Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reflections on #FlipCon14

It began with my first Voxer conversation a few days before FlipCon14.  Chris Crouch and I connected using Voxer, looking for a way to share our upcoming conference experiences.  I was headed to FlipCon, the annual conference for educators involved with flipped learning, and he was going to be traveling to Atlanta for the annual ISTE conference. Both of us agreed to share the cool tools we learned about at our conferences, but by the first morning of FlipCon, we hadn't quite figured out the best way to do that.  Not long after I picked up my nametag and sat down with a cup of coffee in Mars, Pennsylvania, eagerly waiting for the opening keynote address by Molly Schroeder, I heard the now familiar chirp of a Vox alert.  Chris wondered if he might use Voxer to "sit in" on FlipCon. I wasn't quite sure how to do that without running through my phone battery quickly, but I had another idea.  What about a collaborative Google Doc of session notes?  And rather than just me sharing my notes from each session, I asked the community of educators attending FlipCon14 both in person and virtually to help me.  I tweeted out a link to my open Google doc, requesting help building a  collaborative session notes for the presentations given at the conference.  What I didn't expect was just how many people were interested in helping build our digital conference resource.

ELA Flippers - Cheryl Morris, Andrew Thomasson, Kate Baker, Beth Oing, and others
Over the course of my two days at FlipCon14, I had people both in person and virtually sharing ideas, links, and presentation resources via our open document.  By the close of the conference yesterday, the Google doc, which got its start just a few minutes before Molly took the stage on Tuesday, was already over 35 pages long. It continues to be a living document, filled with session links, quotes from presenters, photos, and tools of all sorts. And in a way, we used this collaborative document to flip our Flipped Learning conference.  Teachers from all disciplines and levels, from a variety of education backgrounds, connected to explore ideas, share with one another, and build our own resource for learning. We took ownership of our learning experiences, shared new knowledge, and applied it to our collaborative space.  And these are the ideals of flipped learning.

Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams sharing stories
Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann, founders of FlipCon, share in the new book Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement that flipped learning transforms the learning space into one that is student-centered, with learners using face-to-face class time to engage in creative and critical thinking.  "Flipped learning is a pedagogical approach..." Sams and Bergmann write, that transforms the classroom into a "dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter" (6).  So it was powerful experience for me as an educator to also be emersed in that dynamic environment at FlipCon.  Throughout the two days of FlipCon14, participants were encouraged to connect, collaborate, and create.  This was not your sit-and-get type of conference.  I walked away from FlipCon not only with a some new tools (and a couple new books!) but with many new connections and the start of a number of new classroom collaborations for this coming fall. FlipCon was just the beginnning, and much like I hope my students do, I walk away from the experience with more questions than answers and excitement about where those questions will lead me.  

Jason Bretzmann leads a fantastic panel discussion
FlipCon14 = Selfie Bingo. Here's a selfie with Kate Baker

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Principles of Flipped Learning

I had an opportunity to connect with teachers at the William Penn Charter School today interested in learning more about the flipped learning approach to teaching. As I shared the explore - flip - apply model that I use most often in my own high school English classroom, I was reminded of just how similar this approach to teaching is to the inquiry and experiential-based models of education that have come before. Both of these pedagogies place student learning at their center, and like these previous models, the flipped approach encourages flexibility, choice, autonomy, and opportunities to master content and demonstrate skill development.

Interested in learning more? Check out this introduction to flipped learning. You'll find a planning sheet linked in this presentation to help you design your first flipped lesson.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cutting In

Not long ago, I lurked as Paul Allison, teacher, writer, blogger, and host of the weekly Teachers Teaching Teachers Hangout, chatted with some of the contributors to the recently published collection of poetry titled Teaching with Heart. Their previous collection, Teaching with Fire, rests comfortably on my bookshelf, a gift from a former colleague, with many more pages dog-earred than not. And as I listened to that night's chat with Sam Intrator, Kevin Hodgson, and others, I was inspired by the power of poets. Carefully selected words speak to the desires and fears that linger in all of us, whether we are 13 or 93. Poetry confronts us, connects us, calls us to respond. So the other morning when Teaching with Heart arrived on my doorstep along with Austin Kelon's Newspaper Blackout (the inspiration for this creation), and Michael Cirelli's The Grind, I had poetry on my mind, words and ideas swimming through my thoughts, waiting to be written.

