Thursday, March 9, 2017

Student-Centered Classroom Reflection

The looks on their faces were priceless.  The collective sigh, hilarious.

"Class!  I've taught this content 7 times, and every time I've learned from it and made adjustments to my teaching.  Never before have I been more capable, never before more confident in my ability to teach you than today!  And that is why today I am not going to teach you!  Today is YOUR day!  Today YOU will teach YOURSELVES!"

The moans and groans from my students put a smile on my face.  They know me and they trust me.  From their tone I sense their sarcasm.  From mine they sense my own.

I click open the first slide of my Google Slide document and don't say a word.  I look at my students.  My students look at me.  And then they look at the slide; and then at each other; and then back at me.
And that's when all my excitement is dreadfully replaced by fear.  Oh no! I think.  They don't get it.  This isn't going to work.

Cheerfully, I encourage my students.  I fake it.  I pretend not to be discouraged.  "What on earth is this?!  Why would Mr Bailey put this slide up on the screen?!"

I hear crickets.  Total student silence.  And then one or two quiet voices.  They're whispering to each other.  And then a few more.  And finally some clicking of their keyboards.  A Google Search!  This was going to work!  My students were buying into the activity.  And I became more energized once again.

I never intended this activity to be a paid day off -- me sitting at my desk checking sports scores or reading headlines.  I never intended to disengage and tell my students to just go have it.  Throughout the whole activity, like in any other day, I circled my classroom listening to student discussion, watching student inquiry, and awaiting student questions.

"What's a demand schedule?" one group of students asked me.
"Have you asked Siri?" I responded.
The students laughed.

My observations:  I was right.  My students were more engaged.  And I think they did learn things they're more likely to remember.  I'm certain it took longer than if I had stood in front of the class providing direct instruction.  But who's to say how many of my students would have really followed along and understood my lecture?

Of course there were students who struggled more than others, just as I would expect during lecture.  But during this activity, I was there with them.  And when the struggle became too much or too long, I was there to offer them a hint to keep them going -- perhaps an idea or two from direct instruction to set them back on course before sending them back on their way.

From my students: "Yes, that was fun!" was an overwhelming response.  "But not everyday!  OK, Mr Bailey?"

This certainly isn't something to be done daily.  But of course, what lesson plan is?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Student-Centered Classroom

To an extent, I've used the idea of a student centered classroom throughout the past years of my teaching career.

My students are all seated in groups facing each other.  I've never had them in rows, except during testing, and even then (at times) I've had students collaborate on their quizzes.
Mr Bailey's Class

Participation is a very big part of my grading.  From bell to bell, I carry a tablet and annotate a photo of my seating chart with dots to record student participation during small group and whole class discussions.

For each unit of study, I try to implement at least one project-based learning opportunity.

And I try to take time during every class period to sit at an empty desk and talk with my students.  Usually my conversations begin around the subject of school or our activity on hand, but I always try to steer them for some time toward something beyond our class in a sincere attempt to learn more about my students and develop a relationship based on respect and trust.

But today will be different!  Today I plan to take this idea of a student-centered classroom to the next level!

This will be my 8th time teaching this content.  Every time I've taught this content I've made adjustments -- some major, some minor.  But never have I attempted to make such a radical adjustment as I intend to make today.

Because today, I plan on not teaching!  Yes, your read that right.  After 7 times teaching this stuff, I honestly feel more capable and better prepared than ever to teach this content.  And that is the precisely why today I won't be teaching it!

In preparation for today's student-centered class, I've created a new Google Slide loaded with guided questions, images and hints.  Armed with their prior knowledge, collaboration with their classmates and the power of Google Search, I expect my students will guide their own learning and discovery in order to complete today's lesson with increased student-engagement, improved understanding, and (perhaps most importantly) the rewarding sensation of accomplishment and achievement.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Speaking with Confidence

Take a moment to think about something you are exceptionally confident in your ability to do. Odds are you have practiced this time and time again.  Odds are, with your experience, you have successfully completed this task or performed this skill a number of times already.

Whether you're an athlete in competition, a doctor in surgery, or an attorney delivering the closing argument, your confidence improves with practice and experience.

The very same is true of speaking.  And so this week I combined a hands-on classroom activity with a techtool website called Let'sRecap.

My classroom activity had my students up and out of their seats, excitedly wandering the classroom while engaging with their classmates.  The timing could not have been better.  Winter Break is just around the corner and students are as giddy as a toddler on Christmas Eve.

Ultimately, if the lesson went perfectly, it was my goal that students would not only understand new concepts, they would also be able to explain these new concepts using academic language.  And this is where comes in.

With, I created a reflection assignment for my students that video-recorded their verbal responses.  I chose to limit their responses to only 15 seconds, which forced students to be concise in their response and created less grading burden on me as their teacher.

