Archive for February, 2013

Should We Flip the Classroom?

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

I remember first hearing the idea of a “flipped classroom” last semester in my Classroom Management course.  It was explained as giving students instruction at home and applying those concepts the next day in class.  After hearing this theory, it sounded pretty good to me.  It would make the classroom more student-centered, so that the teacher is not stuck at the front of the room giving lectures.  Instead, the students learn the concepts on their own time at home, and then (going by Bloom’s Taxonomy), they use worksheets and activities in class to create meaning from the material and apply it.

The problem I see with this, however, is the same problem I see with homework.  Students aren’t necessarily going to put in the time after school to watch videos that the teacher prepares or read articles that they are given for the next class.  There could be many reasons why students would not be able to go over the material at home.  Lack of motivation would be an obvious one, but students from diverse backgrounds (such as those who have to go to a job after school or take care of siblings/family) may suffer from not having the time to devote to this “homework.”

However, there are ways in which a flipped classroom could work.  I liked the article Flipped Classroom Full Picture: An Example Lesson, which took me through a sample lesson plan and activities.  The students were given a hands-on activity to get them started, and then they went to their own computer stations for the material.  As the article (Gerstein, 2011) states, “The benefit of this form of personalized viewing is that the learners have control of the media so they can view it at their own pace.”  I think that this element is very important because every student is different.  During a lecture in a classroom, students are given the information at the teacher’s pace, not their own.  This type of instruction can keep the students from getting overwhelmed, and allows them more freedom with the information.

I think that the “flipped classroom” has its benefits and drawbacks, as with any theory, but I would definitely try to use this type of instruction in my own future classroom.  It puts more responsibility on the students for their own learning, which can prepare them for college, where they will often have to read or do work independent from their courses.  This can also teach them time management.  Overall, while it might take students a while to realize that they have to make time for this kind of instruction, the positives are very appealing.


Gerstein, J. (2011, November 20). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Week 5: Creating a Video

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

This week, we focused on creating a curricular music video.  The website Animoto was used to make a short, minute-ish long video that introduced a topic to the class.  The topic had to be aligned with SOL standards, and because my content area is English, I wanted to focus on literature for my video.

Animoto was surprisingly easy to use.  If you sign up as an educator, you get free access to about a dozen themes, and photos and videos can be inserted into these themes and set to music.  One theme that looked interesting to me was the Inferno theme, which has yellow and orange fire that seems to spiral.  The photos you put into this theme also appear to burn up as they are being shown.  Going off of the Inferno theme, I decided to base my music video on Dante’s Inferno.

Back in high school, I had an English teacher who read Dante’s Inferno with us and had us break into groups to create our own levels of Hell.  She asked us to reflect on our own lives and choose sins that we believed should be punished and put them in order.  The sins we thought were worse would be at the bottom, with the less grave sins focused at the top.  I went to Catholic school, so we had plenty of background reflecting on punishment and redemption.

I decided to incorporate this activity into my video.  I thought that the video should not just be an introduction to the topic, but a means of moving into a lesson or activity.  The video needs a purpose besides piquing students’ interests.  Once the students’ attention is caught with the video, they need to get used to moving onto the next step and think critically about what they are learning.  Here is my video below:


I think that Animoto and curricular music videos are a great way to get students interested in a topic.  English teachers especially can benefit because we want to get students interested in what they are about to read or are already reading, and sometimes it helps to give students a visual.  Students could also make their own 30-second videos as a project.  These videos would be helpful in introducing a unit, but maybe not just one lesson.  The video can introduce a longer text or an author that students are about to come across.  I would definitely use it for unit plans, but not every day so that they don’t lose their luster.

Networking and Creating

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

This week we worked on a personal learning network, which involves creating several different kinds of profiles, such as Twitter or Delicious.  I already had a Twitter account, which I’d had to get for another college course.  We only used it so that we could communicate as a class when we had movie showings.  That was pretty cool, but I never used it afterwards.  I’m glad I kept it for this class!

I already have a LinkedIn account as well, but I need to expand it.  I have all my information on that profile, but I haven’t been very good about reaching out to other people.  I’m looking forward to trying this out because the need to get a job is getting closer and closer as I start my graduate work.  I can’t wait to explore the possibilities this network could have!

Moving on to creativity, we were assigned the task of creating a computer game. This was extremely daunting for me because most of what I know about the computer comes from Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest.  I downloaded Scratch for my computer, and before class on Thursday, I tried it out.  For the life of me I could not figure out how to switch between the little characters or make them do all the motions in a row.  I fiddled with the software for a couple hours and eventually gave up and decided to wait a little while and come back to it.

