Flipping a Classroom from 6,800 Miles Away

Distance learning (DL) brings exciting possibilities to our Taiwanese students, but also presents some challenges. Our classes have 42 students in them, so how can a distance learning teacher maximize the individual time with each student? Using some #edtech tools we found at EdSurge LA last summer, we decided to do our own version of a ‘flipped’ classroom.

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Teacher Travis flipping his classroom. In the foreground is his laptop, which he is using to teleconference with a small group of students. In the back is the full view of the students in the classroom using H.323 technology to connect to BGL’s offices in Los Angeles. To the right is the view of Teacher Travis that the students see in Taiwan.

In a typical BGL DL classroom, students either do independent Internet research or read iBooks with BGL-designed course content. The teacher will lead a whole-group interactive read-aloud of the latest chapter and then conduct a discussion related to the reading. At that point, the students do an activity that reinforces the content and allows them to practice English in an authentic setting.

A wonderful iPad app and web-based service called Zaption allowed us to flip this model.

Zaption is an online video service that allows you to add question elements into/onto/adjacent to the video. Before Zaption, I would read the chapter with the class and ask individual students comprehension or discussion questions. Obviously I could not get to all 42 students in any given class. Now, I can record the reading and embed questions directly into the video. I can use the Zaption interface to group my students as a class and collect their answers.

Below is an excerpt from the first Zaption lesson we did. Notice that you can ask short answer questions as well as group discussion questions (at the end of the clip):

Here is what some of the analytics look like after students complete the video:

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When the students finish with the Zaption, they use the Quizlet app to practice vocabulary words from that unit or from previous chapters:

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So what is the other half of the class doing? They meet with me (the teacher) through an app called Zoom. Zoom is like a group FaceTime, except that I can also mute individual students, control who is on the main screen, share my screen and record the video (among other features). Now, I am effectively teaching 21 students rather than 42. I can answer more questions, speak to more students and better facilitate the discussion. After we meet on Zoom we may end the meeting so they can work on individual work, we may break off into groups, or I may meet with them one-on-one to discuss their work.

One of the biggest challenges of a distance learning teacher is how to engage ALL your students when you are not in the room with them. By flipping our classroom we cut the number of students we are interacting with in a “whole group” by half. Furthermore, the 21 students who are on their iPad using Zaption are required to respond to all the questions and thus I am able to collect meaningful data during every flipped period. Most importantly, the students LOVE this. Our kids like to be challenged and this allows us to use all 40 minutes of class time VERY efficiently.

This student is practicing vocabulary on Quizlet.

This student is practicing vocabulary on Quizlet.

This student is listening to the zoom meeting. You can see me in the corner of his iPad. I am going over their assignment and sharing my screen.

This student is listening to the zoom meeting. You can see me in the corner of his iPad. I am going over their assignment and sharing my screen.

A student working on an individual assignment after a Zoom meeting.

 

How do you flip your classroom? Leave your ideas in the comments section.

Children’s Day – A National Holiday in Taiwan

Kids love holidays, but kids in Taiwan actually get their own holiday. Celebrated on April 4th by schools all around Taiwan, Children’s Day is public holiday that shows appreciation for Taiwanese youngsters and promotes the bond between parents and children.

The holiday dates back to 1925 when a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland brought 54 countries together to discuss children’s physical needs, spiritual well-being and educational opportunities. Many of these countries went on to establish Children’s Days to call attention to these issues and to celebrate the future leaders of the world.

This year, Tsai Hsing School honored their students with a fun-filled day that focused on the kids. The school extended the length of the 10-minute breaks between classes to 20 minutes and as a result it seemed that children’s laughter filled the campus all day long. Students performed on the great lawn – singing songs and dancing – while others played diabolo (like a Chinese yoyo) and basketball. The energy and excitement was zapping through the air as students laughed with their friends and teachers during some hard-earned free time.

In the classroom, Teacher Chad celebrated with his first grade class by doing an interactive read aloud with The Class from the Black Lagoon.

Teacher Chad reads The Classroom from the Black Lagoon on Children's Day.

Teacher Chad reads The Classroom from the Black Lagoon on Children’s Day.

How did your students celebrate Children’s Day? If you don’t celebrate this holiday, how would you do it if you had the chance?

Teacher Chad gives his students a lift.

Teacher Chad gives his students a lift.

From all the teachers and staff at Banyan Global Learning, Happy Children’s Day!

