Thursday, August 5, 2010

Experimental Classroom

I have an ideal situation with my Honors Calculus course for experimenting in the classroom. In Tennessee, there are basically 3 standards: Derivatives, Integrals, Applications. They are very vague, so I tend to just follow the AP Calculus AB curriculum and go at a slightly slower pace or less in depth. In addition, most students in Honors Calc are seniors, so it's pretty much a capstone course--they don't get college credit, so they'll have to take calculus again at college and I don't have to prepare them for another math course in high school either. So, I get a lot of leeway on what direction the class goes.

Just to keep my head above water (I've had 5 preps every year I've been teaching), I've not really taken advantage of the above very much. I've had the class follow behind the AB course and adjusted on the fly. Now that I feel more comfortable with the other courses I'm teaching, I'll be able to try some new/different things in there and move them into the other courses I teach if they work.

The two things I think I'd like to try at some point are: "Flipping the classroom" (record lectures and put them online for students to watch as homework, then in class work through the problem solving together) and "Standards-Based Grading" (tying assessment questions to specific skills and reporting student achievement based on level of mastery of each standard).

Since there are many blogs about SBG out there, I thought I'd try flipping the classroom and report my experiences of it, but the tech limitations (as mentioned in a previous blog entry) in our system are making me wonder if I can get it done. Among other things, youtube is blocked at our school. They do give us some web space to use, but they complain when you put too many files on there and it takes up too much memory. We're not really "allowed" to use outside resources. So, I could skirt the system and upload to youtube from my house and have the students watch the videos from home as well, but it would be going against the board policy.

I'll keep things updated here if/when I think I'm doing something interesting.


  1. Hi Dave,

    A colleague of mine and I have been discussing the idea of flipping the classroom for the last year, so I'd be thrilled to see how it works out for you if you do it. As a short-term solution, do you think your district would be receptive to a formal proposal from you, one that was very specific as to what material would go on the web and how it would be accessed? A long-term solution might be to write a grant proposal to buy a web server with enough space to hold a few classes worth of material.

    By the way, I recorded my calculus lectures a couple of years ago, posted them on the web and have received a lot of positive feedback from people all over the world (not affiliated with my university), so having your videos available to students might be a fantastic resource.

  2. Could I/my students have access to your lectures online, too?

    I'll definitely keep you updated with any progress and links to lectures or other materials we get.

    I might be able to ask about allowing some form of availability. My guess is, though, that they will not like it at all. I'm also the webmaster at my school and just getting access to link to google's copy of jquery (a common javascript library) took quite a bit of arguing. I guess it can't hurt to ask, though, huh?

    Another weird option I was thinking of doing was having students put a flash drive on their list of materials needed for class. Then I could just copy the file for them to take home that way (internet access not required).

    I'll discuss with students and see what happens.