• As one door closes...

    Posted by ADAM JOHNSON on 5/26/2016 8:00:00 AM

    The end brings with it many changes.


    I don’t like the when things come to an end. I don’t like the end of a good book, a good movie, a weekend adventure… I am the odd ball teacher who doesn’t like the end of the school year. I become very nostalgic when students replace their textbooks with yearbooks, when topic of conversation moves from being about after-school plans into summer plans. I hate when it is time to review for exams… the feeling of “I’ve taught you all I can and now it’s time for you to work on your own… without me.” The end of a school year is very exciting for almost everyone… but not for me. It is time for me to take a step back and watch my students go on to bigger and better things. The end of a school year brings with it a lot of changes as well. Change is also something I am not too fond of. I realize all of this may sound like a quote from Eeyore, but I assure you I am actually a very upbeat, positive guy! I just don’t like to see my students leave after getting to know them over the course of a school year.


    I am finishing another wonderful school year filled with awesome memories. These students never cease to amaze me! The amount of growth from their first day to their final exam is absolutely awe-inspiring. If ever you need motivation/inspiration to overcome a difficult challenge in your life, come visit my students for a day and watch how they manage themselves. They always rise to the challenge, exceed all expectations and maintain their composure while doing so. They struggle with, and persevere, some of the most challenging math problems they’ve ever seen. As I type this, I am watching them tackle their second 2-hour exam this morning. And, they’re doing so with complete grace.


    Humbling to say the very least.


    This past school year I had the honor of being fully funded and supported to take on a project and explore an idea that I felt would improve learning outcomes for my students. The long and short of it is, I failed. Mind you it wasn’t for lack of trying. I made considerable progress, hit quite a few roadblocks, made some more progress and then stalled out. The most exciting part of the project was being able to explore my idea as much as I wanted, all while having FULL support from my students, my administration and the district level administrators.


    Essentially it comes down to this… what I am trying to do WILL improve learning outcomes and I believe with all of my heart that it will completely change how we use assessments. My idea, the Flipped Kit, will make assessments the most powerful tool a teacher can use to improve learning, not to measure a student’s level of mastery. The Flipped Kit will make assessments a learning experience and will improve a student’s mindset about themselves and about math.  Although I’m currently stalled in proof-of-concept phase, I am not done trying! I may have missed the goal that was to get my project up and running this year, I am inspired by my students to continue working at it and to persevere. So, even though this school year is coming to a close, along with my tenure in the Institute for Innovation, I am going to continue working to make the necessary adjustments to the Flipped Kit in hopes of figuring out ways to overcome the current obstacles.


    Every end brings a new beginning. Next school year will be one full of change for me. I will be teaching a “new” course for the first time in several years. In fact, I will be teaching a course that is entirely new to me. I will be teaching a math intervention course instead of the 8th grade pre-algebra that has consumed my life for the previous 7 years. While change is scary to me, I am very excited for the opportunities that come with teaching this new course. As I said earlier, I don’t particularly like change.


    This particular change, however, is very appealing to me. I have the opportunity to work with students in a smaller setting which will allow me to truly engage with each one individually on a daily basis. I get to try and solve a problem that does not yet have a great solution… math intervention in the middle grades. I get to continue to work with my Flipped Kit in an environment that will be more conducive to getting a project like this off the ground and moving forward. So, with this school year coming to a close, please put my Blog on hold and check back in a few weeks as I continue to report on the changes and improvements I make.


    Have a great summer!

    Comments (-1)
  • I haven't failed 10,000 times...

    Posted by ADAM JOHNSON on 2/16/2016 8:00:00 AM

    I haven’t failed 10,000 times, I’ve just found 10,000 ways it doesn’t work.


    I finally had a breakthrough success moment! Microsoft has updated OneNote and made some significant improvements to OneNote Classroom. OneNote Classroom allows me to create assignments, “hand-out” assignments, students can complete and submit their assignments, all in one virtual space. Having one space where all of this can take place limits the number and variety of software the students must be familiar with. This has seriously streamlined the process of “flipping” assessment.

    Once I was able to get the students acquainted with their OneNote Classroom Notebook we were finally ready to begin using the Intuos tablets to record their problem solving processes. This is where we hit our newest hiccup. While the Intuos tablet does a great job of making screen writing look/feel as close to actually writing on paper as possible, it is still very difficult for students to acclimate to looking at a screen while writing. Their handwriting does not look as sloppy as their screenwriting to say the very least. This has been frustrating for many students as they have to slow down to write which causes them to lose their train of thought.

    The next hurdle that has recently presented itself is installing Office Mix. Office 365 wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated if I’m being honest. The network did cause a few problems but, with a little patience and perseverance, it seems as though most families were able to install it at home. Office Mix is another story… long story short, it works on some computers and not others, sometimes it uploads the final product quickly while other times it never loads at all.

    At this point we are still working out some of the bugs and trying some new strategies. I think my biggest success as of now is that I am way under budget.

    Until next time,

    Mr. Johnson

    Comments (-1)
  • Long Over Due...

    Posted by ADAM JOHNSON on 12/4/2015 10:15:00 PM

    Wouldn’t it be nice if our ideas came fruition as easily as we conjured them in our heads?

    Well, this is where we pick up on my latest installment for my Institute for Innovation. It is important that we first recall the goal of the “Flipped Kit.” The goal is to:

    • provide students a way to easily and efficiently record/document their learning process
      • by record/document I mean the student will essentially create a flipped video lesson (it is easier to think of it in this way)
    • help students create digital portfolios that show their growth throughout the course of the school year
    • provide students opportunities to share their entire thinking process to their classmates (not just a written snapshot of how they problem solve)
    • give students the opportunity to analyze/critique students’ entire thought process of how their classmates apply algebraic reasoning when problem solving (there is more to how a student approaches a problem than what they write on a piece of paper)
    • use technology to make creating digital math script as easy as it is to write on a piece of paper
    • provide teachers a way to digitally create and distribute personalized assignments
    • students should be able to easily record their work using the same technology that the teacher uses to create and distribute assignments
    • provide teachers with a way to provide personalized feedback to every single student in an efficient manner

    In short, it is easiest to think of this as the students will create their own “Flipped” video lessons. They will share these lessons with classmates, their teacher and even their parents. By doing this, they are able to receive feedback from a variety of sources. The student created “Flipped” video consists of audio recording of how they think about a problem and a screencast of how they work to solve a problem.


    The issues for the “Flipped” kit are:

    • there is no ONE piece of software in which a teacher can create, share and collect an assignment all while allowing the student to use this same piece of software to create a screencast of him/her solving the problem
    • the students will be expected to do this without the teacher sitting next to them to assist with any technology issues that arise
    • the student will expect to be able to complete their work without the technology interfering with their ability to demonstrate mastery of the material
    • if this is to be scalable, it must be affordable and mostly free of frustration

    Where we are currently?

    The first issue I attempted to tackle was the issue of making math script digital. If you are accustomed to creating handouts/quizzes/tests that require a lot of math script/type, then the process is somewhat second nature. However, students typically do not have any experience with equation editor so the easiest thing for them to do is simply write on paper and show their work. My solution to this was the use of the Wacom Pen and Touch tablet. The device is supposed to be somewhat of a “plug and play” type device. We have learned that this is not the case and, when the student takes the device home and tries to install it on their home computer, the process is not always quick and/or easy. As a result, I employed the creative skills of J. Brandt and he made an instructional video for students to use when they are attempting to install the device on their own. More on that a little later…

    So… to this point I have attempted to use Office Mix to address the assignment creation/completion issue. Office Mix is an add-on for PowerPoint 2013 and above. Since Office Mix was created with Flipped Educator in mind I chose to begin here to try to accomplish most of the above goals. The thought was that since students/teachers are already familiar with PowerPoint it will be user friendly and less intimidating. Also, since the video capabilities are built-in to the add-on, the students will not have to use additional pieces of software to create their digital portfolio (Side note: when I make a Flipped lesson I use a minimum of 5 pieces of software and have used upwards of 8-9 in order to make the full video lesson… this is far too much to ask of a student). After trying Office Mix several times and using a few different approaches, I have learned that Office Mix is not quite ready to be used the way that I am trying to use it. Office Mix has all of the elements I am looking for but it falls short in the efficiency/ease of use category. The process of installing the necessary version of Microsoft Office and Office Mix and then using it to create a screencast is not as easy as I had hoped (if a student does not already have Office 2013 is lengthy and can be frustrating). Also, getting the personalized assignment to each individual student is time consuming to say the very least. Another issue I run into is how the students share their completed assignments with me so that I can provide quality feedback on their work.


