Flipped Classroom

Guest post by Michael Lutz @LutzEducation

Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

The idea behind it

In the classical classroom, as the students are used to it, the elaboration takes place or the theory is explained in the lesson and then at home the tasks are solved, strengthened and consolidated. Depending on the teacher, the knowledge transfer is often done with teacher-centered teaching. In the flipped classroom, the elaboration/preparation is done at home and the tasks and exercises are solved together in class. The input at home is often given in the form of an explanatory video.


First, I explained the concept of flipped classrooms to my students and highlighted the advantages: short preparation time at home, collaborative working and solving the tasks in class. 

In my chemistry classes, I have found that the class time of 45 min is often not enough: the students leave my classroom and go to the science lab together with me. There is a theory part and then practical experimentation: Reading and understanding the experimental set-up, getting material from the cupboards, setting up the experiment, performing it, evaluating it and documenting it. And now it’s already time to tidy up again. This situation is unsatisfactory for me and my students! That’s why I chose to have a go with the flipped classroom concept. My students read the experimental setups at home and watch the theory and experiments through video clips. They prepare the lesson at home. 

As soon as the class arrived in the chemistry room, 15 out of 20 students immediately started setting up the experiments. 5 stood around awkwardly, not knowing what to do. They had not prepared the lesson. I presented them with the chemistry book and they had to work out the knowledge theoretically with the books, while their classmates were full of joy experimenting. A week later: everyone was prepared and the time in class could be spent experimenting.

I applied this concept to some of my math lessons as well. As an assignment, I gave them an educational video that I peppered with questions on the topic of solving equations with one variable: Fast-forwarding or skipping was not possible. Multiplechoice and short-text questions explained two equation transformations, and I quizzed their knowledge 9 times. Before my classes came to the math lessons, I studied the answers and data. This way, even before the first person entered my classroom, I knew about the stumbling blocks and what had been successful.

One class was immediately able to begin solving the problems in partnership, and I clarified comprehension questions with two students. Afterwards, they also started working with their classmates. With the other class there were bigger gaps and at the beginning of the lesson I had to discuss the difficulties and build up understanding in a teacher-centered way. Afterwards, the work on the tasks was done collaboratively.

After 20 min of intensive and concentrated work in partnership, I then conducted a learning review. A new, still unknown equation, which was a bit more difficult than the two in the explanatory videos, had to be worked on. Out of 43 students, 41 solved it correctly and one student declared with shining eyes, ” Mr. Lutz, now I finally understand. Thank you so much!”

Advantages and disadvantages of flipped classroom

In a normal lesson, the teacher sets the pace. For some students, the pace is too slow, for others, too fast. In addition, some students would need a little more time or repetition. They leave the lesson and first have to process what they have heard at home or teach themselves again; parents know what I am talking about ;-). The teacher then asks them to solve tasks where they would need support. However, no one is there (except maybe the class chat where the solutions are posted). That’s not how I understand the learning process.

In the flipped classroom concept, the input is done at home. It can be paused and repeated. When working on the tasks in class, classmates are present in the classroom as experts and I as the teacher can intervene and support. If students do not prepare for the lesson, their knowledge gap will increase as the weeks go by. Watching a video at home is not enough, because it is not possible to check the level of knowledge and understanding. This data is important to me as a teacher because I want to build my teaching on it. That’s why I use video tools, which I can combine with my digital formative learning assessments. Also, I have designated a digital place where my students can put questions and things they don’t understand. These things serve as lesson starters and help me have insight into my students’ learning. Introverted students enjoy this way of working because it allows them to participate in the lesson in a safe environment.

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Spaces: Planning a Learning Journey

When we bring in learning opportunities that help students to reflect on their individual work and growth while also collaborating with peers to support one another, we will better prepare them for the future. There are endless learning opportunities that we can provide for our students, however with the use of digital portfolios, we help students focus on their own learning journey as they develop these other essential skills.

As we look for the right tools, finding a robust platform that is easy to navigate and that fosters collaboration and communication throughout the learning journey is key. Sharing student work and growth through the use of digital portfolios like Spaces, is a great choice for educators, students, and parents. We empower students to compile artifacts of their work, their experiences, and build their self-awareness as they navigate their high school career. Digital portfolios enable students to self-assess, set new goals and track their growth over time as they build their narrative. With versatile tools available like Spaces, students can add work quickly which can include links, audio, photos, and videos. Students can reflect on the work that they have done and be able to instantly share with teachers, family and potential employers or colleges.

