“Will the World Ever Learn?” Elon student commencement address 2019

Back in late February of 2019, I co-hosted Elon’s first Elon English Language Teaching Symposium on campus. At the event, I delivered a short presentation to our 100 attendees and felt nervous beforehand. 100 people is a large crowd! After the Symposium ended, a professor asked if he could nominate me to speak at graduation for the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education Ceremony. I was shocked, humbled, and honored. I had just spoken to 100 people, and now I’d be preparing for thousands?! I slept on it, and told him “yes!” shortly after. A few weeks later, I received the news that I had been chosen.

I would like to share the text of my speech with all of you. Thank you to Dr. Jeff Carpenter and Dr. Kim Pyne for being my wonderful speech coaches. Thank you to Dean Ann Bullock, the Dean of the School of Education for supporting me throughout this process!

“Will the World Ever Learn?” Elon student commencement address 2019

Hey y’all! Welcome all to graduation and a big welcome to my fellow graduates. Thank you to the families who have traveled from near and far, and to the professors, friends, and supporters who have encouraged us and cheered us on every step of the way. My name is Courtney Kobos and I am a Texas native, an Elon English and education major, and a future teacher. Like many of you, some pinnacle moments of my Elon experience include traveling, researching, and teaching. And as a teacher, and in classic Elon style, I’m going to ask us to reflect together on our Elon experiences one more time.

Last semester, I began an internship teaching 10th graders at a nearby school. As a class, we read texts about injustice from the Holocaust to Sandy Hook. One was Elie Wiesel’s speech to the United Nations commemorating the Holocaust. The speech concludes with the famous lines: “We must be engaged, we must reject indifference as an option. Indifference always helps the aggressor, never his victims. But will the world ever learn?” During the class activity that followed, a student pulled me aside. Pointing at that final line, she looked at me, concern etched across her face, and whispered the same question Wiesel asks us. “Ms. Kobos, do you think the world will ever learn?” As a teacher, I get asked dozens of questions a day and I can’t say that I’m able to remember them all. However, this unexpected heartfelt question and the student’s worried tone continue to echo in my mind.

In pondering this, I was reminded of a memory from the summer before. I have titled this story, “That time I accidentally signed myself up to run an Ecuadorian 5K.” Let me tell you about my host mom, Maria Jose. Maria Jose is a force to be reckoned with. She selflessly gives her time and love to many in her community, including her kids, her school, and the volunteers who work at the summer camp she founded. Maria Jose also bravely battles two types of cancer and trains for races in the midst of chemo. So, when a colleague asked me if I’d like to go cheer her on during an evening 5k, I gladly agreed. I showed up at her door at 8pm dressed in street clothes, ready to be the loudest “gringa” there. She took one look at me and asked, “What are you wearing? Mihija, you can’t run in that. We’re late, so go get changed into your race clothes!” I panicked. I could not say no to Maria Jose, but running is not my thing–just ask my family here in the crowd. But, I had no choice. I had apparently agreed to run in the race, not just be part of the cheering section. 20 minutes later, we arrived at the trail and approached a group of serious runners decked out in running tights and headlamps. And then, there was me: an outsider wearing skinny jeans, using the flashlight on my phone, and dragging myself up that hill wondering how in the world I ended up there, and trying to swallow my pride when I was the last one to make it to the top. In reflecting on moments like this one, that have pushed me outside of my comfort zone and have forced me to learn and grow — I started to formulate an answer to my student’s question. In order to fully support Maria Jose, I had to run the race alongside her. Standing by and cheering from the sidelines was not enough.

When I returned to Elon, I immediately dove in to another one of the most enriching and uncomfortable periods in my undergraduate career — conducting research. I was awarded the Elon Leadership Prize, which funds students trying to tackle large scale national problems in their communities. My project focused on improving the schooling experience locally for English language learners and building capacity in the education system to better support underserved children. Who was I to take on this broad and nearly unsolvable issue? For a while, I had moments daily where I doubted myself and wondered why I was chosen for this award. But, if I could survive that crazy 5K run up the side of an Ecuadorian mountain, maybe I would accomplish this project the same way — by embracing discomfort and placing myself in the action. Through showing up and doing the work alongside many others, I had the opportunity to see the difference between having knowledge for the sake of knowledge and using knowledge collaboratively to influence local change. Oftentimes, we are told that if we just work together we can change the world. But, I believe that in addition to working together, we also must individually commit, take responsibility, and be daring.

I stand here confidently today, looking out at you, my fellow 2019 graduates. We have now completed our time at Elon. We have taken dozens of classes, met students from across the United States and the world, and have gained knowledge about our future careers and about our passions. I realize now, from my experiences teaching, traveling, and researching, that support from the sidelines is not what the world needs. We must be in the thick of the action and outside of our comfort zones. Just like on that dusty trail in Ecuador, we must put ourselves in the race, even if we are the very last ones to make it to the top, and sometimes even if we didn’t intend on signing up for the race to begin with. We must each choose to fight the tendency to stay on the sidelines, because we have the power to reject indifference.

So, class of 2019, I bring my student’s question back to all of us. “Will the world ever learn?” Can we take the knowledge that we have acquired during our time at Elon and use it to get off the sidelines? Can we push against our natural inclination to be indifferent? Can we get to the top of that hill, not alone, but together? Can we? The answers to these questions are ever evolving. With every step and every choice, no matter our majors, our career paths, or our life journeys, we can demonstrate that the world can learn.

Thank you Mom and Dad, family, friends, and Elon for all of your love and support!

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Rafting in the remote Amazon rainforest

Go ahead and get out your bucket list because this trip needs to be added immediately!

At the beginning of the summer when I learned that some of the other WorldTeach volunteers were going to be placed in a small jungle town in the Amazon rain forest, i knew that I wanted to plan a visit.

Now that my service has ended in Riobamba (another post to come soon!) the time to visit Tena was finally upon me. Another Riobamba volunteer named Jenny and I made the 5 hour bus trip on Tuesday morning to visit our good friends.

Over the past 3 days, I’ve gotten to explore their town of Tena alongside them and my plans became reality. Since they’re basically locals at this point, they were awesome guides and showed us all of the great restaurants and some really cool swimming spots.

Some highlights and absolute must-do’s include:

Visiting a restaurant that doubles as a home to sloths called the Marquies:

Finding a great swimming spots around the city:

Taking a bus to go visit a little town that is home to monkeys!

However, the absolute highlight of the trip for me was a 1-day rafting trip that Jenny and I signed up for on Wednesday. I promise you that if you haven’t considered a trip to Ecuador in the past, you’re going to want to now!

A quick trip backstory:

On Monday evening Jenny and I signed up for a tour through a company called River People, and chose Wednesday knowing that if not enough people signed up for our trip we may get bumped to a later day. Sure enough, on Tuesday I got an email that our trip had been canceled. However, the company sent another email shortly after with the exciting news that a couple had signed up and our trip was back on. Great news!

At 8:30 the next morning, a man in the company van picked us up and asked if we had heard that we were actually going on a DIFFERENT trip than we signed up for.

In Ecuador, you never quite know the way things will unfold and things never seem to go as planned so we nodded that we were game for whatever the day had to offer and we headed off to meet the other couple and our guides at the company’s office.

At the office, we learned that we would have a hike with gear to get to the river where we’d be rafting, that we would have 2 guides (one on the raft and one scout in a kayak), and that this trip was an upgrade from the one I had originally signed us up for. It was then that I realized we were in for a treat.

A 45 minute drive from the office brought us into the middle of nowhere. It’s important to note that Tena is a small town of 30,000 people that really became a city simply because it’s the biggest collection of neighborhoods in the area. Once you’re outside of Tena, the jungle really begins. Aside from small communities and groups of indigenous peoples, it’s really just jungle as far as the eye can see.

The hike

Upon arrival at our hiking spot, a group from the indigenous community rushed over to begin hiking with the gear (including the raft and kayak). The guides explained to us that there are several groups of locals are all in competition for the job of helpng with our gear so the guides created a rotating schedule for helpers.

I barely made it down this hike with just myself so I have no clue how these people managed to carry our huge gear down the steep muddy path to the river. A “30 minute hike” was really more like an hour and since it rains at least twice a day in the Amazon, the paths were pure mud and rocks. I fell twice and the hike was so precarious that we were asked to wear our rafting helmets as we went. What trip had they signed me up for?!?

Finally, after an hour of slipping and sliding, I thought we were ready to raft and get in the water. But in fact, I was told that we were first going to hike to a canyon to see a pretty area and clean off. I was convinced that no site could be worth hiking in this mud but I figured I had come all of this way so I kept my mouth shut and kept moving.

