Flipping Back to School Night


Flipping BTSN


No, I’m not trying swear about Back to School Night… we actually “flipped” it! Thanks to the idea from the famous Scott Bedley who has been flipping back to school night for several years now.

WHY did we flipped BTSN at Quantum Academy?

We are all crunched for time. Parents are. Teachers are. And there just isn’t enough time to really get to know each other. So one of the first times parents are invited into our classrooms, traditionally we inundate them with information “sit and get” style. In the past, I have looked out at my parents during BTSN events and have seen their tired faces, after having worked all day long, trying to focus, write notes, and learn about what their child will be doing all year. And yes, we all know parents use this time to gauge their child’s teacher. To see if their child’s teacher has passion, commitment, and knows their stuff. But is this traditional method of BTSN the best way to do this?

I say no. Parents can learn all the nitty gritty stuff like behavior expectations, curriculum guidelines, and contact information in a better way. This is when flipping comes in. Why not create videos parents can watch BEFORE BTSN so they can watch and learn about your classroom in the comfort of their own home and maybe even while wearing their pajamas? Why not give them an opportunity to gather their questions BEFORE they come to BTSN so they can ask you in a more personal manner? Why not open the doors of your classroom on BTSN for both parents and students and let the students do the talking about their classroom? All of these questions led us to decide that at our school we are Flipping Back to School Night.

HOW did we flipped BTSN?

We took advice from Scott Bedley and created about 15 1-2 minute videos by screencasting on our computers. We simply used Quicktime on our laptops. We co-created slides using Google Slides. We divided up the number of videos between our principal, Ted Kirkbride, and I. We created almost all of the videos that covered all the “school-wide” details. The teachers then created an introduction video where they introduce themselves and describe what makes them passionate about teaching. They were also welcome to add any other videos as well. What is great about making many short videos rather than one long video, is that it allows parents to watch in small chunks, rewatch parts they need refreshing about, and next year they can skip the videos they already have watched to save some of their valuable time. Also, from the perspective of making the videos, by creating smaller videos we could easily share the responsibility of creating them.

Once we had all of our videos created we posted them online in two ways. First, we posted them on our school website. Then we also created a Youtube playlist so all the videos could be watched easily at once. About a week before BTSN night we sent a link out to all parents and explained how BTSN will work at Quantum Academy.

I know some of you are thinking… what about equal access? What about parents who do not have access to technology to watch the videos? Here is how we solved that problem. We opened up our computer lab on the evening of BTSN and allowed those parents to come early to see the videos.

HOW was time spent during BTSN?

This is the best part… we had great one on one conversations with parents and students allowing us to make better connections with them. Students had tour guide sheets to help show their parents around. Students got to pitch their first Genius Hour project to their parents and parents had an opportunity to give feedback by using a rubric to help their child with their idea. I believe everyone had a great time during the event. There were far more smiles and stronger family connections were made. Perhaps this is something you may want to consider trying at next year’s Back to School Night Event.


App Differently [SDCUE 2013 session]


No longer does our old pedagogy match the changing world that is all around us.

Our students today deserve more. They deserve more time creating; less time filling out bubbles. They deserve more time collaborating; and less time sitting quietly at their desks filling out worksheets. They deserve more time communicating in ways they never imagined possible. And they deserve to be challenged to think critically about the world around them.

Some of the biggest critics of students using technology in the classroom visualize “zombie” children mindlessly clicking away on their screens. Well I am here to shout from the rooftops that when implemented correctly, technology integration can redefine how students learn in your classroom.

Take a look at Ruben R. Puentedura‘s SAMR model.

Or watch the simplified version of the SAMR model here.

In order to reach the Modification and Redefinition level, you need to take an honest look at how you integrate iOS apps into you classroom. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are the apps my students using “creative apps”?
  • Are the apps my students using primarily “skill review” type of apps?
  • To read more about the difference between these types of apps visit this blog post.