Benefits of portfolios

As students continue to build digital portfolios, for use in the same class or across grade levels, educators better understand students and their interests and it helps with building those vital teacher-student relationships. A key part of this is that it helps us to focus on the development of social-emotional learning (SEL) skills for students to build their self-awareness and self-management skills, when they look at the work that they’ve done and set new goals for their continued learning journey.

[Default class space where teachers can engage all students in a class-wide discussion, share files and more]

With Spaces, there are three possibilities: individual spaces, class spaces or group spaces. The default space is a class space where all students can participate in a class-wide discussion, sharing files and media. Having these different options for spaces makes it easy for teachers to provide authentic and meaningful opportunities for students to demonstrate learning and provide evidence of their work while reflecting on their own progress. Students are able to record their daily work and reflect on their learning experiences and express their thoughts, which is a beneficial way to promote the continued development of SEL Skills. Teachers can assess students and provide real-time feedback. It also helps students to share their work publicly and build confidence in learning.

What do teachers think?

I reached out to a good friend of mine, Bonnie Nieves, a high school biology teacher in Massachusetts, to find out how she has been using Spaces with her students. She loves the opportunities that it provides for students to focus more on the learning process, their work and improvements they make along the way. Bonnie appreciates how it creates a “gallery walk” style where students can explore the work of their peers and promotes the development of additional SEL skills such as relationship building. With Spaces, students can share it with family which helps them to feel more connected to the learning that is happening in and out of the classroom.

In my own classroom, I have started to use Spaces with my eighth grade STEAM students as they work on independent projects. We are using Spaces to share progress on the projects, to ask questions, to post ideas and be able to interact in a collaborative space. Especially helpful in hybrid, virtual or asynchronous learning environments, the real-time feedback and interactions will make a difference for students and promote more engagement in learning.

Ideas for using Spaces

  • Individual Spaces for project-based learning
  • Group Spaces for students to work together on projects and to be able to provide feedback and showcase their work.
  • Class Space for promoting conversations between students, especially when not all students are together in the same space.
  • Check-ins and quick assessments with students

There are many ways to use Spaces in the classroom. Get started for free today and see what ideas your students come up with too! Spaces is also available through the iOS app store or Google Play.

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Computational thinking and scientific exam problems

Guest post by Dr. Michael Harvey

As part of preparing students for external examinations, I have been asking them about how they approach answering exam-style questions. It is something that we as educators sometimes take for granted that approaching the solving of these types of questions is actually a skill all in itself. From the student’s feedback, it was clear they were lacking a clear strategy in tackling these types of questions. 

One approach that I have been introducing the students to the use of computational thinking to develop a strategy to solve long answer style questions, especially those involving calculations. Before a problem can be tackled, the problem itself and the ways in which it could be solved need to be understood. Computational thinking allows us to do this. Computational thinking allows us to take a complex problem, understand what the problem is and develop possible solutions.  

There are four key techniques to computational thinking: 

Decomposition – breaking down a problem into small more manageable parts.

Pattern recognition – looking for similarities within or among problems

Abstraction – focusing on important information only, ignoring irrelevant detail.

Algorithms – developing a step-by-step solution to the problem or the rules to follow to solve the problem.

Each technique is as important as the others. They are like legs on a table – if one leg is missing, the table will probably collapse. Correctly applying all four techniques will help when solving exam-style questions.

A complex problem is one that, at first glance, we don’t know how to solve easily. Students tend to try to solve the problem in one step and become frustrated when this approach fails.

So in summary, computational thinking involves taking that complex problem and breaking it down into a series of small, more manageable problems (decomposition). Each of these smaller problems can then be looked at individually, considering how similar problems have been solved previously (pattern recognition) and focusing only on the important details while ignoring irrelevant information (abstraction). Next, simple steps or rules to solve each of the smaller problems can be designed (algorithms). Finally, these simple steps or rules are used to help solve the complex problem in the best way.

So let us look at an example of how this approach can be used to solve a Physics problem.

Step 1: Break down into simpler steps. We are looking for the power, but we have been given information on the specific heat capacity, so it involves two concepts, electrical power, and specific heat capacity. So let us break the question into two.

Step 2: Pattern recognition. Write down the formulae involved in the two concepts. P = E/t and Q = mcΔT 
Also that the electrical energy used to heat the heater is equivalent to the heat energy released by the aluminum block so Q = E.
With this in mind, we can start working through the problem by focusing on step 3.
Step 3: Abstract the important points from the question by highlighting them on the paper.

