How I am in two places at once

I’m attending the annual PETE&C conference right now, as I have for the past seven years. Professionally, I love getting to gather with like-minded teachers and admin and exchanging ideas and learning new things, but I also hate leaving my kids. I also hate to think what my 5 classes of 6-8th graders are up to with a sub for a few days.

We all know that our students don’t act the same way when we aren’t there and that the same quality of learning doesn’t happen. I wanted to find a way to make my absence have a minimal impact on my students.

I’ve been reading/tip-toeing about/around flipped learning for some time and I love the concept, but it’s not really flipped learning if you aren’t there in my opinion. Flipped learning is all about having students get a base of knowledge of content outside of the classroom so that you can focus on need areas/work when they are in the classroom. That doesn’t work if you aren’t in the classroom.

What I Do

Instead of the traditional flipped classroom, I run a hybrid of sorts. In a nutshell, I record my expectations, mini-lesson, create content and support materials, and actively moderate class comments. Let’s break it down:


1. Expectations

I like to create a 1 minute-ish video for all of my classes to set proper expectations of what needs to be done in order to have a successful learning environment. I include our school’s values, classroom values, classroom procedures and rules,  and urge students to be responsible for themselves. This helps frame things for students who may have forgotten that having a sub doesn’t mean that you have a “free day.” It also helps the sub because the sub isn’t the one saying “no,” it’s me. There’s no question about classroom rules and expectations because I set them for everyone.

2. Mini-lesson

The next thing I do is create a brief video covering the content needed to complete the lesson and instructions for what is needed. I keep these videos under 5 minutes at most and I usually aim for a sub-four minute video. The quick videos mean that students are sitting for too long listening to me talk and it keeps the content fresh in their minds. Also, if they miss something, they can quickly find it.

If I made a 15-minute long video, it would be much more difficult to find one small part that is needed to complete the lesson. As you can see the video above is only 3:31 long and has my face in it. I’m not sure if having your face in the video is necessary, but I’ve found that I get better work done more quickly when I put myself in it.

3 and 4. Create content and find support materials

After creating the mini-lesson I then look for supporting websites, videos, readings, etc to make sure my students have everything they need to complete the lesson. I try to find on grade level material, but often it isn’t there (content producers really miss the middle school boat). If it doesn’t exist, I will make it. If it isn’t age appropriate, I will adapt it to fit the needs of my students.

Moderate comments

Everything I just described is essentially a flipped classroom with a little prep-work thrown it. The real key to this is moderating and participating in the classroom discussion. I use Google Classroom as my LMS and the comments section, while not great, is serviceable.

I can identify problems, ask students via private comments if they need help or make corrections, and engage in my classroom’s culture. I also get gems like this:


If a student is spamming the comments or in not engaging in the lesson objective, I can remove their ability to participate. The arrow in the image below shows that the student is muted. All of the comments they made in the assignment will be hidden from other students and the muted student will not be able to make any new comments.

Is it perfect, no, but I do find that I get a high level of engagement from my students. They know that even if I’m not in school that I’m still there for them. The comments shown were made today while I was attending the conference and I was able to interact with my students while I’m 2.5 hours away from the school building.

One of the other great things about Google Classroom is that I can open up their work as they are doing it and see if they are engaged.

Still reading?

If you are still here I’ve linked/embedded two resources below. The first is episode 91 of The House of EdTech podcast where I was interviewed about everything I just posted above.

If you want a quick-start guide for the general rules and principles I follow when creating content, videos, and anything else needed when I am out of the classroom click on the red PDF icon to the right.

Inside you will find a five-page PDF that gives you breakdown of everything you will need to do from planning to uploading. If you need help or have questions please let me know.






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