Update from the Masters

John Bergman and Aaron Sams are credited with being the earliest adopters and elder statesmen of the flipped classroom movement.  They have published two books, (look for a review in one of my earliest posts, the second book I’m reading currently) maintained a few great web resources including the Flipped Learning Network, held several workshops, helped in creating video editing software, and have now teamed up with Edutopia to give us newbie flipped teachers some tips.  Both are short, quality videos, and I encourage you to watch them!

Vocab Video Contest

Want to be rich, famous, and respected for your smarts and talents?  Enter this 15-second vocabulary video contest!


Shhh …. it’s Quiet Tube!

Nice resource for making Youtube safer in the classroom.

Ideas For Teachers

Ever wanted to show your class a You Tube clip, but held back because you didn’t want all the ‘extra’ stuff that surrounds the clip? Too scared of what may pop up in the suggestions area, or in the comments section? Well, there is something you can do to remove all of those hassles …. just be quiet!🙂

When You find a You Tube video you would like to use, simply go to the address bar and type the word ‘quiet’ in front of the You Tube in the address.  This would mean your address would go from this:


to this:


What this does, is remove everything else from the page …. easy!

Below is an example of the normal You Tube, and then what you will get if you use Quiet You Tube:

A fantastic and easy tip that will save you…

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Why Long Lectures Are Ineffective

Here is a good, old article from Khan on how the lecture format just doesn’t work.


Each school day, millions of students move in unison from classroom to classroom where they listen to 50- to 90-minute lectures. Despite there being anywhere from 20 to 300 humans in the room, there is little actual interaction. This model of education is so commonplace that we have accepted it as a given. For centuries, it has been the most economical way to “educate” a large number of students. Today, however, we know about the limitations of the class lecture, so why does it remain the most common format?

(MORE:Should Teachers Be Allowed to Share Their Lesson Plans?)

In 1996, in a journal called the National Teaching & Learning Forum, two professors from Indiana University — Joan Middendorf and Alan Kalish — described how research on human attention and retention speaks against the value of long lectures. They cited a 1976 study that detailed the ebbs and flows…

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Curriculum and Philosophy Supplemental Material

These are supplemental videos to the main presentation “trailer” that I’m presenting to the school board’s Curriculum and Philosophy Committee.

First is a quick tour of most of the products that I created.

Next are two infographic tours, first on the Flipped Classroom Model itself, the second on the growth of the pedagogy.

Presentation to the Curriculum and Philosophy Committee

So, the sabbatical ends, and the school year begins, but the project and the research will continue!  Yes, that means this website will continue to be updated!  This is my new way of life.

I will be presenting to the school board’s Curriculum and Philosophy committee this Tuesday.  It was extremely hard to condense a semester’s worth of research into a fifteen-minute presentation.  So, I decided to flip it.  Here is the video “trailer” I plan to present to the committee, in order to save the time during my “presentation” to be more interactive, discussion-based, and give them time to ask questions.  We’ll see how it goes!

Links Gallore!

Have you ever been surfing the web, following one link or post to another, bookmark it, and then continue on with surfing or whatever you were doing without a second thought, and before you knew it, you had a bajillion links?  Happens to me all the time.  The problem was compounded exponentially last semester when I had sabbatical and spent most of my workday researching or editing … all of which was done from the comfort of my couch and MacBook.

Fortunately, I did go into with a little forethought.  Really cool resources or findings I immediately posted on my Twitter feed, (where I found most the lion’s share of my research to begin with), through tweets or retweets, or if it was a resource that I deemed needed a bit more commentary, turned it into a blog post on this very blog, and to lesser extents, posted them to Facebook or Google+.  

Other than those, when I found a good link, I put it into a “sabbatical” folder in my browser’s bookmark folder.  However, I had a few different devices, with different browsers, each with a “sabbatical” folder.  The situation quickly became monstrous.

I spent a solid 10 hours coming though all of them, aggregating them, deleting the nonworking ones, annotating all them so if someone was to actually check out the lists, they’d know what they were clicking, and of course, sorting them into categories.  It was very therapeutic, reflective, and and gave me a sense of closure on the whole semester.

Now I have a finely curated and annotated list of web resources that create a kind of a trail map to where I wandered, and what I discovered.  The list is found right under the blog title – go check it out!

A quick note on what I used.  There were over 260 links from various devices and browsers.  Collating them wasn’t the easiest job, and then I had to make them easily shareable.  If I was only using Apple devices, and only running the Safari Browser, it would have been a great deal easier.  However, I love the Chrome browser…so syncing bookmarks between my phone and my computer, both having different browsers, provided a bit of a challenge.  I decided to look for an online “cloud” bookmark manager.

The easiest (and that’s not a great adjective, because it was still harder than I think it should be for such a simple task) method I found for doing this was to export all my lists from all my browsers, and import them all into the web bookmark manager, Diigo.  It’s  not super-slick, but it gets the job done.  There were other options out there, but to tell you the truth, they all over-complicated such a silly thing that should be dead-simple.

OMG! Music is what makes it POP!

So, I have a hefty number of videos under my belt, and I keep on getting a little bit better and better.  However, they still have a ways to go to get to the level of polish that I’ve seen in the masters, HipHughesHistory, @hiphughes and FlippingPhysics, @FlippingPhysics.  I recommend you go check out their videos and follow them on Twitter and Youtube.

Even though I’m still a young tadpole in this vast Flipping pond, today I think I turned a little corner.  I’ve been wondering how to add royalty-free music to my videos, especially for the intro and closing transitions.  I’ve found it – it’s awesome – I can’t believe I haven’t come across it before!

Youtube has a library of over a hundred royalty-free, quality mp3’s for you search, make favorites, preview and download.  No fees, no membership signups, no problems. Waaaaaay cool!

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I’m so giddy right now, it’s ridiculous.  I created a quick video for the kiddos’ first writing assignment, just so I could add some background soundtrack.  Check it out.  I think that simple little flourish at the beginning and end adds a LOT!

So, I’m very, very happy.  I feel like I’m one more step closer to where I want to be, production-wise.

Also, on this very last day before work starts officially again for the school year, I checked out two other very cool things!

First off, Google Classroom launched for every school that has GAFE (Google Apps for Education) enabled.  It looks very similar to Edmodo, so I was like … oh jeez, lame knockoff!  However, once I checked it out and set it up, I was hooked.

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It keeps all of the basic coolness of Edmodo, and stripped out the lame extras that nobody uses.  However, I must mention at this point Edmodo is still making a valiant attempt to tie things to the Common Core, and included an option called “snapshot” that let’s you give the kids on-the-spot assessment questions based off a standard.  Pretty cool. I’m not sure it’ll take off, though.  I think Edmodo tried to reach too far … and leave it to the Monopolizing giant to steal their good idea, make it better, and demolish the competition.  Edmodo just doesn’t have the resources to compete, and I’m afraid I can see the writing on the wall.

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However, El Goog doe have a history of trying new things and quickly ditching them, which has burned me in the past…anybody remember Google Wave?  I do.  I got burned with it.  There’s several initiatives that Google starts but doesn’t keep motivated to continually improve.  That’s where Edmodo might still prevail, if they can hold on.

But for this year, I’ll jump ship to Google Classroom.  The MAJOR reason is because we are a GAFE school – the kids are already very familiar with Google Docs, email, and whatnot.

The other cool thing I discovered today is Zaption.  In a nutshell it takes Youtube or Vimeo videos, and adds interactive elements, such as mulitiple-choice questions.  Check out the intro video below.

So, I have to play around with that.  Another thing that I have to play around with is Youtube’s online video editor.  I’ve shied away from it because I already dropped $75 on Camtasia, and am skeptical about the “built-in” editor, and I’ve become wary of trying to edit video in the cloud with a shaky school network.  However, this might be a better, or at least easier alternative for newbies.

Not bad work for a last day of summer vacation.

Gearing Up for the School Year

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So, it’s getting to be about that time of year again.  Teachers go back on Thursday, kids arrive the following Monday.  My classroom is already set up because I’ve been shooting videos in the space from time to time over the summer.  The only big things really to do are to create presentations for both my staff and school board letting them know what I’ve been up to over this last semester of sabbatical.

“Are you ready?”  That is the question every non-teacher friend asks me about this time of year, and frankly I cringe every time I hear it.  For some reason, I never quite feel as ready as I want to be.  Sure, I’ve had a semester “off” and have had more planning time before a school year than I’ve ever had before.  I’ve been doing this teaching gig for over a decade…but still…the night before classes start I inevitably have insomnia, a stomach ache, and the few days prior I find myself in a frantic state, doing as much last-minute prep as I can.  It’s just how it is with me.

Last June I met my incoming students.  I put a sign around my neck with my new website address (www.istoleenglish.com) and Twitter handle that I made just for them (@misterstowell).  I repeated them both several times.  I asked them to raise their hands if they had a Twitter account, every hand I saw went up.  Nice, got ’em, I thought.  Then I checked to see how many kids have followed my account … 0 … and today, a week before school starts? … still 0.  However, I do see that there is some traffic on my website, and some views even on the videos.  Another interesting thing is that I did get several emails from kids asking about the summer reading assignment, and in many of those emails, kids mentioned they “heard” from a classmate about it.  So, word is getting around although it’s not as much of a flashmob as I thought … yet.  I guess that’s the way when you’re doing something new that nobody else is doing in your school … yet.

So, even though I created several videos for them to watch even before they step foot in my class, it looks like I may need to do a little more work to promote these two venues if this flipped thing is going to work for real.

However, I do know this age group by now, and so I’m not too worried when I see that they’ve been spending their summer doing just what they should be doing: having fun with their friends and family; playing, relaxing, reading for fun.  

So, I’m actually starting this year with a whole lot of (hopefully not misplaced) optimism.  I’ve put a lot of work into getting this first “Flipped Classroom” year into place, and I’m ready to teach my kids and colleagues all about it, in addition to teaching them English.

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