I believe it's important that education and athletics be dynamic.  Certainly content/ skill knowledge is important.  But perhaps more important are the abilities to read and comprehend, write with proper sentence structure, and speak using proper grammar, tonal fluctuations and eye contact.

LetsRecap allowed my students to practice speaking in their own chosen low-stress environment; and I found students did well to take advantage of this.  Most notably was one student who recorded himself dressed in a Tigger costume and sunglasses!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Relating HBO's Westworld to the Classroom

It's amazing to me, these self-learning computers.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) isn't just something we've enjoyed on HBO's Westworld, but it's beginning to make its way into many aspects of our lives.

I found a fascinating quick-read online about AI, and about how it relates to education and learning in general.  Machines are learning on their own.  They take the information available to them, and use it to make themselves smarter.  But as the article states, not all learning is done this way.
We are stuck with centuries old methodologies, where schools and teachers act like the gateway to knowledge, but at a time when students can access all they want by simply asking Alexa. Finland understood this change and decided to get rid of the passive learning education and lecture format. Instead students are working in groups on topics of their choice, practicing problem solving. Teachers guide students as they are learning on their own.
And so this week I took aim at evolving as a teacher, bringing this new methodology to my classroom.  The technologies I used to facilitate this move (Google ClassroomEdPuzzle, and Verso) help to increase student collaboration, engagement, accountability and critical thinking, all essential qualities in society's strongest leaders.

Not everything went exactly as planned, but overall, the lesson was a success.  As this was the first time my students used a couple of the Apps (and my first time as well), there were the normal hiccups.  Some students were unable to login and spoke up, at which point we navigated through the glitch together.  Others chose to use bumps in the road as an excuse to stare into the abyss of their empty monitor until I made my way around and urged them forward.

Using Verso, I had students summarize their opinion from their Google doc and anonymously post for the class to see.  This helped guarantee student engagement.  On the fly, I grouped students into two groups, those who agreed with the prompt and those who disagreed, and I asked them to write a contradicting comment to a post of a classmate who shared the same opinion.  (It was my hope that this would help increase critical thinking.)  Finally, given the content the students created and posted in Verso, I initiated a classroom discussion/ debate; again, a fun and outstanding source of critical thinking.

In the future, I think the biggest adjustment I would make is that of having more questions prepared for the class to respond to, both in small groups and as a whole, after they have posted individually to Verso.  I anticipated that the Google doc and questions/ prompts contained within would be sufficient to drive class discussion throughout the period, but it was not.  Looking back, the online interaction at Verso did not spawn a group/ whole-class discussion.  (Perhaps the students were tired of the prompt?)  I expect that having more questions would help launch the online discussion into the classroom.

Clearly, students could have engaged in a read/ recite lesson and successfully (debatable) come away having learned the content.  But we know that we learn best when we deeply engage with the process; and we know that in society today, just knowing isn't enough.

It's what we do with the content once we know it that matters most.
In Westworld, how will the robots behave once they have consciousness?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Video as a Teaching Tool

Image result for athletic video analysis software
On a fundamental level, athletic coaches have been using technology to improve student-athlete achievement for years.  Think about video as a teaching tool.  I can share a video clip with my student-athletes, perhaps one that shows our offense attacking a particular defense, and I can pause it, and from that point, I can ask, "At this exact moment, tell the person next to you what each person on defense (and/or offense) is thinking?  And what should he be ready to do?"

I think back to video lectures as a young student-athlete, and as a young coach, and I remember very well nearly falling asleep and watching my athletes fall asleep.

Could this small adjustment to the teaching and learning process change all that?
Could this add to the already doing that is taking place in practice and in the classroom?

I'm left asking myself, how can I make this even better?  And more importantly, how does this apply to the classroom?

I'm excited to see how far this Tech Fellowship develops!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Digital Learning Coach

I've enjoyed adding new tools to my teacher's tool box over the past 3 years of teaching AP Government and CP Economics at Beckman High School in Irvine, CA.  But this year I aim to take this to a new level.  This year I am embarking on a Tech Fellowship journey, gratefully sponsored by Tustin Unified School District.

Working with my Digital Learning Coach, Crystal Kirch, I hope to enhance my curriculum with new technology tools so that my students (and student-athletes) will start conversations necessary to explore some of the concepts I hope they will learn.

Image result for teaching with technology

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Learn Something New Each Day

I remember reading some years ago about a college student who had taken it upon himself to spend one hour every day learning something new.  Renaissance Man is what they called him!  I remember thinking about how rewarding a life that would be!  But it's not everyone who has time to learn new things every day.
Image result for learn something new each dayFortunately for us teachers and coaches, we are immersed in a profession that affords us exactly that!  In fact, a strong argument is made that unless we do learn something new each day, our profession and our students will pass us by.