In my classroom, I limit my students’ use of “skill review” apps because they really aren’t too different from a worksheet. Skill review apps promote  more drill type of activities. However, I have many “creative apps” for my students to access so they can use iOS apps to create, collaborate, communicate, and to think critically (4 Cs of the Common Core). This is how you can move to the modification and redefinition of the SAMR model. In my classroom my students and I, App Differently.

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If you attended my session at SDCUE 2013 you may feel a tad overwhelmed by the number of amazing apps that I shared with you today. So have no fear, I have included a list of all the apps I discussed in my session and a few bonus ones as well. Also, in my presentation, I included student samples so  you could see how these apps can be used.

Creative Apps for the Classroom:

Sonic Pics, Storyrobe, or 30 Hands for digital storytelling, storyboarding, and reading skills.

Puppet Pals is a digital puppet theater that creates recorded movies of puppet shows.

Mad Lips allows you to make any image TALK! See my Talking Book Covers post here.

Trading Cards by Read Write Think allows you to create trading card about historical figures and characters from stories. Another great one by Read Write Think is Word Mover.

Comic Touch Lite or Zoodle are great for creating comic strips. I also use this app for reading strategy practice and for annotating pictures in science and social studies.

Popplet is a mind mapping app which can be used in a very substitution type of way. However if you think creatively you can use this app in a way that promotes critical thinking. I use this app for my students to document evidence from the text to support their opinions.

Pic Stitch plus Skitch to annotate images for any content area!

ThingLink creates a “touchable” image where students can type in information, place links, or videos right onto the picture. This is great for students to add to their blog posts.

Subtext is one of my favorite apps ever. My students love it too. With this app my students and I do collaborative reading.

Explain Everything is an app that allows you to screencast. I use this app in my flipped math class. My students even create videos to show what they know.

Evernote is a great teacher app. I use this app to monitor student progress during reading and writing conferences. I love that I can record a student reading aloud and keep a record of their oral reading.

Edmodo (or My Big Campus) are tools that allow your class to interact with each other. It is a “safe” social media for education.

Kidblog is a webpage and also an app. This is a blogging tool that will allow you to set up student blogs and monitor their posts and comments. You can have their blogs set to share with the world or only with each other in the class. Read my Kidblog poster here.

The camera can be your best too ever, too! Have students go outside and find evidence of geometry around school. Look for parallel lines, intersecting lines, acute angles, etc. Allow them to edit their images in Snapseed.

My favorite movie making apps are iMovie (paid) and Splice (free). iMovie’s trailers are a great tool for beginning videographers.

Vintagio is a wonderful silent moving making app. This is great for a classroom environment because students don’t have to worry about sound. Read my Vintagio post here.

Please come visit my blog often as I love to blog about how iOS apps can redefine learning. Also, I will begin blogging more about Google Apps for Education.



Flip Out or Start Flipping: Why I Started Flipping Math Lessons


As the new school year approached, changing from second grade to fourth grade started to set a little bit of anxiety into my normally easy going attitude about the back-to-school season. It wasn’t the kids I was worried about. I had had most of them in second grade already. It wasn’t joining a new team of teachers, either. I already deeply respected this group of teachers. It was fourth grade math that had me biting my nails. I started studying the math curriculum during the summer, piecing out the big ideas and creating student “I can” statements. As I delved further and further into the curriculum, I noticed a common theme. The standards are challenging! Especially coming from the perspective of a career primary teacher. I knew immediately that math would prove to be an area of focus for this upcoming school year.

As my fourth grade students and I ventured through the first three chapters of the math curriculum I had two groups of students form in my classroom. The ones who got it the first time and the ones who needed more TIME. But, as you all know, TIME is a teacher’s biggest enemy! We have the inevitable forces pressuring us to rush through lessons and move onto the next chapter before all of our students have mastered the skill. This approach “leaves students behind,” but it sure does ensure every single standard was “taught” before that state test comes around. I am sure most of you reading this do not feel comfortable with this type of approach. Neither do I.

