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Monday, October 13, 2014

TUIT: Yasmine Fleming, Collins HS

Just a few short years ago, Yasmine Fleming and I were teaching colleagues at South Oldham High School.  She was there for a short time, but I remember being impressed by her ability to not only teach content but develop an instant rapport with students.  I was sad to see her take a position in Shelby County.

And now, the wheel turns. Knowing that Ms. Fleming was teaching at Collins, I couldn't wait to observe her classroom.  Boy, she did not disappoint.  Yasmine has a class set of MacBook Airs embedded all year long that she is using with multiple classes.  If you have any doubt how transformative teaching will be next year as our 1:1 initiative begins, watching her for an hour will convince you.

Ms. Fleming pauses a Kahoot for a mini-lesson, while students bask in the glow of MacBook Airs.

Ms. Fleming was kind enough to accept my offer of an interview.  So without further ado, here's our Q & A.

Yasmine, introduce yourself to our readers!  

This school year began my third year as a teacher and my second at Collins. I teach 8th and 9th grade math, specifically 8th Grade Math, Algebra I and Geometry. Teaching is a second career for me; I spent five years in telecommunications prior to pursuing a career in education. My first interaction with edtech was while working on my BS at UofL, I was taking a Criminology course online over the summer. I loved the freedom. Around this time LMS’s [Learning Management Systems] became very popular, specifically Blackboard and what I most liked about Blackboard was having everything all in one place, assignments, teacher contact and grades. While working on my MAT I had the privilege of having an amazing technology professor who challenged me and allowed me to try new things as a student. My passion for edtech integration as a teacher actually stemmed coming from my prior life in telecommunications where we were always connected and ever changing, to the somewhat archaic traditional methods of education. I am constantly asking questions, researching and trying out new things. Once I find a tool or resource I look for similar tools, comparison reviews and how they are currently being used in other classrooms. I also pester my peers about the awesome tech they are including in their classrooms. Twitter is my new friend for all things #edtech although I still have yet to participate in any chats. I faithfully follow Kathy Schrock and Adam Watson (of course). Kathy was the keynote speaker at my first edtech conference.

How have you used your MacBook Airs to create a blended learning environment in your classroom?

Last Spring when I began thinking about what I would want my blended learning classroom to look, feel, sound like I had one primary goal I wanted to accomplish, to give all my students exactly what they needed when they needed it. So I set out to design a structure that would allow students to move at their own pace all while having a hand in how they demonstrated understanding of the content. I came across the Concept Checklists from Brian Hill and I loved how it allowed me to meet the students where they were and gave them options for which tasks they completed. I decided to design my Algebra I classes with these ideas in mind. Currently my students go through self-paced lessons with differentiated tasks. They watch a video or participate in a mini lesson with me, take notes, complete a basic practice activity and then choose from other tasks (sometimes optional, sometimes mandatory) that may have to be completed with a partner, group or alone. Once they have completed these “prerequisite” activities they can take their concept quiz. Once mastered, they move on to the next concept. If they do not master the quiz they must have a consultation with me and complete at least one remediation activity. Then once they are confident in the concept they reassess to show mastery on the quiz. The MacBook Airs allow the daily differentiation of lesson delivery, tasks and assessments at the pace my students are most comfortable at with structure and guidance from me. Students have time if they need it but those students who are ready to move can do that as well.

One of the ways you manage those self-paced lessons and differentiated tasks is your use of Canvas by Instructure, a LMS (Learning Management System).  How has it impacted your students' learning?  

Canvas currently houses our concept/Learning Target quizzes, common used website links, announcements/notifications, and shared discussions/surveys for my Algebra I class. In the beginning it was the hub for ALL of our materials, documents, videos, practice, quizzes, everything. I have since moved the day-to-day materials into Trello in an effort to track the daily completion/in progress tasks of my students, but the questions banks in Canvas are a huge time-saver for my transitional Standards Based Grading classroom. I am able to create a bank of questions that their quizzes pull from and when they go to reassess (if necessary) they receive a different set of similar questions.
For my other classes, I’m beginning to use Canvas to house materials for students who are absent and additional resource/practice materials for students who may need the extra assistance.

