While I write and speak frequently on topics related to utilization of digital technology to flip classrooms, go paperless, and generally find new, better ways to improve instruction, I myself have been slow to implement in one of my classes. Ironically, despite the heavily technology-influenced senior level class being a major focus, I still had a course that was more or less the same as it always had been, that is, based around a text anthology, pencil and paper writing, and written assignments and projects. I had a hard time visualizing this class as being flipped or highly digital because I felt chained to the textbook, and by default, my own lessons.
This year I decided to change all that. Part of the reason was that with an administration change, I now have a principal who is openly encouraging flipping curriculum, where I was on my own with the previous adminstrator.
So what is different?
- Instead of doing daily writing prompts by writing in class, I have built a large collection of visual writing prompts as a Google presentation, and students are doing them on a shared (with me) Google Doc. 3-4 per week, outside of class. Once a month, we will be selecting a few of these for publication on TeenInk.com.
- I have managed to find off-copyright digital texts to replace nearly everything from my text anthology. Many were available through Project Guttenberg. I used ZamZar.com to convert these into .pdf and .epub versions to share with students.
- My book review projects have become online reviews using Google Forms, and may eventually expand to GoodReads or something more authentic as we progress.
- I am using Edmodo.com as the connective tissue for all of these changes.
Response to the changes so far has been very positive, at least as much as one might expect in the first week of school. I began with a Google Form survey to find out how much home internet access the students had, and was impressed by the response. With 105 students responding, only 3 indicated no internet at home (one of whom had parents switching companies at the time of the poll). Four more indicated they lived in the country and only had access to dial-up, and only 3 additional students chose the “it’s complicated” option on the poll. I presume these are situations where there is inconsistent web access, or the sole computer is used by parents. No students seemed to be anxious at the idea of having online work due, so I am moving forward, and will assist students if they have problems.
More to come on all of this. It is a big change, but one that is making this class much more interesting to teach, and one hopes, makes it more interesting for the students in the class.