The metal block has a mass of 2.7 kg. The metal of the block has a specific heat capacity of 900 J/kg/°C. In 2 min 30s, the temperature of the block increases from 21°C

 to 39 

So we have a mass, a specific heat capacity, a time, and a change in temperature. Looking at our equations, what part of the problem can we solve first? The thermal heat capacity as we can solve this with Q = mcΔT as we have all the variables.
This leaves us to the last step – working through the calculations stepwise. We solve for Q as we can input the mass, specific heat capacity, and change in temperature. Once we have found Q, we know E = Q, so this can be imputed into the power equation P = E/t and the question can be solved by using the time information provided in the question (remembering to convert to seconds).

The use of computational thinking approaches is an effective way to help students work through questions so that the process is not too overwhelming and helps them develop strategies to deal with complex problems which can arise. Through supporting and scaffolding students with these types of strategies it reduces extraneous cognitive load and allows students to maintain focus and succeed at these style of questions.

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Toniebox: An amazing addition to classrooms

Toniebox: An amazing addition to classrooms!

After seeing an ad for the Toniebox on Instagram, I couldn’t wait to get my own! I always love exploring edtech tools and the Toniebox with its colorful character on top piqued my curiosity immediately.

For those who have not heard of a Toniebox, it is a screen free digital speaker system, originally intended for use in the home, however it makes a fantastic addition to any classroom! My students were quite curious when I set mine up and I have been sharing it with many of my educator friends.

Getting started: How does it work?

Setting up my Toniebox was easy and I couldn’t wait to hear the story that each individual character would tell. Each Toniebox starter kit comes with one creative-Tonie. The content Tonies (stories and songs) are purchased separately or bundled with starter kits. Each Tonie has magnets which keep it steady on top of the box. It is fun to have a few different Tonies to be able to quickly swap out the stories for students!

The functionality of the box is easy to use. Simply place the Tonie on top and the story begins. The volume is controlled by pressing on the ears and you can move forward or backward in the story by tapping on the side of the box. Having these features means that even the youngest students can navigate their own listening experiences, which is great for personalized learning experiences! With so many Tonies to choose from, students can simply replace the Tonie on the box and pick up with a new story in no time at all.

Choosing a Tonie might be tough since there are so many figures to choose from. Children may find that they have a favorite because of the look of the Tonie or because of the story that it tells. Shifting from being something specific for use in the home, now there is “Tonies for Teachers,” a wonderful program for educators interested in using Tonies in the classroom. A Toniebox is a great way to help students to have less screen time and to focus on listening and having a more creative interactive learning experience.

Some ideas to try with your Toniebox

Toniebox makes a great option for storytelling and promoting creativity. Whether teachers create their own stories to share with students or have students create their own story together as a class, the options are endless. With the creative Tonies, you can record up to 90 minutes of audio and there are many possibilities for using them in the classroom.

Try these ideas:

  • Teachers can tell a story based on the content or grade level that they are teaching.
  • As a language teacher, I might narrate using the vocabulary or the verb tenses that we are working on in class, to make it a more authentic story for my students.
  • Students can write stories or create skits and then read them with classmates. Creating and then recording them for all students to listen to and learn from.
  • Encourage students to continue telling the story or to make an alternate ending to a story that they heard.
  • Use it for art classes by having students draw an illustration of the story that they are listening to or create a drawing and then work with classmates to record a story.

So many possibilities! Talk about fostering collaboration and creativity and providing for SEL skills development too!

There are a lot of ways that you can personalize learning for our students when using the Tonie box, but what I love is that it is ready to go with a story to be told and students have no problem in getting started with it. While it is designed for younger students, it can definitely be used in other classes.

Using the Toniebox and giving students a chance to listen to the story narrated by the character, will engage them more in learning. We can of course use this at home, telling stories with family members, recording in a funny voice, sharing memories or just having some fun. You use the app and then simply upload your content through the app.

A screen free digital listening experience that includes songs and stories and can promote some creativity for students to write and then narrate their own story to share! It can be used at home and at school, and is another wonderful choice for teachers to bring into the classroom and choose from the many Tonies available for storytelling. The content is stored on the Tonie cloud which can be accessed through the app. Once content is downloaded to the Toniebox, no further internet connection is needed until you want to update it. Also through the app, parents can control some of the settings and also the volume level for the Tonie box.

A very visually engaging, curiosity sparking tool that everyone will enjoy listening to and creating with! Get your Toniebox today and start exploring the possibilities. There are different Tonies and content partners to choose from for sparking curiosity and boosting imagination.

Get your Toniebox today and explore the possibilities for your classroom!

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Spaces for Digital Portfolios

As we work to prepare students for the future, it is important that we find ways to help students focus more on the learning process rather than the end product. When we bring in learning opportunities that help students to reflect on their individual work and growth and collaborate with peers by giving feedback to one another, we will better prepare them for the future.

