Students will get their grade progress reports on Monday. I thought I should report on my progress as well. This is the beginning of my second year to flip my class. I'm discovering in some ways it's really my first year. I teach physics. Last year I had about 25 Honors/GT students. I flipped that class using videos made by others and relying on a flipclass attitude. It worked really well. This year I have been given about 80 students of all different abilities - everybody. I have fully committed to making my own videos and other class resources. My students are engaged in weekly reflective writing. I'm trying to use my emerging skills with growth mindset language. This year is turning out to be challenging; I hope it is equally rewarding.
What's going well:
Most of my students are working hard. I make their work asynchronous during the week - that means I lay out what I expect them to accomplish on Monday and they have until Friday to complete their work. The students are really appreciating have the flexibility to work at their own pace. I'm seeing that giving them TIME is a huge gift that many appreciate. Most students really like being able to watch the videos and take notes at their own pace. Because of that many students are taking better notes and are more engaged. They also appreciate having the opportunity to ask questions - either on a Google form or the next day in class. I think they feel empowered and respected.
I use the Minds On Physics modules from The Physics Classroom to check for understanding. Students have to complete an assigned number of modules each week that address the concepts we are learning. Students love and hate them. They like that they can do them as often as needed until they successfully complete the modules. The asynchronous timing and modules provide the autonomy and mastery component identified by Daniel Pink in his book "Drive."
I have several students who are blossoming under this structure. Students who traditionally struggle in their classes are finding renewed interest under this model. I have seen frustration turn into smiles this week. I have seen students begin to believe in themselves and begin to think of themselves as "smart" and capable. Some have stayed up to three hours after school - happily. When studying is THEIR choice they are showing a real commitment to their education - refusing to accept defeat. It has been inspirational and emotional to witness.
We are DOING physics in class. I am attempting to create inquiry opportunities in class that mirror their online experiences - or is it the other way? The students are getting to experience real 1st person learning opportunities that are reinforced and examined online as well.
The students are writing on Fridays. They are learning to reflect on their experiences and self assess what they have learned through the week. We are not where we need to be yet, but we are moving forward. I have learned that if you REALLY want to learn what's in a student's mind, ask them to write. You will find out what they think and what they know.
What's not going well:
I teach in a 1:1 school with laptops. This year every student received a brand new laptop - replacing our old ones. The tech department has increased our bandwith and updated the access points. Our equipment and infrastructure is actually quite impressive for a small rural school. But they have also tightened the filters... I cannot seem to find a way to provide video content online. I have been trying to work with the tech department - so far without success. I confess I am frustrated. We have tried Sophia. And YouTube for schools. And Embedding in my Weebly. I tried embedding the actual video in my Weebly - that worked for about five minutes. I'm reduced to providing videos by copying them on student flash drives. Oh, did I mention our school has a server dedicated exclusively to videos? I do not understand at this time why that's not an option... My students have new laptops and they have to access my content on their own smart devices - which they are not allowed to use at school. I'm incredibly frustrated.
Some students are procrastinating. They are off balance not knowing how to "play the game." They are waiting until late in the week to do their work. They then complain when they don't have time to get help.
Not all students have bought into the reflective writing. I accept most of the blame for that - I have never taught writing. Many are working hard. Many are just putting down on paper what they hope I will accept. I have a friend that calls such writing "word barf." Some of the writing is just that - words regurgitated on paper with the same sick repulsion one associates with the physical event. So far I lack the instructional skills to change that as much as I would like. I am responding to each student and giving feedback with growth language. We'll see how it goes.
Some students are behind already. Next week they face mandatory tutorials to catch up from last week AND they have the material for the new week to address. They have a large obstacle to overcome.
I think I am seeing the difference between commitment and good intentions.
I have explained to many students this week that confusion and frustration nearly ALWAYS precede understanding. The point of confusion and frustration also puts one at a crossroads - it gives you an option to persevere or to find an excuse. When we get frustrated and confused we can complain about how much time we have already spent on the problem and we have "other things to do." I hear, "We tried." "I have spent ____ hours on this, not to mention..." Blah, Blah, Blah... They honestly have good intentions but that doesn't get it done.
All of the students started out working hard - then it got "hard." They all have good intentions of doing the work. A few lack the commitment - it' easier to have an excuse than face one's own frustrations.
This is where the growth mindset comes into play. When individuals reach the crossroads I mentioned, they have a choice to make. I believe the choice is influenced by their mindset. Those with a growth mindset are persistent. They continue to work the problem they face, staying with it until they are successful. They use available resources and get help when they need it. They focus on the goal and commit to success. They also find it - eventually.
Those with a fixed mindset find an easy way out. They see frustration and confusion as a challenge to their intelligence and a blow to their self image. Students will sometimes cheat, or expect someone to give them the answer. They blame me for their failure. I'm either too hard, won't help them, or don't like them. "The school" made them take the class...
For myself - I am committed. I have already seen a "light" start to shine in the eyes of some students. In education we are dealing with student's lives and their futures. Every day I influence how a child thinks and how they see themselves. 'nuf said...
I hope that as I continue to teach a growth mindset I will have more students commit to their education and have fewer failures - rather than good intentions.