It was after Back to School Night, where several parents came to me to discuss math homework. Even after reassuring parents, “I have your child in my intervention small group” I walked away from the evening knowing in my heart something in my math program had to change. It had been sitting in the back of my head for the past year. I had known the answer all along. Just the thing that would help all of my students access the math content in the pace that was right for them. I had read about it. Followed chats on Twitter about it. I had even talked to the gurus themselves, Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman at ISTE12. The answer was to either to continue “flip out” and continue this pedagogy paradox, or flip my math lessons!

The weekend following Back to School Night, I recorded Chapter 4‘s math lessons on my iPad using Explain Everything, posted them on YouTube, and made links to the videos on my class website. I sent the email out to parents explaining the new change and held my breath. I was nervous about what parents would think. Most of them had never heard about flipped learning and I didn’t discuss this at back to school night.

The kids came to school Monday morning and I had a serious conversation with them. I asked them what they thought about the math homework so far. I got a variety of answers. “Its great,” exclaimed my highest math students. “It’s hard,” from some of my brave students. But many students said, “It takes me so long.” Many of them were going home and practicing their problems incorrectly and it would take me several days to undo that behavior. In addition, they were spending way too long to complete it! I asked them if it would be okay if I came home with them to help them with their homework. They loved this idea! They said I could have dinner with their family and everything. Then one intuitive student said, “How are you going to be at all of our houses in one night?” Ha! That was the question I was hoping for and that is when I explained to them how we are going to be learning math from now on.

Flipping in education can mean a variety of things. But the simplest definition is the idea that students watch instructional videos (made by their teacher) at night for homework so that students arrive to school ready to apply the skills they learned. In my flipped classroom environment, the emphasis is not only the videos, but more importantly, how I now utilize my time in the classroom with my students. And remember when I said, TIME is a teacher’s biggest enemy? The twenty to thirty minutes I would have traditionally spent teaching a whole group lesson now becomes time for me to work with students. We spend less time using worksheets to practice skills and more time working in small groups to apply the math skills to real world applications. My students are learning math by playing with math. They are writing about math. They are creating their own equations for friends to solve. They are applying all of those 21st Century skills we keep talking about in education: creating, collaborating, communicating, and using critical thinking skills.

But the question you should all be asking me at this point is, well, does it work? Here is my response to that question… Let’s look at the data. My formative assessment with chapter 3 (which was addition and subtraction) showed that 50% of my students had demonstrated mastery. Chapter 3 was a review chapter from third grade math, yet my students were not effectively mastering the skills. They were doing homework each night, I was teaching a whole group lesson, and allowing time for independent practice as I pulled small groups. However, when I started flipping my math lessons with chapter 4 I got different results. 90% of my students passed the formative assessment! I should also add the skills in chapter 4 are far more challenging as this is the first time students learn to use variables, parentheses, and this chapter has a heavy emphasis on problem solving skills. Additionaly, since beginning my flipped math class, I have had an almost 100% success rate with math homework!

I have had parents come to me thanking me for making the videos. Even parents of other fourth grade students (not in my class), who had heard through the grapevine about my videos, approached me explaining how the videos are really helping with homework. The students claim they love having the ability to “pause” me. Wouldn’t we all want to pause our teachers every now and then? But seriously, what they mean is that while they try to catch up in their note taking they can actually pause me and then press play when they get caught up! They love the power of being able to rewind me if they missed something, too. The flipped lessons allow them to work a pace that is appropriate for them and my students are becoming far more responsible with asking me questions about their learning.

I plan to continue this journey of flipped learning and the word is spreading! My fourth grade team wants to join in on the effort and help me create videos. So if you have been thinking, researching, or pondering the idea of flipped learning, I hope my blog post helps push you to the point where you realize you can either continue to flip out or start flipping!

Here is an example of one of my videos. I used the iPad app called Explain Everything to create this. There isn’t anything fancy about it; it is just teaching in the simplest form:

In the News: 

Here is my class on the Fox 5 News.

Here is an article in the North County Times.

To learn more about Flipped Learning

Read: Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student In Every Class Every Day by Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman

Follow #flipclass on Twitter!

By Jo-Ann Fox