Ms. Fleming's students use old tech (mini-whiteboards) and new tech (Canvas on Macbook Airs).

What other edtech tools are some of your favorites?

I am currently loving Trello, TenMarks, and Kahoot!.

Trello is currently my best friend and the main reason is my students like it and it became a huge solution to my progress monitoring problem. I use Trello (which is not marketed as an educational resource at all) to layout the materials for each concept/level in my self-paced Algebra I class. Each student has their own board which has a list for each Concept which includes cards with each video, practice file, task, and quiz link attached. There is also an in progress list titled “What I’m doing for Classwork/Homework” and a completed list titled “FINISHED”. What I love most about Trello is there is a time/date stamp for every action. So when my students move a card to the Homework/Classwork list and then to the Finished list, I can see if they are on track to hit, exceed or miss a concept deadline. My students love it because it is very intuitive, easy to use and visually appealing. They like the act of “moving” a task to the “Finished” list. They said they feel a sense of accomplishment.

This is my second year using TenMarks and what I love the most are the hints and videos offered with each problem. I understand the importance of practicing a math concept for homework but what makes me most apprehensive is the reality that one of my students could get home and not know how to complete a problem and become frustrated with the process, the content and even the class. TenMarks helps to alleviate some of my anxiety and theirs. It also helps that TenMarks is successfully aligned to the CCSS.

Kahoot! is a favorite in my classroom for the same reasons it is in everyone else’s classroom… The kids LOVE IT!! It is also very easy to setup for quick assessments and reviews. In the near future I hope to have them create their own Kahoot! to demonstrate what’s important from a unit and then play against other classes.

What tools have you heard about recently that you are wanting to try out for the first time? 

I’m looking forward to designing and implementing content using Geogebra. It’s free, which is always a plus and I’m very intrigued by some of the lessons that are already created so I can’t wait to create my own. I also would like to try Explore Learning’s Gizmos. It’s not a free resource which limits my investigations but I think it has so much potential in the blended classroom. Lastly, Flipgrid is currently on my radar. Teaching math usually results in written responses to demonstrate understanding but the verbal response is invaluable and requires a different level of understanding to demonstrate mastery. I’m hoping to implement this resource regularly later this school year.

Any advice you would like to share with other teachers wanting to integrate edtech?

First I would say, research, research, research. When I come across a neat tool, resource, etc. I immediately google it and check out their website but what I’m really looking for are reviews and other similar/comparable resources. That allows me to decide if I like it, love it or want to try another one. Next, try it out for yourself. I always create a teacher account and a student account (usually multiple) to test out the features. It doesn’t eliminate all of the hiccups you may come across once you implement in your classroom but it will eliminate some and also allow you to anticipate some other unpredictable events. Next, begin with the end in mind. I’m not really one for tossing around buzz phrases but it’s true. I always start with a main goal or problem and then look for a tech tool to assist. If I want a fun way to review or formatively assess then my main goal is FUN, which is how I stumbled upon Kahoot. I have other mediums to practice content but they are often not as engaging and fun as Kahoot!. Simply put, my students like it so I use it because it's FUN and I’m ok with that! If I want my students to demonstrate knowledge of the content in a non-traditional way then I research with that main goal, insert FlipGrid or Blendspace. There are times that I am introduced to a tool and I look for ways to integrate it in my classroom but, more often than not, I am simply in search of a solution or alternate to what I’ve been doing. Finally, flip the switch to “work in progress” and enjoy the ride. Be unafraid and unashamed to try whatever has been occupying your dreams. Not everything will play out the way you planned but the successes you’ll experience will make every fall worth it! 

Yasmine Fleming, thank you again for your time, and you absolutely deserve a #ShelbyTUITshoutout!

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