Another 20 minutes later and we were rewarded beyond belief. The little jungle path opened up to a small circular clearing in the canyon with a pure blue pool of water being filled by a beautiful waterfall. Looking upwards revealed only a small circular opening in the tree canopy which allowed soft light and small sprinkles of rain to float into the space. Our small group of 5 was the only one there in this non-commercialized part of the jungle and we all quickly stripped off our outer clothes and dove into the pure crisp water.

We spent about 30 minutes swimming, crawling behind the waterfall, and exploring a little cave that you could climb into – guess what – a cave with ANOTHER waterfall. We all agreed that already, the trip was worth it.

This place might just have been the most beautiful place I’ve ever laid eyes on. I was absolutely blown away by the natural beauty – nature at its absolute finest. I feel so incredibly lucky to have visited such a place.

*unfortunately we did not have our phones but photos will be added as soon as the company sends them to me*

Rafting the Jondachi and Hollin rivers

The adventure continued as we had our safety briefing and began our 4 hour trip down the Jondachi and Hollín rivers. Our guide explained that he was the first person to ever lead a commercial group down the Jondachi. This portion of the Amazon is one of the most remote places to go rafting in the world and therefore, we had to take extra safety precautions.

Throughout the whole 4 hour trip, the only people that we saw were a group of indigenous people fishing and their village was a 3 hour walk away! Everywhere we turned, we were surrounded by the grand Amazon rainforest. Birds and butterflies that I’ve never seen before flew around us above and even the occasional sprinkling rain just made the place seem more beautiful.

Of course as we journeyed down, we also experienced the excitement (and one ejection!) from the raft. I felt like a little kid giggling as we flew down rapids and splashing the others in my raft as we got to know each other better.

Flips & flops

Even our flip on the “waffle maker” rapid was fun instead of scary thanks to our awesome guides who ensured we knew exactly what to do if we were in the water and quickly got us all back into the raft.

I am so glad that Jenny and I went with the flow (literally!!!) and ended up on the class 3 & 4 rafting trip instead of the more commercialized class 3 trip we originally signed up for. Living in Ecuador this summer, “going with the flow” has definitely had to be my motto, and I’ve found that I’m learning to deal better with stressful situations than I did previously.

Huge thank you to River People for the incredible trip, glory to God and Mother Nature for creating places more beautiful than I’ve ever imagined, and thank you to my amazon Tena friends for being our guides and showing us around!

What are you waiting for?! Head to the jungle, pronto!

Con amor,

Courtney

Ecuador Uncategorized

What the Hecuador?!

I have officially been in Ecuador for 3 whole days now and life has already been full of good food, new friends, lots of learning, and lots of “what the heck?!” moments.

This week and until Wednesday of next week, the 5 other volunteers and I are staying at a hostel in Quito, Ecuador to complete our WorldTeach orientation. Our days are long and full of teacher training sessions that focus on health/safety, teaching tips, and Spanish lessons! I truly missed this feeling of getting to know a new city and I am so happy to be here in Quito. I don’t even know how exactly to describe Quito — it is most similar to my visit to Valencia, Spain. It is a big (actually huge) city that is surrounded by the mountains. It is quite surreal to walk around a hustling and bustling place with glimpses of the mountains in the background. The other volunteers and WorldTeach staff are fabulous and I know that this 8 weeks is going to fly by.

What the heck #1 – the buses!

Yesterday, we got to experience our first bus ride to get to the Megamaxi (basically Walmart). It is only 25 cents to take the bus! This, of course, is a fabulous deal. I have learned that everyone takes advantage of this deal. Every time that I thought that surely no more people could fit on that bus, more people fit on the bus. When it came time for our stop, we had to shove ourselves off and barely made it as a group.

What the heck #2 – TRAFFIC

I should also stop here to mention that Quito traffic is the craziest I have seen so far out of all of the places that I have been. Pedestrians definitely do not have the right of way and crossing is definitely at your own risk. Drivers do not seem to follow much pattern and the roads are extremely windy and curvy (the mountains, duh!)

 

A decade or so ago Quito was considered an extremely dangerous city but thankfully, it is fairly safe these days. WorldTeach is also very vigilant about our safety and really looks out for us and I have felt very safe! So far, the only bad part has been some catcalls and some stares — the stares are kind of expected considering that we are a large group of gringo ladies. We all follow general safety tips that I wouldn’t always consider in the United States (for those who know me, I am not known for my safety hahaha sorry mom). For example, here in Quito, I don’t carry my Smartphone around and only carry the cash I need with me and we stay in a group! This is one reason why I do not have a ton of photos to add to this blog! Riobamba is much safer, so I will have many more photos to come. The cash economy here has definitely been an adjustment for all of us. Ecuador does use the U.S. dollar but since things are cheaper here, they have trouble even breaking $20 bills. This leads me to my next point…

 

What the heck #3 – Cost of food

I had heard that food was cheap here but it still manages to surprise me every time. The food is also covered by the fee to participate in the program, so we are really fortunate! A common lunch here is about $3.75 (including tax and tip) and will include a soup, a hot main course, and a small dessert. Dinner is a bit more expensive and you can really find all of the options here in Quito.

You might be wondering, how is a young lady with little to no Spanish skills getting around and getting along in Ecuador?! Well, I am quite lucky to have several volunteer friends whose Spanish is much better than mine and who are able to communicate when I am not. However, I am trying to practice as much as possible and not worry if I make mistakes. The local people here are so extremely patient and kind with my floundering Spanish skills. As I mentioned previously, we are enrolled in Spanish classes here in Quito for 1 hour per day and I hope to continue lessons and practice in Riobamba.

 

What the heck #4 – toilet paper

My final what the heck moment thus far has to do with toilet paper placement. This one is not necessarily Ecuador specific, but still takes adjustment. No toilets here allow you to place toilet paper in the actual toilet. Instead, one must remember to place it in the trash can. I have heard from WorldTeach staff that this becomes a habit and that when we go back to the United States, we will actually have to re-train ourselves again! Luckily, in our hostel, the bathrooms are cleaned frequently and it isn’t really as gross as it first seems. Our hostel, Cafecito, is absolutely adorable. I am currently downstairs with some friends hanging out in the cute little lobby/bar. One of the bartenders actually just brought us a free drink – Canelazo (cinnamon spiced rum). Clearly, I am not missing much here in Ecuador!

Once again, I am just so happy to be here learning Spanish and training alongside some great people. I know that there will be ups and downs over the next two months (after all, we have been warned that we will all most likely get some kind of stomach illness during our stay here), but I am looking forward to embracing the journey. I look forward to sharing more about Quito and Riobamba in the next week or so!

 

P. S. I recently found out some of the amazing places that we will get to visit during our midsummer conference and our post-summer reflection trip and lets just say, there will be rafting, hiking, and ziplining in my future!

Buenas noches!

 

Ecuador Uncategorized

8 Weeks in Ecuador – What I’m Packing

Hi everyone!

I have a few more exciting updates about my trip to Ecuador, which I leave for TOMORROW! It still really has not set in that I am about to head out and will be gone for 8 weeks. My flight leaves from DFW, stops in Houston, and then arrives in Quito at 5:55am on Sunday morning. In total, there will be about 7 hours of airtime. One of the other volunteers is actually also from the Dallas so I will have a new friend on my flight! Here are a few updates and photos of what I’m packing:

Training in Quito

For the first 9 days of the trip (Monday the 18th to Wednesday the 27th) I will be completing training alongside the other volunteers in Quito. Our training will focus on teacher preparation, Spanish lessons, and cultural lessons. We will have long training days but according to the directors, we will also have some time to explore the city!

Teaching vocabulary

On Wednesday, 2 of the other volunteers and I will travel to Riobamba (4 hours south of Quito) and move into our placement. I talked about my placement a little in the past post, so check that out if you missed it! I now know that I will be teaching the vocabulary class. Every week, I will come up with a theme to teach the various age groups of students. The difficulty will vary based on age group, but they will all have the same theme. The age groups are divided as follows:

RED FROGS         4-5-6

BLUE BEARS        7-8-9

ORANGE BEARS   10-11

BLACK DRAGONS 12-13

GREY WOLVES      15

I will have an older Ecuadorian highschooler volunteering with me in the classroom — this will be a huge help with the language barrier! A few days after arriving in Riobamba, our director is hosting a potluck welcome dinner at her house. The Ecuadorian volunteers will bring Ecuadorian dishes and the other volunteers and I will bring American food. It might be a challenge to find the correct ingredients there!

Packing

One of the most frequent questions I have gotten when I tell people about my trip to Ecuador is the understandable question, “What are you packing?!” Packing has been a bit challenging because I will be there for 8 weeks, the weather can get chilly especially in the evenings, and I need clothes for both the classroom and for outdoor adventures. My airline allowance for baggage is one 50 pound checked bag, one bag for the overhead compartment, and one small personal item under the seat.

Here’s what I have packed so far:

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Pants: 1 pair outdoor pants, 1 pair outdoor capris, 2 pairs dark denim, 1 long skirt, 3 pairs workout leggings, 1 pair cute shorts, 1 pair athletic shorts

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3 graphic tees, 1 workout tank, 2 versatile tees

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1 sweatshirt, 1 coat, 1 rain jacket, 2 cardigans

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4 longsleeved shirts

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3 dresses (one was in the laundry)

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Shower shoes, Chacos, Hiking boots, sandals, and (not pictured) tennis shoes for the plane

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Daypack, contacts, watch, scarf, warm socks, hat & gloves, jewelry, Flonase, hat & gloves, toiletries, English and Spanish dictionary

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Grammar book, 2 journals, kindle, money belt, passport (+ necessary paperwork), LOTS of small bills – large bills are hard to change in Ecuador!

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1 swimsuit, 1 hat, water bottle, gum, sunscreen, quick-dry towel

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Gifts for my hosts!

Other random things not pictured:

  • Small prizes and classroom decorations
  • Underwear/socks/additional toiletries
  • Small purse
  • Chromebook
  • Sunglasses

 

Que la aventura comience!

Ecuador Uncategorized

How to flip your classroom

So, you’ve decided to flip your classroom! Congrats! As stated in my previous post, this does NOT mean you need to flip every lesson or every unit – especially if you’re in an English classroom. Some content works better “flipped” than other topics, so make sure that you are thinking critically about what should stay in class and what be pushed to homework.

 

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What information should I “flip”?

When deciding what information works best in a “flip”, you should consider following Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s policy for “Backward Design.” 

  1. Think about your unit goals and standards. What do you want the students to ultimately learn?
  2. How will you assess students’ understanding to make sure that they have achieved your goals? What will your evidence be?
  3. What learning plan will allow students to work towards your goal? Plan learning experiences and instruction.

IF, you believe that you have a lesson that could be taught and assessed at home in order to best help your students achieve their learning goals, then THIS is information you should flip!

Questions to consider:

1 – What skills do students need?

2 – How will I know they learned those skills?

3 – What questions do I need them to start thinking about?

4 – What skills can be best taught on video?

5 – How will I encourage them to ask their own questions?

6 – What technology do I need to learn about?

7 – How can I tie the homework I assign to the lesson the next day?

8 – How will I accommodate technology struggles?

9 – How can I promote student independence?

How do I film a video?

Full disclosure: filming a video is not easy! Deciding to flip your class 100% of the time would be absolutely crazy because creating content takes planning and time. Instead, think of one or two lessons that you can flip every month and build up your video base over the years. Additionally, consider finding videos that already exist and either inserting clips of yourself or designing your own questions.

Useful tools

For filming, a newer iPhone camera typically works just fine. Make sure that you stabilize your phone or camera so that the video clip is not shaky (Linked is one of the best Flipped Videos on Youtube I came across – an introduction to Brit Lit). For math, science, computer, or history folks, Kahn Academy has a wealth of videos that you might assign or use as examples for your own videos. Flippedlearning.org has a great article on 12 ways to create your digital content.

Think about where you will upload your content. Sites like Ed Puzzle allow you to upload content and ask students to answer questions on the site. Then, you can assess students’ answers and give them feedback all in one place. Or, you might upload to YouTube and send out a Google Form for question responses.

iMovie works as a basic editing tool and is relatively easy to use. You can insert music you own on iTunes, overlay photos on top of videos, and make voiceovers in the program. There are lots of YouTube tutorials about using this software.

Plan it out

The video you film will probably not be perfect on your first take. Every video-maker needs to develop their own “filming personality.” Filming with a friend can help with this because you don’t feel as crazy talking to a camera.

Script out writing and plan what clips you’ll film before you sit down with a camera. Refer to UBD strategies to ensure that you are teaching content that fits your larger learning goals.

Try to keep videos under 10 minutes! Break up topics so that students do not become bored and overwhelmed and include breaks where students pause the video and do some writing, Googling, or chatting with a friend.

Accessibility

As with utilizing any form of technology of the technology in the classroom, you need to brainstorm roadblocks that might come when you decide to implement a “flipped lesson”. Perhaps, you need to campaign to your school’s library and computer labs to stay open before and after school. Consider sending out an email to parents to allow them to access flip content. Additionally, subtitles are extremely useful, particularly for students who either are hard of hearing or need to watch the videos in a public place where they cannot use sound.

For students who do not have internet access or cannot download videos at home, think of ways that they can still access content. Perhaps, offer an opportunity for students to bring in a flash drive each week so that you can download video content for them on the school wifi.

Time stamps are also a useful tool that allows students to refer back to particular parts of the video without having to scroll through the entire thing.

How do I make the video engaging?

Before, During, & After Activities

In order to keep your students engaged throughout the video and ensure their understanding, you must ask them questions or ask them to take specific notes during the video. Flipped learning doesn’t just “happen”. Students should have actions they take before viewing the video, during the video, and after the video. Tell students ahead of time how much of a time commitment you expect from them. This shows students that you respect their time and allows them to plan ahead of time.

Using technology to encourage communication

Troy Cockrum has a great post on how he uses technology to help his students communicate with each other. Consider having your students complete weekly blog posts and comment on each other’s writing. Word Press is FREE and encourages multimodal learning because students are practicing writing skills and basic web design. Flip Grid is another way to assess students’ understanding. On Flip Grid, the teacher can create an “educator” code and request video submissions from students on a particular topic. Students can also make videos commenting on each others’ content. Video making allows students to practice public speaking, assesses understanding, and incorporates multimodal features.

How do I know that I “flipped?”

Because I do not yet have experience “flipping” my own classroom, I sought out a list created by a well established flipped classroom teacher and blogger, Cheryl Morris.  

Check out her post for a wealth of information.

Morris explains how you know that you’ve flipped as follows:

–your students are excited about learning, and their curiosity drives the learning, and possibly even the content
–you use technology when/where appropriate to do direct instruction
–you change how you structure class time so that students can work with the expert (the teacher) in the room
–you help students see real-world connections between what you’re doing in class and what they’re doing outside of class, and what they will need for their future
–you find that you know your students better because of the increased amount of meaningful contact you have with each student

Ultimately, there’s no “right way” to flip. What matters most is student understanding and self-reflection. If you find that you can make “lower-order” learning more engaging through assigning it at home in video format and it opens up class time for higher-order thinking, then do it! Always utilize student feedback and assessment scores to help you design your lessons. I’ve also come across bloggers who also have their student make content videos – I love this idea! #Sharethelearning

What comes next?

Tying learning at home into class

The topics covered at home in “flipped” videos need to be made applicable to work done in the classroom. Before watching, students should know how long the assignment will take, what they are learning about, and what information they need to come to class prepared the next day. Hopefully, the video is something that they will return back to at a later date.

At the beginning or end of each video, provide a list of questions or ideas that students should begin thinking about before your next class. Homework is not only a continuation of what happened the day before but a preparation and precursor for what they will learn about the next day. 

Any tips for me?

If you’ve come across this post and have tried flipping your classroom or plan on flipping your classroom, I would love any advice you have! When student teaching next semester, I definitely plan on flipping the occasional lesson and seeing how the students react.

If you would like to check out the Youtube video I made for this project, you can check it out here.

Uncategorized

What is a flipped classroom?

Hey, y’all! I am almost done with the Fall semester of Junior Year! My placement this semester has been with a classroom of high school seniors at Western Alamance High School and I have absolutely loved it. Western Alamance experiences significant technological challenges and I have found myself wondering how I would deal with technology struggles if I had my own classroom there.

Therefore, for my final project in “Teaching in 21st Century Classrooms”, I decided to research Flipped Learning. In a series of three blog posts, I will be filling you in on what I’ve learned and linking you to the valuable resources I have come across. In compiling this information, I hope to provide a resource that will be valuable to my fellow education majors as we take on our own classrooms in the next couple of years.

What is Flipped Learning? 

In their book Promoting Active Learning through the Flipped Classroom ModelJared Keengwe, Grace Onchwari, and James Oigara provide a comprehensive discussion on the flipped classroom and the challenges and benefits it brings. The authors state,

The flipped classroom is an instructional approach that educators use to turn the traditional classroom lecture model into a more active learning classroom. In the flipped model, the traditional practice of spending class time for direct instruction and completing content-related activities for homework is “flipped”.

In other words, flipped learning is all about combining face-to-face instruction with online instruction. In most flipped classrooms, teachers film themselves teaching or find videos on a certain subject and assign the video as homework. Then, in class, students have time to work on what traditionally would have been considered “homework.” This might include solving math problems, reading Shakespeare, or working in groups on a project.

6th grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher Cheryl Morris (linked) has one of the best blogs I have found about what it means to really flip your class. Morris gives a TON of ideas regarding flipped lessons, data on her first flipped class, and feedback from her own students. Additionally, a wealth of information can be found by searching the hashtag on Twitter #flipclass

Flipped learning has gained a lot of attention among educators recently. While it is not a “silver bullet” fix, flipped learning has the potential to increase student understanding when it is well planned, focused, and implemented on lessons that best fit with the “flipped” method. In this series of blog posts, I’ll be letting you know some benefits and challenges to watch out for, how to get started when filming, and what to do in class the day after flipped content.

 

What are the benefits?

Great for classroom management and conferencing:

Many teachers try to schedule weekly or twice weekly conferences with each individual student to touch base and allow students to ask questions. The best method for classroom management is rigorous and engaging coursework. If lectures and memorization activities are moved outside of the classrooms (and filmed in an engaging way), then more class time frees up and can be spent on engaging and interesting material.

Allows students to work at their own pace:

Stacey Roshan writes about the must-have tools that she uses in her flipped classroom. Students can listen to the lectures and re-watch them at their own pace at home. Additionally, teachers can set up online quizzes that give students immediate feedback. Online sites like EdPuzzle help teachers cater to individual student needs.

Encourages active learning:

When flipped lessons are well planned, the lesson both encourages active learning at home and in the classroom. As I will expand on in my next blog post, flipped videos should require the students to take notes or answer questions during the video. Most importantly, content learned at home must be connected to the next classroom lesson. Students should come to class prepared to participate in engaged inquiry, discussion and debate, cooperative learning, and reflective learning.

Maximizes class time:

If the “lecture” is moved to homework, then class time is freed up for more teacher-student and student-student interactions. Teaching strategies like Project Based Learning work together well with a Flipped Classroom because students are able to get the teacher’s help and ask questions during class.

What are the challenges? 

So far, all research I’ve found has suggested that only some content works well “flipped”, and therefore it is best to only flip some lessons. Additionally, while research shows that some students do report being more engaged and scoring higher grades when the flipped method is implemented, it is not yet supported or confirmed by long-term research.

Content:

The best information to teach at home is content that can be memorized or will need to be referred to at a later date. In a math class, explanations of formulas make for great flipped content because students can review them and rewind at any time. In an ELA classroom, reading and writing strategies, grammar videos, or lesson introductions make for an easy “flip.”

Not best for every student:

Students with technological challenges or a strong preference for in-class lectures might not like “flipped units”. In order to cater to the most students, only flipping some units and lessons is best. Both teachers and students may be hesitant to branch out and rely on technology. While this should not be a complete deterrent, it is a factor that should be considered.

Might perpetuate lecture model:

Some scholars worry that flipped learning perpetuates the lecture model by asking students to sit at home and watch videos where the teacher transmits information to them. They argue that in this model, the teacher is still the “holder of knowledge”. However, I believe that if the flipped lecture video acts as a foundation and resources for students to ask questions and engage with the material in class, then it is a beneficial tool. Teachers should offer multiple resources for students to encourage not only learning the material but ultimately learning how to learn.

 

So now you want to flip?!

Watch out for my next post to learn how to make a flipped video and how to best integrate the information into your classroom!

 

 

Class Projects Uncategorized

Berlin

I cannot believe that Easter Break is over already and that we only have two more weeks left at St. Clare’s! Time is flying by and it is extremely bittersweet. While I’m so excited to be at home with family and friends (and tacos), I will really miss being abroad and being able to hop on a train and get anywhere.

Reflecting back on Easter Break as a whole, it is amazing to see how much better we’ve all gotten at planning trips and how we have grown as people. I’m super proud to say that we planned and achieved an incredible two-week backpacking trip all on our own!

Now, on to talking about Berlin! My Amsterdam post will come soon 🙂

Berlin

If you’re wondering why I have so few pictures from Berlin, it is because IT SNOWED while we were there. While I packed lots of layers, I did not bring gloves or a hat and therefore my hands were WAY too cold for photos. We toughed it out in the rain and snow and still had an amazing time!

Out of all the places we visited, we all agreed that if we had more time in any place, we would’ve picked Berlin. Our friend Alexa back at Elon gave us absolutely amazing recommendations (she was lucky enough to study abroad in Berlin) and she did not lead us astray!!

Unfortunately due to the way our travel and trip worked out, however, we had a very limited amount of time to explore and I already want to go back!!!! If you’re going to Berlin, definitely stay more than a couple days because there are an infinite amount of options. If you’re a student looking for a great hostel, stay in The Generator! It was in a prime location, cheap, and SO nice with a great lounge and bar attached!

Berlin caught my attention because everything seems new and unique and fresh. It is still a city very much discovering its own identity – and it is so cool! After all, the wall was only taken down in 1989. I really appreciate how much Berlin accepts its history and keeps the important things at the forefront and refuses to acknowledge that which does not deserve to be. For example, Hitler’s bunker is unmarked while other various memorials lie throughout the city.

Here’s what we did during our limited time:

Day 1:

On Day 1, we were extremely exhausted and decided to take it fairly easy and sleep in, then head to the Turkish Market for lunch.

The Turkish Market is on the Eastern side of Berlin in a fairly Middle-Eastern neighborhood. The incredible smells draw you in and the views along the river are gorgeous! We spent an hour or so wandering through the market, snacking, and enjoying the weather (which would not last!)

Afterwards, we headed to the Jewish Museum. Learning more about the Holocaust and the history in Berlin is an absolute must. I definitely recommend the Jewish Museum. It is huge, comprehensive, and extremely well-done. The first exhibit focuses on making you feel in order to understand. As you walk through, the floors are sloped, everything is grey, and you feel uncomfortable. Subtle design choices really force you to think.

The museum itself is huge. We spent about 3 hours going through and probably could have spent even longer. Although we were not able to visit a Concentration Camp during our trip, I’m really glad that we got the chance to visit this museum.

After the museum, we were pretty much wiped out. We went back to our hostel for a short nap, went to a lovely dinner and explored the central historical city, and then got some much needed rest! Traveling sure is exhausting!

Day 2

Day 2 in Berlin is one of the most memorable days of the trip for me because of the free walking tour.

The three of us met up with a group right in the middle of the city to embark on a three-hour walking tour through the sleet and snow. In a way, these unideal conditions made learning about Berlin’s history even more real. I was absolutely blown away as we stood at the spot where Hitler shot himself (now a parking lot surrounded by apartment complexes), stared at a remaining piece of the wall, and got a glimpse of the reconstructed Checkpoint Charlie where the famous tank standoff occurred. Even though I had learned about these events in school, I was completely unprepared for the impact I would feel by actually standing there. Our guide did a fantastic job of keeping the group engaged and knew exactly how to set the mood at each “stop” along the tour.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews cannot be encompassed by photographs. While a bunch of ugly huge concrete slabs in the middle of a city might seem strange, the effect that one feels makes complete sense. Our tour guide stated: “The Holocaust is not easy to understand, so why should the memorial be easy to understand?” Quite simply, this memorial works because it is controversial. It is not a statue that you see and take a picture of, but something that you experience and then talk about. As you walk through this memorial, you are forced to walk in straight lines, almost like you are soldiers or maybe prisoners marching. When you are walking, you can still hear the eerie noises and sounds from the outside: children screaming and playing and cars zooming by. As you get closer to the center, the concrete slabs get higher and the ground slopes. Again, you are uncomfortable. Once you enter, it is impossible to find your family or friends until you exit on the other side. Finally, you may meet again.

This is something that everyone needs to experience for themselves! Our tour wrapped up in the spot where books were burned. Here lies the quote, “Where they burn books, they will in the end, burn people” – Heinrich Hein 1821, years before the Holocaust.

I am extremely thankful for my country, my ability to travel, and for freedom of press and speech. Let us not forget nor repeat history.

 

Germany Uncategorized