Spaces provides a great choice for creating digital portfolios and more. Digital portfolios enable students to compile artifacts of the work that they have done, including projects, sharing career explorations or community service activities that they engaged in during their high school career. Portfolios are a great way for students to display and reflect on their learning journey. Creating portfolios in a digital space gives students the opportunity to self-assess and track their growth over time as they build their narrative.

My start with using digital portfolios in my classroom began with my Spanish II and III students. They initially created a wikispace for their Spanish projects but we shifted to Google sites, and they added to it by including their other classes, sharing their interests, and designed evidence of their growth during each academic year. Now with versatile tools available like Spaces, it is easier to add work quickly which can include links, or audio, photos, and videos. Students can reflect on the work that they have done and be able to instantly share with teachers, family and potential employers or colleges.

Benefits of digital portfolios

As students continue to build digital portfolios, for use in the same class or across grade levels, educators better understand students and their interests and it helps with building those vital teacher-student relationships. A key part of this is that it helps to focus on the social-emotional learning (SEL) skills as students build their self-awareness and also self-management skills, when they look at the work that they’ve done and set new goals for their continued learning journey.

Spaces offers an opportunity to bring digital portfolios into your classroom and it is available for free! It is easy to get started with Spaces. By default, teachers’ first space is the ‘Class’ space; a place for classwide sharing, discussion and review. Teachers can also create “Group” spaces where certain groups of students can work together asynchronously while outside of the view from the rest of the class. Lastly, “Individual” spaces create a one-to-one teacher to student environment for students who might want to keep their portfolio work outside of the view of others but still want all the benefits Spaces has to offer.”

With Spaces, students can access and share their work from wherever they are. It promotes collaboration as students and teachers work together throughout the learning process. It also fosters better connections between home and school. Students can quickly share their work with teachers and engage in a conversation, which promotes real-time feedback and the opportunity to message, and discuss progress.

For educators, the use of portfolios better enables us to give authentic, meaningful feedback to students and develop a greater understanding of each student’s strengths and needs. These “spaces” also help to build relationships as we get to know our students, their learning needs and strengths more. Get started with Spaces today!

About the Author

Rachelle Dene Poth is an edtech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant and Speaker, owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past-president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and on the Leadership team of the Mobile Learning Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and has received several Presidential Gold Awards for volunteer service to education.

Rachelle is the author of five books, ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” (EduMatch) and “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World” and her newest book, “True Story Lessons That One Kid Taught Us.”

She is also a Buncee Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.

Rachelle is a blogger for Getting Smart, Defined Learning, District Administration, NEO LMS, and the STEM Informer with Newsweek.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU https://anchor.fm/rdene915.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

Rear-view mirror: reflecting about practice through the lens of UDL principles and practices to inform learning design

Looking through the rear-view mirror

Guest post by Virna Rossi, @VirnaRossi

Months of pandemic teaching and learning have highlighted issues of access and accessibility, which have disproportionally affected some under-served student populations. Students and teachers are experiencing the literal meaning of the word ‘distraction’, from the Latin dis (apart) + trahere (to drag): we are all being dragged apart, pulled in many different directions . Hence, intentionally designing inclusive learning experiences is crucial to support our students at this time. But we also need the students’ help to evaluate the effectiveness of our learning design.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) helps us design more inclusive learning experiences. It is an approach to curriculum design that minimises barriers and maximises learning for all students.

The 3 UDL principles are based on 3 primary neurological networks: UDL is based on brain science. The 3 networks are: affective, recognition and strategic ‘which refer to the why, what and how’ of learning. Based on these, there are 3 UDL principles: Engagement, Representation and Action & Expression. More on this below.

3 UDL principles: Engagement, Representation and Action & Expression

UDL should particularly be used at the start of the learning design process, to intentionally drive the process, ideally in collaboration with students. However, UDL principles and practices can also be used as a professional reflection and evaluation tool during and after the learning event. Once more, this would ideally involve the students.

A metaphor to illustrate the use of UDL principles as a tool for reflection is to see them as rear-view and side mirrors. The universal use of rear-view and side mirrors has changed the status of humans from a species only capable of perceiving the field of vision ahead, to one which can understand in a single glance two opposing visual fields. In cars, the inner rear-view mirror and the two side ones provide different angles of the same ‘scene’ behind, virtually eliminating blind spots. Each of the 3 mirrors informs the driver’s driving decisions, with very little effort, on the go.

Rear-view mirror

The 3 rear/side mirrors can be seen as the 3 UDL principles against which to gauge how inclusive our learning design is. The 3 mirrors provide 3 perspectives to evaluate our practice.