Virtual Entrepreneurs – Our 4G Field Trip to Lumosity

To understand more about designing their own companies, our advanced 8th grade Distance Learning class took a virtual field trip to the San Francisco offices of Lumos Labs, the builder of the world-famous brain-training service, Lumosity. Prior to the trip, the students read about other Silicon Valley companies and discussed the importance of innovation when starting a new technology company. They also discussed the competitive hiring processes in the Bay Area and the perks that some companies – like Lumosity – use to attract the most talented employees.
In the video above, we see students being led by their fantastically engaging tour guide, Amanda, as well as their distance learning teacher in Los Angeles, BGL’s Teacher Jackie. This 4-minute highlight reel of the 45-minute trip shows Amanda leading the students through the open working areas, fun spaces, and the many kitchens of Lumosity.
While students were most amazed by the food options in the kitchens (and by the gaming areas), they also found inspiration for their assignment to design their own companies. For that assignment, students created advertisements that captured why their company should be an industry leader, just like Lumosity.
Here is some of their best work:
An 8th grader's idea for a new company - ear rings: combination earrings and headphones.

An 8th grader’s idea for a new company – ear rings: combination earrings and headphones.

An example of ear rings, Minions-style.

An example of ear rings, Minions-style.

Another 8th grader's business idea: wifi cards.

Another 8th grader’s business idea: wifi cards.

Another 8th grader's business idea: an app that allows you to rent products before you buy them.

Another 8th grader’s business idea: an app that allows you to rent products before you buy them.

Which companies would your class like to visit? Leave your ideas in the comments section.

The BigDayta Project: Worldwide Collaboration, Instant Student Data, a Powerful Classroom Tool

If you are a teacher of any grade level and any subject, I have two questions for you:

  1. Are you looking for ways to incorporate technology into your classroom?
  2. Do you want to ask meaningful real-life questions that involve students from around the world?

If you answered ‘yes’ to both those questions, then the BigDayta Project is for you. BigDayta is our attempt to connect classrooms around the world by asking a simple question to every student: what do you do, every hour, on a normal school day?

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Turns out you can learn some really interesting things with that one simple question. If you know the country students are in, you can compare sleep times in different nations. You can see when students begin to do homework, or what is the most common thing they do outside school. If you know the town students live in, you can compare big city students to those that live in small towns. How different is their day?

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Three students, two very different days. What valuable information can we learn from their day-to-day schedule?

Our project is simple. Students record what they do on one day, and then they fill out a simple Google form. The results are accessible to everyone and are constantly updated. As a teacher, if you want to download the results and do the rest on your own, you can! But the website allows you to do much more:

  1. Collaborate—Did your students find the data about kids in Taiwan interesting? Do you want your classes to interact, share stories or go deeper with the information? There is a forum section on the website where you can reach out to others.
  2. Find lesson plans—There are already lesson plans created by the BigDayta crew, but teachers can add theirs as well.
  3. Post Blogs—Do your students want to write more about their day? Maybe they want to share their experience with this project. Email us at bigdayta@gmail.com and we will post your students’ blog on our blog page.

How can you use this in your classroom?

The questions you can ask with this data are diverse. Here are some sample ideas for different subjects:

  • Math:
    • What fraction of students are asleep at 9pm?
    • What is the average start time of homework?
    • Create a graph that shows the average wake up time for students in three countries.
  • Social Studies:
    • Why are after school activities so different between American and Asian students?
    • How does living in a city larger than 1 million people change the way a student’s day looks compared to a student in a city smaller than 1 million?
    • Do you think ‘nap time’ in Taiwan increases student achievement?
  • Computer Science—Practice manipulating spreadsheet data
  • Statistics:
    • Mean, median and mode
    • Create frequency tables
  • English
    • Find pen pals for your students
    • Write persuasive essays on why your day’s schedule is better than another
    • Use the timeline from students in another state/country to create a short story

…And many, many more!

This is the Google form that students complete. It is quick and easy!

This is the Google form that students complete. It is quick and easy!

As classrooms around the world add their data, this project will become more and more powerful. We already have data from students in Taiwan, so you can start exploring immediately. Let’s make this thing go global. Tell your students to write down what they do. Take five minutes to fill out the the form. Be part of something big.

And lastly, share it with your fellow teachers! Even the data within a single school can reveal some surprising results.

#BigDayta is here!

5 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Taiwan

At BGL we find that celebrating holidays is a great, authentic way to teach culture. Here are five ways we’ve been able to communicate our love for the holiday season with our students in Taiwan.

1. Talk to Holiday Shoppers on a 4G Field Trip to an American Mall

Our Field Trips Live are one of the most popular elements of our program. It’s always fun to see two cultures merge, especially so during the holidays. Here are some images from this year’s trip to Glendale, CA’s Americana:

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Students watch a holiday-themed trolly drive by at the Americana mall in Glendale, CA.

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A friendly family answers questions from our students, and asks some of their own. The mom is a high school art teacher and thought our field trip was super cool!

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A man with a Santa hat pauses from his holiday shopping to ask our students how many of them celebrate Christmas with their families at home.

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Teacher Seth shows the students their reflection in his iPhone.

2. Read our Adaptation of A Christmas Carol

We adapt many classic novels so that we can challenge our Taiwanese students with sophisticated concepts while making sure that the texts are at an accessible language level. Our sixth grade classes read the classic Dickens tale each year, and this year we added a song and music video to reinforce the story’s main concepts of reflection and redemption:

3. Have a Teacher Holiday Party

Teaching abroad can be tough during the holidays. Getting together with other expats – and locals – to celebrate can make it all seem just a little closer to home. Teachers Audrey and Sarah did just that: image (6)

4. Listen to BGL’s Family Christmas Song

And, of course, our original Christmas song is a perennial favorite:

5. Celebrate on Campus

Tsai Hsing School’s birthday is 12/25, so in December the campus is filled with Christmas decorations, costumes and pageants. Here are some charming shots of our 4th grade bilingual class and some of our American teachers feeling the Christmas spirit:

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Merry Christmas, everyone!

 

Allowing Mother Tongues in ELL Classrooms: One Teacher’s Perspective

As a teacher, how does having learned a second language affect your teaching of ELL’s? Similarly, how does it influence your perspective on the use of mother tongues in an ELL classroom? BGL’s Teacher Christal offers this personal account:

In 1958 my mother emigrated from Quito, Ecuador to Los Angeles, California. She told me that her teachers did not let her speak Spanish and she was forced to learn English by the sink-or-swim method. She remembered that in second grade she went to the bathroom in the classroom because she was scared to ask for permission in her native language. When I was born, my mother decided not to teach me Spanish because she thought it would confuse me hinder my English speaking skills.

Teacher Christal & her mom in Ecuador.

Teacher Christal & her mom in Ecuador.

In 1996 at the age of sixteen I went back to Ecuador for about a year. I enrolled in a Spanish-speaking school. At the time I understood many Spanish words but was not able to speak it conversationally. I was not allowed to speak English in my classes. I remember being teased by other students and being embarrassed when I made mistakes learning the language. Although I did learn Spanish, it was a very stressful time in my academic career. This experience helped me to conclude that the learning of languages should be taught as authentically as possible with numerous opportunities for engagement with both academic and non-academic subject matter.

While I attended the University of California at Santa Barbara I decided to become an educator. I tutored English Language Learners from the Santa Barbara community. I then received my Master’s Degree in Education from the University of California at Los Angeles. UCLA’s teacher education program focused on helping students in lower income areas of Los Angeles. Many of the lower income schools with which UCLA worked had predominately English Language Learners. UCSB and UCLA gave me tools to create a classroom that allowed students to learn the English language in a meaningful way. I began teaching in Pico Union in 2003 and I have helped teach over 500 English Language Learners.

Celebrating Christmas in LAUSD.

Celebrating Christmas in LAUSD.

In 2009 I started teaching English Language Learners from Tsia Hsing School, in Taipei, Taiwan. I learned that I could help English Language Learners learn English even if I was not physically in the room with them. The technology we use allows all participants to feel that we are sharing the same space even though we are 6,000 miles apart. I am still able to foster authentic experiences for English Language Learners using an original curriculum and inventive experiences like international student collaborations and 4G Field Trips. I went to Taipei in 2010 and I loved being able to meet the students in person, but I continue to feel that personal connection with them even from a distance.

Visiting Tsai Hsing in 2010.

Visiting Tsai Hsing in 2010.

It is clear to me that learning a new language broadens your mind and enhances the possibilities of your future. Through all my experiences I have learned that English Language Learners learn the best when you embrace their native tongue and they feel comfortable making mistakes in the classroom. I hope that any student that walks into my classroom – virtual or otherwise – knows that their native language is respected and embraced in my class.

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