It rained the other night, not a downpour, but the kind of rain that pulls you into a deeper sleep when it slips down your windows in the pre-dawn hours. And when I stepped outside to load my boys into the car, our morning routine to get them off to preschool, I was struck by the smell of wet soil. Our garden is just beginning to pop with green. Soybeans, green and yellow beans, radishes, and kale. This is the first year that I've grown kale. My family eats a lot of kale, but I've hesitated to grow it not because it is difficult to grow, it isn't, but because I have a history with kale.

At 13 and 14, I worked in the muck. In Western Michigan, where the soil is damp and dark, farmers grow kale, collard and mustard greens, cabbage, and letteuce of all varieties in large farms we simply called "the muck." For two summers, I worked with other teens from break of dawn to late afternoon, weeding rows two and three times the length of football fields, slicing stalks of kale, washing and boxing greens. It was the most physically demanding job I have ever had. I would come home each night needing to clean soil from my fingernails, ears, and nose. By close of summer my palms were callosed, stained a mucky brown that soap would not wash away. But, I made enough money to pay for my first car.

With about 25 years of distance, I can see those fields of kale a bit differently. But for about 24 years, I hated kale.

Cutting In
     by Jennifer Ward

Lingering damp
the scent of soil seeps
beneath my skin
awakes memories packed away
of summers spent
in yellow slickers
sharpening knives
each morning
in the barn.
Teenage girls to one side
eyeing each other
watching the older farm hands
not yet men
like a middle school dance
comparing nicks and scars left
behind when we cut
a bit too close.
Piling into trailers
hauled out to beds
where we'd never sleep
but would bare our backs
to midday sun
and work our
calloused fingers deep
gossiping between
rows of green.

We were trying on women
as we labored
in the fields
and peddled our bikes
home each night
pockets full of
piece work pay.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

All About Poetry

The last few days have been all about poetry. Early this past week, I was offered the opportunity to attend next weekend's West Chester University Poetry Conference. I am very much looking forward to participating in a workshop session with slam poet Michael Cirelli, who was recently interviewed by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation's for a Poetry Friday post. And coincidentally, I received a flyer just a few days ago from the Dodge Foundation about their upcoming Teacher Day in October, part of the biennial Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. And so I've been reflecting on the importance of poetry, both in terms of my role as a literature teacher as well as to me personally.

When meeting someone for the first time, I don't usually declare myself a writer. However, this past year I have come to realize that in many ways I am. I mark moments with lines of poetry. My bookshelves are home to writing notebooks of varying sizes and varying saturation of coffee stains. Inspired lines are quickly scribbled on post-it notes and napkins, stuffed unceremoniously into my book bag or purse. Google Drive and Evernote safely keep untold number of drafts, moments in progress. I write to understand, to be understood, to remember, and to hold fast to the emotions of particular moments.

So, since the universe seems to be calling me to reflect on the power of poetry, I thought I would take a moment to share a piece that I've been working on recently, inspired by a few still moments in my otherwise chaotic home.

Patron of Their Art

Each room filled with absurd still lifes:
A rubber chicken swims with whales,
Mighty Thor defends against the Rancor
though Mjölnir is no match for Lego claws,
Ann and Andy rest easy in the rocking chair
Comfortably clutching Wampa and baby black bear.
Mother bear finds respite on brother's bed.

Warm silence cradles each work in progress
While artists are off to study other subjects.
Scenes crafted and unfinished,
Ready to be rearranged.

I will not disturb this Dada,
The irrationality and intuition of childhood,
To shuffle it away into drawers of logic and order.
Instead, I will let Legos lie underfoot,
Leave the menagerie that crowds out sleep,
Knowing that too soon the day will come when
little fingers will forget about such art.

Related Posts: