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A Few Thoughts and a Question

December 4, 2013

I need your advice.  Yesterday, I had a series of thoughts that led to an important realization and a question.  Please try to follow me as my brain jumps from one idea to the next:

  1. Yesterday, on my way to work, I listened to Jane McGonigal’s powerful speech about how online gaming can make the world a better place, in which she exhorts her listeners to invest more time in playing online games for the betterment of the planet.
    1. In fact, I believe that if we want to survive the next century on this planet, we need to increase that total dramatically. I’ve calculated the total we need at 21 billion hours of game play every week. So, that’s probably a bit of a counterintuitive idea, so I’ll say it again, let it sink in: If we want to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict, obesity, I believe that we need to aspire to play games online for at least 21 billion hours a week, by the end of the next decade. (Laughter) No. I’m serious. I am.
  2. McGonigal’s speech got me thinging about Salman Khan’s video about how the use of videos will reinvent the way we teach students.  At the end of the speech, the moderator Bill Gates commented, “Well, it’s amazing. I think you just got a glimpse of the future of education.”  I think he’s right; video is the way of the future.
  3. Well, that brought me back to another great Ted Talk (clearly – I’ve been listening to a lot of them lately) by Geoffrey Canada, who said, Look, you go into a place that’s failed kids for 50 years, and you say, “So what’s the plan?”And they say, “We’ll, we’re going to do what we did last year this year.” What kind of business model is that?
  4. Such a great question.  Answer – not a very good one.
  5. So, as I sat in traffic, I starting thinking about the simulations done by Mission US, which are fantastic because:
    1. They teach the content in an engaging matter
    2. They give kids choice and put them in control
    3. They make them think and force them to do a lot of “patient problem solving” as Dan Meyer puts it in his Ted Talk on reinventing math curriculum.
  6. I started getting really excited because teaching the content outside of the classroom would give me the opportunity to do what I love and believe to be the most important component about middle school and that is teaching skills like reading, writing, public speaking, collaboration, critical thinking, etc.
  7. Still with me?  So, here is my takeaway. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could teach a class that
    1. utilized the flip classroom model
    2. where students would get the content via direct instruction and simulations so I could
    3. use the majority of my time to teach my students vital academic skills.
  8. OK – So how do I make that happen? What’s my next step? What advice do you have? Feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly – with any ideas you have.



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One Comment
  1. I may be able to chip in a few ideas. Here’s my approach to a flipped lesson with differentiated assignments. I think it has some of the groundwork you’ll need for an increasingly individualized model that lets you get more hands-on with coaching students and less group wrangling.

    Naturally the plan would adjust for class and content. The primary goal: Push toward higher-ordered thinking about the topic while breaking of a group that is behind on grasping the premise given over flipped instruction.

    Let’s say the video I needed my students to watch at home was about the Mexican-American War:

    I would then use :
    Launch Assessment (~5min)
    Students begin ExitTicket assignment immediately upon entering class. Teacher takes attendance (while monitoring that students are answering the questions individually) as the class begins work. A timer is counting down on the Classroom View’s heatmap.
    The narrator in the video was a woman (True / False)
    Manifest Destiny could be best described as… (A, B, C, D)
    What river did Mexico claim as the dividing line between Texas and Mexico? [Map Included] (A, B, C, D)
    Zachary Taylor’s troops were sent into the disputed area of Texas/Mexico and were attacked. How do you think President Polk, a believer in Manifest Destiny, felt about the attack? (A, B, C, D)
    The Bear Flag Revolt was California’s opportunity join the fighting and free themselves from American rule and join Mexico (True / False)
    What was the outcome of the Mexican-American War? (A, B, C, D)

    Review Learning Target (~5min)
    A student assigned with the classroom duty of reading the learning target and asking two students to first rephrase it and then connect it to another learning target or to real-world application is called to action while the teacher reviews the ExitTicket data. Using the Intervention Hotlist from the Teacher View, a list of students is taken for the remedial group.

    Instructions (5 – 10 min)
    The more this routine is ingrained in the students, the safer it is for students’ self-image. A remedial group can carry a social stigma. It should be dealt with as just a routine issue based on this single day’s data and not reflective of ability. The rest of the class can choose a rubric that will guide them through the day’s assignment. There are two options:
    Protest Poster: People in support or opposition to the war are gathering in front of Polk’s White House. Pick a side and design a compelling sign (with a short explanation that will be hung on our walls for your parents to read and understand your sign). Follow the rubric closely, you need to meet the expectations and show me you have considered the this part of our American story carefully.
    War Song: Write a song in support or in opposition of the war. The song needs to have X amount of lines and references. Follow the rubric. Extra credit will be given if you perform the song for the class.

    Remedial Group (10 min)
    Students will have already seen their results. They should know in advance if they met the transparent criteria for the day’s assignment. The rest of the class knows that the initial ten minutes of work-time is whisper-only and questions of the teacher are not allowed as you work with the “caught-up” group. (Using the past tense of catch-up has been shown to give mild benefits to esteem and focus)
    Sit down with the students and pass out the packet. Call over students that didn’t self-monitor their performance and identify themselves as in need of remediation.
    Quickly discuss why the students are here, seek to identify any gaps in instruction that may have led to confusion for students that did attempt the video but failed to grasp the content.
    Give a short summary of the content (2-3 min) and what the other students are seeking to do.
    Review the packet. They are to use their textbooks to find the answers for the literal comprehension questions and think critically for the open-ended questions. The last page, similar (or identical to the class assignments) is for homework.
    Students begin work and move about the group assuring that they are engaged with the material.

    Coaching (15 – 20 min)
    Use the ExitTicket data to first check on all students that were in the lower-end of the group that passed and began their group work. Ask probing questions to strengthen their comprehension. Move about the class, keeping students on task while drawing out a deeper connection to the human experience of those times.

    Sharing Out and Review Learning Target (5-10 minutes)

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