assignment. 

I asked them to name some sources of learning that they might tap into for help.  One student said, “Wikipedia”. Another student said “I’ll go ask the band teacher”.  After explaining to them that they already had the information sitting in front of them in the packet, I noticed they were sitting back in their seat and became less timid of the concept of the project.  We discussed the fact that they, as students were going to be responsible for their learning and that their preparation would determine the success of their peers.  We discussed various methods for them to learn the subject materials.  Once the walls of the box were ripped away, students came up with several other solutions for research. One then said “Podcasts,” another said, “The Class Website”.  Suddenly, the board was filled with resources for the students to look at for their information.  

Before the bell sounded on the end of Day 1, I reminded them again that they were responsible for their peers and the education of their peers. I told them they could use any forms of technology or resources they wanted to.  They were instructed to treat the assignment very professionally.  The bell rung, I could tell the room and the students were thinking about what was ahead of them.  

Day 2: Building a Global Lesson

Students arrived with a bit of timidness not knowing what was going to be happening in the class and fearing that they would be called on to get up and teach the class.  What they found on their desks was a sheet of white paper.  As the class started, I told them to draw a complete Circle of 5ths.  As expected, most of them did a great job, however, several of them stopped halfway through and could not complete the quiz.  I then told them to swap papers with a partner.  I instructed the partners to complete the quiz for them and teach the other student what they did wrong and how they could correct their mistakes.  We discussed how as a global community, it was our job to work together for our own common goals and that because of it, the class will succeed.  

We talked about the project once again.  Most of them were well prepared to get up and give their presentations. At that point in the lesson, it was brought to their attention that the project was going to be taking a left turn. 

I introduced them to a website called:  TodaysMeet is a personalized chatroom where teachers can create a private location for a controlled social environment to occur.  I created a room under the name NBTHSMusic and I walked the students through the process of logging in.  We talked about the rules for chat rooms. I told them that they needed to use a name that we could identify them by. Nobody was to use their full name, but nobody was to be posting as an anonymous screen name.  We discussed how the chat room was going to be monitored and used as a supplement to the presentations.  As the student teaching their concept, the rest of the class would be actively participating in a chat based on the students understanding of the topic.  The presenter would be able to participate in that chat as well by sending links to the group for quick access of the materials being covered.  I then gave them 20 minutes to continue their research. 

What happened next was simply breath taking.  Students, without me instructing them, began using the chat-box for the greater good of the community.  With a little guidance from a few teacher text messages, the class started researching the topics as a group and shared links with each other through the chat-log.  They understood that there was a social set of rules to this chat box and knew that anyone in the world was able to see this chat-box.  I reminded them that by doing this project, they would not only be teaching their classmates, but by opening up the chat-box to the global community, they could in effect by teaching the world.  

After a few minutes went by, the chat log was going crazy as links and project ideas were flying through cyber space.  They were active, they were engaged, they were learning.  It was very inspiring to me.  By the time the bell sounded they were so engulfed in their research and content collecting they asked for passes to come back and continue working.  I told them that the chat box was going to be live all day and they can take advantage of it knowing that the links and research they did during the period would be available to them later in the day.  

Day Three: The Flipped Event

I arrived at school early to make sure that the room was set up for guests and that my global friends were available.  What I found was simply amazing.  I set up the chat box through the projector, onto the wall.  I found that the chat log was busy during the night.  Students had been collaborating through the night to prepare for their presentations.  Several of them had created LiveBinders to assist them.  

The bell rang and the students logged into the computers.  Everything was working perfectly.  When the students were settled on the computers, I introduced the class to Darrin Johnson, a 5th Grade teacher from Illinois, who was joining the class by Skype as well as by chatroom.  They started to understand how Global an assignment this was going to be.  We discussed the rules for the class period and I called our first student up to teach the class about Key Signatures.  

For the next 45 minutes, every single student in the class was engaged in learning.  Because they had prior knowledge about the subject matter, they were able to fully participate in the learning experience.  As one of our students was up teaching from the board, the class played the roll of a “class reporter”.  They shared links, photos, and YouTube clips based on their research of the subject.  We were able to ask Darrin questions to help him (a non music teacher) learn the subject.  He was also able to voice and type in questions to ask the kids.  

By the time the period had ended, we had 3 great student presenters give speeches, 20 students fully engaged in the learning process.   Darrin was also able to say good bye to the class after learning about with some great new tools and techniques he could use in his classroom.  

We asked the students what they thought of the day and they were all super charged about the possibilities.  It was truly an awesome day.

Great Educators with a Common Goal:

I wish to thank the following people for inspiring this event:

 Brett Clark (@Mr_Brett_Clark): Thank you for coming on to the TeacherCast Podcast and teaching us about the Flipped Classroom

John Hamilton/Martin Schneider/Steve George: Our great and AMAZING tech team at North Brunswick Twp. High School.  We couldn’t have this lesson without your love and support for our students. Thank you for dealing with a crazy teacher who wants to use advanced classroom technologies beyond our current boundaries.

Chad Marcus: Thank you for supporting my digital creativity.

Darrin Johnson (@AnIowaTeacher): Thank you for coming on the TeacherCast Podcast a few weeks back and dealing with a Zombie of a guest.  (@GrogtheZombie)Blog Link


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