I’m glad I took a break because Isat down today with a clear head and I was finally able to figure it out.  The tutorials online seemed like they would provide a good introduction to the program, but I wasn’t able to grasp the concepts of Scratch until I played around with it myself.  Experimentation turned out to be the best way for me to learn how to use Scratch.  I made a Scratch of the different parts of dramatic plays: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.  I made a background for the scratches to sit on, and I was able to animate them so that when you click on them, they tell you what each term means.  I won’t lie, I was a little proud of myself.  It may not be the best game or program but I did it!  Here’s a link to my game: 

When coming up with a topic, I tried to think what information is important for students in an English class to know.  The SOL for this game comes from Virginia’s Grade 9 standards:

9.4 The student will read, comprehend, and analyze a variety of literary texts including
narratives, narrative nonfiction, poetry, and drama. (“ ,” 2011)

Students need to understand the components of a dramatic work so that they understand what order the events go in and how each component affects the others.  Play structure can also be applied to other kinds of literature, like novels (both fiction and non-fiction).  Most stories function with the components covered in my Scratch game.  I had to do a little research to remind myself of the definitions of each component.  After finding these using a Google search, I plugged them into the game.

I think that Scratch could be a good tool for elementary classrooms, but I would prefer using something like Animoto for the secondary classes.  While Scratch can be fun and interactive for students just starting to learn how to use computer programs and are learning the basics of a subject area, I think that my students might feel pandered to if the Scratch game is too easy or simple.  Maybe after playing around with it more, I’ll be able to figure out a way to incorporate it into a high school English class, but for the moment, I think that Scratch would be a perfect tool for K-5th graders.

References:   (2011). Retrieved from



Can I Use That?

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

As mentioned in our readings this week, sometimes it is hard to determine what online material can be dropped into a PowerPoint or a video.  “Information that is at your fingertips is often believed to have no copyright laws protecting it because it is accessible and it is found online” (Coffman 2013).  Usually, all you have to do is right-click, and you can choose from options that prompt you to save the image or copy the image for later use.  The simplicity of it can be tempting, and we usually don’t think twice before using anything we find on Google Images.  I know that most of the PowerPoints I have saved and used for classes are full of images I found online, but after fixing my search options on Google and by looking at other sites, it turns out that finding reusable sources is easier than I expected.

One source that I particularly liked from Dr. Coffman’s suggestions was the Multicolr site, which allows you to search by color.  You can pick up to five colors, and there are hundreds of usable images right at your fingertips.  I enjoyed using this site, and found it to be not only useful, but fun!  I can imagine using this site when creating PowerPoint presentations. I like using color schemes and having everything match in my presentations, so this site allows me to search for images that are the exact colors I need.

I was also able to find free, usable pictures on Morgue File.  As assigned for this post, I was able to find a picture of an adorable, amusing cat:

tigger cat

Uploaded from Morgue File

While this website didn’t have as many options to choose from as, say, Google Images would, this site was easy to use and I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I could download the image legally.  I checked out the license for this image and found that I was free to:

  • Remix – to adapt the work.
  • Commercial – to use this work for commercial purposes.
  • Without Attribution – to use without attributing the original author.(“Morgue file”)

I would not, however be able to use the image in the following ways:

  • Stand alone basis – You can not sell, license, sublicense, rent, transfer or distribute this image exactly as it is without alteration.
  • Ownership – You may not claim ownership of this image in its original state. (“Morgue file”)

I think that these restrictions are perfectly fair, and I can do a lot with the image without going against the license.  Like Dr. Coffman wrote, “Just because it’s on the Web doesn’t mean that it’s OK for you to reuse for your own creations” (Coffman, 2013).  We often don’t consider this because copy/paste is supposedly easier, but other search engines and settings prove that no more time or energy is wasted looking at free-use sites than Google Images.

As teachers, it is our responsibility to model good behavior for our students.  It used to be that we only had to worry about being good citizens, treating others fairly, or teaching students about plagiarism.  Our work is really cut out for us now because in the Internet Age, we have to teach them about Fair Use, about the reliability of sources, and about the ways in which the Internet can both help and hinder them.  These students have grown up with the Internet, and they think that they are already more proficient in it than we are.  In some ways that is true, but a teenager isn’t necessarily going to worry about whether the song or video he is downloading is illegal.  It is part of our job to provide our students with a safe learning environment, and teaching our students about copyright is one way to ensure that they are putting effort into their work and that they are using the Internet safely.

A good resource for teachers to post in their classroom or pass out as a handout is the Can I Use It? flowchart provided by Dr. Coffman (NCTE, 2007).  This chart is an easy way for students (and teachers) to figure out what they can use from online.  It also serves to show students that there is no excuse not to think about what materials they can use online.  By showing them how simple it is to check licenses, or to cite their sources, we put the responsibility on the students to pay attention to where they are getting images and text.


Morgue file. (n.d.). Retrieved from

NCTE. (2007). Retrieved from              

Coffman, T. (2013). Week 3 reflection blog post: Copyright. Unpublished raw data, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA, , Available from Canvas. Retrieved from