27 March 2013

The Interactive Learning Journal

That? That right there? That's one of the reasons my semester has been insane. Lee Ferguson has been using Interactive Learning Journals in her high school AP/IB science courses with a fair amount of success,  often posting about them in her Facebook timeline. I've known Lee for at least a decade, though we've never actually met in person. She was highly active in a teaching community back in the days I was addicted to LiveJournal. Lee's an amazing educator, so if she's singing the praises of something, it has to be good. 

So I've been using the Interactive Learning Journals as a conduit between the flipped lectures I've been uploading and our class sessions. Flipped classrooms invert the traditional approach to classroom teaching, with students listening to lectures before coming to class. This has allowed me to really focus the lectures on theoretical and content knowledge; a quick check-in at the beginning of class and we're off to spend our time on applications of the knowledge. In other words, now that they know all this "stuff," what can they do with it in classrooms?
(My students are required to take Cornell Notes for each and every podcast - I regularly check their ILJs for these.)

To say I'm happy with this semester is an understatement. Prior to the break, I met with each and every one of my students and they know more, have more ideas about how to apply their learning in classrooms, and were overwhelmingly positive about their experiences. Some had even started using ILJs in their current educational spaces, whether they be tutoring or after-school programs. One of my goals at the end of last semester was to figure out how to more fully merge the theoretical, content knowledge, and pragmatic application together; while I'm not using this completely, this is definitely a step in the right direction. 


Personally, I like that my students can experience firsthand how taking up an approach such as this shapes the ways learning happens in a space. The materials I ask them to include in their ILJs attempt to capitalize on connections between concepts, prepping them for application. For example: early childhood theorists. Important for understanding the baggage that accompanies the many approaches to early childhood education, this foldable helps students think through the differences between the theorists. During our class time, my students will be working in small group activities like this as I walk around and check for understanding.


These are all pictures from my master ILJ - I work to keep pace with the students as we add pages, but I don't have all the notes, drawings, and other things my students do. They aren't just filling out pages they glue in their notebook, I swear. It just happens to be what's in my journal.

So, yeah. Teaching. Takes up a hella amount of time, but I think it'll be a stronger class moving forward. I've been slowly but surely building a collection of Podcasts I can modify semester-to-semester and can link the ILJ to them. Now to make sure I get to teach this class for perpetuity... 

25 March 2013

Snowed In, Spring Break Edition

I'm supposed to be driving to Baton Rouge right now. Instead, I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Michigan, crossing things off of my to-do list. Which is fine, but I would much rather be driving to Baton Rouge. Because it's Spring Break and this semester has been hard and I am in need of a Candice fix. The weather, unfortunately, had other ideas, leaving Michigan unscathed but creating ridiculous travel conditions to the south of me. I raise a fist to you, Virgil! 

So, instead, I'm sitting here, drinking coffee and writing. Now, writing to you. But damn, I wish I was on the road. 

Also: this maple syrup? Ah-mazing. Spent a little time this weekend learning how such beauty is made. These are samples of all the batches of syrup the Maple Valley Lions Club has made this season. I love how the colors change from batch to batch. Even more, I love it drizzled on pancakes. If you're in mid-Michigan the last weekend of April, head to the Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival. Wear your big pants. They'll fit by the time you leave.