Why do we glance?

We glance at the rear and side-view mirrors to inform our driving, to avoid accidents, to check the state of the road, to situate ourselves, to change our trajectory. These are the same reasons why we should reflect ‘on’ and evaluate our teaching, in particular our learning design. This reflective and evaluative exercise provides us with a series of dynamic snapshots about our practice and the learning we are prompting.

Side-view mirror

At times there is a safety warning on the side mirrors: ‘objects in mirror are closer than they appear’. In our metaphor this also has an equivalent: some situations may need attention as a priority because we might underestimate the closeness and relative importance of some aspects of our learning design. For instance if we have dyslexic students – Have we provided judicious output choices? How well equipped are they for their upcoming assessment? What study support systems are in place?

When do we glance?

We do it while we drive. So we can reflect on and evaluate our learning design while the learning experience is happening, we can indeed make it part of the learning experience itself. The 3 UDL rear/side-mirrors can be used as a quick evaluative checkpoint, like a brief ‘glance’ while driving.

End-point course reviews are common practice, but as teachers we will not be able to action any feedback for that same cohort on that course at that point. In a way, it is like checking the rear-view mirror after a collision from behind which we could have avoided by checking earlier.

For this reason, at least one mid-term or mid-course evaluation point is much more valuable in terms of informing our practice for that cohort.

Using our metaphor, as we drive and check the scene behind, some of the vehicles behind us at times overtake us or come alongside us (with thanks to David Baume for mentioning this point in a live event). So, in our metaphor, the reflection and evaluation exercise is not of a still image, but is one of a dynamic nature because we are dealing with a moving scene, with a living learning process. It is  a learning journey in the making.  

How do we glance? A case study

I used UDL as the main learning design framework for our internal staff development course (PGCert) from the outset. I articulated this to the students even before the start of the course. But I also used the 3 lenses of UDL principles for mid-term review (the 3 rear/side mirrors), during one of our live lessons on the PGCert to elicit evaluative feedback comments about my PGCert course design, from the users themselves. I wanted to spark dialogue and to gain the student perspective. This was part of a 360 degree feedback approach, which invites the literature input, our own reflections and students’ views as part of a wider-angle feedback view.

The literature view

I started by discussing the theory underpinning UDL principles and guidelines, by means of this visual aid:

UDL networks, principles and guidelines

This provided the theoretical and best practices grounding.

The students’ view

We used Ketsoto represent our reflection and evaluation. This is a hands-on learning aid and workshop tool. It has been adapted for remote teaching, with each learner sent their own pack to develop their ideas in their learning space.

Students used the reusable, moveable pieces to represent their ideas, then arranged them on the felt workspace. The white shapes were used to label the UDL principles, and ideas for each principle were developed on the 3 different colour leaves (a colour for each principle).

Students discussed their ideas in their study sets, in breakout rooms, and uploaded images of their Ketso representations onto this Padlet. The main question was: How are the 3 UDL principles evident on our PGCert course? How can UDL practices be enhanced on a PGCert?

UDL on PGCert: Padlet with students' Ketso representations

My self-feedback

I also made a Ketso representation to highlight some of the ways I intentionally used UDL principles to drive my PGCert learning design process.

My own Ketso about UDL principles and practices on PGCert

The outcomes of the exercise for me was gaining much needed insight into how the students were experiencing UDL on the course and where to improve.

For instance, for Engagement many mentioned that using Ketso was a very good way to be engaged on the course. For Action & Expression some mentioned that they would welcome more ‘debates’ during the live lessons.

How do students benefit from glancing?

What are the benefits for students in using the 3 rear/side view UDL lens as a reflective and evaluative mid-course review?

Firstly, this enhances students’ meta-cognition and their ability to articulate their learning about learning.

Secondly, understanding UDL principles can equip students with ideas and vocabulary to provide more meaningful feedback on any course design, not just on the PGCert.

Thirdly, this exercise should inform immediate enhancements in course design and delivery. In our case, we discussed some of the suggested enhancements mentioned on the students’ Ketsos, and I immediately implemented needed changes.

Conclusion: adjust/clean the mirrors

The 3 UDL rear/side mirrors help us adjust our practice.

If we already are UDL champions, can we keep growing in our understanding of UDL principles and practices? Can students and colleagues suggest further ways to enhance our practice? This would be like adjusting or cleaning the mirrors so that we can better see how to evaluate our practice.

Polishing the side-view mirror

Finally: Keep calm, keep traveling, keep checking the ‘rear-mirrors’

Find out more

About UDL:

About Ketso: