Wednesday, February 29, 2012

IB Bio HL ... flipping the class

One of the presentations for the K-12 Online Conference was based on Amaral's flipped classroom experience in the IB Bio HL class. The presentation can be watched here (20 minutes video): Technology as an Ally in the IB Science Class.  In this presentation, Amaral talks about the use of a Google Doc to prompt student learning prior to the formal introduction of a new Unit in class. Then we can see snippets of class dynamics after the use of this Google Doc and the feedback from three students on how this approach affected their learning.

Sample pages from a Google Doc used for this purpose are shown on this page. You can see that each student picked a different color to respond to the questions given by the teacher. So each student had to answer at least one question by doing independent research. In this way, students arrived in class with some knowledge of the new topic and questions about it. This was the flipped class approach prior to class that provided students with instruction. 

The class dynamics therefore had to change, as it was not based on direct instruction or lecture. In class, students were engaged in discussions related to the concepts in the Google Doc, as the teacher prompted the class with questions. A later development  involved the use of Poll Everywhere to prompt the class for learning needs through questioning, in this way allowing the teacher to direct new questions, explanations and discussion towards the needs identified during the pre-assessment with this digital tool.

Students had interesting opinions about the flipped class strategy. One was in favor, acknowledging that there was more time in class to go deeper into the topic as basic knowledge was dealt with before class on the Google Doc. Another student also liked the approach but felt that more responsibility was put into her shoulder as she had to keep up with the subject  through the Google Doc and other off class discussions. The third students felt more difficulty with the approach as he wanted to go back to traditional lectures covering the entire unit. 

So we can see that there will be different reactions to the flipped class and it is interesting to notice some resistance to taking more responsibility for the learning and also resistance to let go of the teacher being the provider of information. For me this seems like a great way to engage students more and more on the habit of being life long learners and develop deeper thinking skills.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

IB Science and History of the Americas .... Formative Assessment with Poll Everywhere

The theme for teacher workshops this week was Formative Assessment with Technology , which was based on an experience using Poll Everywhere in the IB Bio HL class. Amaral was looking for a technology tool to help with pre-assessment and I happened to be looking at Poll Everywhere for a while and also taking an ASB online course on formative assessment. We decided to go for Poll Everywhere, which has a free online version and seemed to provide the quick whole class feedback that was expected.

The experience with Poll Everywhere went very well and I was happy to see that after the workshop, Caitlin decided to use it as a review tool with students on the next day. Her students really liked Poll Everywhere and asked for more.  Her feedback on its use was positive as she felt more able to target review to the class needs shown on the poll results.

Just to give you a more detailed idea of how Poll Everwhere was used in Amaral's class, here is the account of the context for this quick "taking the pulse of the class".  

A new unit had just been introduced using a flipped classroom strategy. For flipping the class, a shared Goggle Doc was used by the students to collectively answer given questions about the unit on Gas Exchange in the Respiratory System. To answer the question, students had to do research (see the shared doc here). Poll everywhere was used to do a pre-assessment on their learning at that point to check gaps and levels of understanding and therefore help target teaching of the new Unit (as some teaching was done through the Google Doc, the remaining teaching had to be more targeted as it was not starting from scratch). The pre-asessment was also used to prime student learning.

A set of multiple answer questionswas developed by Amaral to be used with Poll Everywhere. You can check each poll question with  the responses chart in the following links: question 1, question2, question3, question4, question5, question6, question7, question8
At the beginning of class the students were immediately presented with the pre-assessment with Poll Everywhere. It was very easy for students with laptops to access the poll online through That gave them direct access to a real time visualization of the active poll with no need to vote through keywords/codes (just choosing a choice on the screen). One student with a blackberry did not know how to send a message (!! surprise) and did not seem connected, so he ended up with my laptop. Another student with a cell phone chose to access the poll through the browser instead of through messenger. All of that did not take long, so we were ready to start.

Students were given 1 minute to look at the poll and vote (one poll represents one question). At first, we had the chart on, so students could see the voting percentages as they were coming. That did not seem to discourage a few who voted for something different on their own. But on the third poll we decided to hide the chart and show it only hen all students finished voting.
After each poll/question, there was opportunity to provide instruction and guiding questions targeted to the class needs indicated in that poll. After the issue was cleared, then the class moved to the next poll. The 8 polls with targeted instruction took the whole 80 minutes period. Students participated actively and seemed curious about the poll results and the instruction afterwards.
I think the activity went very well apart from some annoyances with the free version of Poll Everywhere (the downloaded poll on a PowerPoint slideshow had to be stopped and started again every time we hide/show the chart view, and a new poll was taking a while to show on students’ laptops so they had to refresh).

I sent a quick survey to the students ( I hope you can see the results here ). It seems that using the poll helped with their learning and with instruction when compared with the traditional strategy of asking an oral question to the whole class and wait for a few to answer. A general agreement so far involves seeing the whole class responses, which is a way of assessing yourself in relation to the group, as positive to individual learning.
I will definitely look into the paid options for Poll Everywhere and compare with the use of Google Forms.