    Currently I am working on using Google Classroom, Google Docs and the TechSmith Snag-It Google Chrome extension to: make the assignments, assign specific tasks to individual students, have the student create a screencast of their work and thought process, sharing the videos back to me and then out to their classmates. I currently trying to solve the issue of being able to write on a tablet and have it show up in a Google Doc. There is “scribble” feature under the “draw” tab in Google Docs. Unfortunately, the scribble feature attempts to interpret your freewriting into common shapes/letters. This makes the scribble feature nothing at all like being able to write on paper. The other hiccup is Snag-It. The add-on is unreliable and the video feature does not always work.


    As Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

    Comments (-1)
  • Secondary Teachers Don't Teach Routines

    Posted by ADAM JOHNSON on 8/24/2015 9:00:00 PM
    Today marks the start of the first full week of school. Which means we began our "in-house flip" today! 
    I recently read an article about a teacher who spends the first full day of school passing out papers only to have his students practice turning them in. He spends an entire class period on the first day of school passing out blank sheets of paper, and then the students turn them in. That's it... that's all they do. No syllabus, no rules, no assigning of text books. None of the things all of the teachers around him were doing. When his administrators found out that he spent the first day of school having students turn in blank pieces of paper over and over, they had to know why. He went on to explain that by spending one class period practicing a routine that happens virtually every day, he was able to save a ton of time over the course of the school year. He also was able to make a game out of it and the students would chart the time it took and try to beat their score with each new attempt. This small element of competition helped to build community.
    Reading this article resonated with me because of how I choose to spend the first few days of with all of my classes. We do what I have dubbed, the "in-house flip." The in-house flip serves several purposes. First, it is an opportunity for me to introduce students to a new type of learning environment without increasing their anxiety. Secondly, I am able to review the most important topics from their previous math class in an engaging manner. We will use the in-house flip for two days and, during this time, students will acclimate themselves to a "new" methodology and review critical content without causing too much of the anxiety kids often feel with the start of a new school year.
    So, while most secondary teachers don't teach routines, this secondary teacher embeds routines into his teaching.  
    Comments (-1)
  • Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

    Posted by ADAM JOHNSON on 8/17/2015 2:00:00 PM
    Hello Everyone!
    We are only about a day away from kicking off another school year and I can't wait! This year is going to bring some exciting new opportunities, one of which is the birth of the "Flipped Kit." The equipment is ordered, and we have laid a lot of the groundwork. Now, all I need are students!
    First, a little about the "Flipped Kit." The short explanation is that students will be able to provide evidence of their learning process in an entirely new way. Students will record themselves talking/thinking about their problem solving process. Students will also create a screencast as they practice learning new material. Once this digital learning artifact has been created, students will share it with me (the teacher) so that I am able to provide personalized feedback, not only on their final answer, but on their entire thought process. Eventually, students will be able to share and interact with other students' digital learning artifacts. I cannot wait to see how this impacts the learning!
    In other news... this summer Jonathan Bergmann (one of the pioneers of Flipped Learning) published his newest book, Flipped Learning for Math. I have had the incredible opportunity to get to know Jon over the last few years and have formed a bit of a friendship as he has mentored me some in my Flipped journey. Jon shared some of our conversations, as well as some of my process/approach, about how I use the Flipped Learning Methodology in his book. I could not believe my eyes when I read the first chapter and there I was! Talk about humbling! 
    I plan to share with Jon some of the ways the Flipped Kit is used and how it impacts the learning in class this year.
    Please check back often as I plan to update this blog regularly.
    At some point I will try to come up with a clever way to close each blog post. For now I will stick with my favorite way to close an email...
    All the best!
    Mr. Johnson
    Comments (-1)