Monthly Archives: July 2013

Flip Organic Chemistry- A P…

Kelly Butzler, Associate Professor, Pennsylvania College of Technology, discusses the progression to the flipped classroom learning  environment in organic chemistry.  During the Spring 2012 semester a pilot study was conducted that compared the  traditional lecture to the flipped classroom learning environments in terms of student achievement.  More importantly,open-ended questions gave students the opportunity to share their thoughts about learning in the flipped classroom. The presenter will discuss student resistance and how students eventually came to appreciate the problem-solving and critical thinking skills the flipped classroom afforded them.

via Flip Organic Chemistry- A P….

What is Constructivism?

I’ve blogged about the flipped classroom and my pedagogical journey to this instructional model. The underlying theoretical principle of this instructional model is the constructivist theory of learning.

What exactly is constructivism?

The core idea of constructivism applied to learning is that the environment is learner-centered and situational. The learner will develop new ideas and alter existing ideas when interacting with content and collaborating with other learners and the instructor.

Here is a good overview of constructivism. And here is an interesting article regarding learner-centered classrooms in higher education.

I am sure many instructors employ the constructivist approach in their classroom. My chemistry students often grumble that they “just want to be a ________ (fill in the profession) when I graduate. Why do I have to learn this chemistry? I’m not going to use it.”

I respond by telling them that I am teaching them how to learn…. how to approach a new situation and use the analytical skills honed in chemistry. Using the flipped classroom model has allowed me to guide students through a process called “retrosynthetic analysis”. The product and starting materials with certain parameters are given to students. Students are asked to design a synthesis of the product using all the concepts they have learned. Essentially, students have to work backwards. This is very difficult for them as they have always solved problems going forward. However, I relate this to health care (but it could relate to MOST professions) by explaining that a patient comes in with a problem. They will see the PRODUCT and have to work backwards to determine how the patient arrived at the current state.

Instead of me telling students how to analyze, I guide them through the process. Students also help each other while interacting in groups. Students are constructing their own ideas and methods to approach problems.

Learning is an active, social process and interaction with the content helps students to construct new ideas.   There is not one way or a right way to use the constructivist theory in the classroom.  You may be using it, but not realizing that it has a name.  How do you use constructivism in your classroom?

#clmooc Make Cycle 3 Reflection

Interesting week for the Make Cycle 3.  We have used mapping to connect with our peers about various topics.  I did make one map or rather more of a flowchart that one could use to think about new online programs.  I am pretty concrete and application-driven.  But, this is also apparent in my fields of study…. chemistry, science education, and now an applied doctoral degree.  Philosophical views of learning are important, but I am more interested in the application of these views.

One of the questions this week was about how my learning and making is supported by peers.  Since I am a interpersonal learner (according to Gardner’s MI theory), making connections and learning from my peers is ideal for me.  I enjoy brainstorming with colleagues, but seldom do we have the time to let this happen.  As a result, I have relied on Twitter and other social media to provide “anytime, anywhere” interpersonal learning.

Since my teaching areas are in the sciences, I encourage my students to form learning groups.  At one time I made this mandatory, but realized that not every student wanted to learn with others.  We as teachers need to be cognizant that not all students learn the way we learn and that we need to offer students multiple methods for knowledge acquisition.

I hope to participate in the upcoming Twitter chats and Google Hangouts.  But, every weeknight is filled with my kids’ activities so I’m not sure if I will be able to make it.  The beauty of the MOOC is that nothing is graded or mandatory and is a practical application of the principles of learner autonomy.  I hope to take advantage of this autonomy and learn for the sake of learning.

The Long Ride Home #clmooc

The Long Ride Home

It has become a tradition….   An annual bike ride on the Pine Creek Rail Trail that follows Pine Creek from Wellsboro, PA through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon to Jersey Shore, PA.  Initially, it was just my husband and me, but as my children grew older, they accompanied us.  Now, it’s my two older kids, Jacob and Emma, along with a few of their athletic, hardcore friends.  Since we can barely fit this trip into our hectic schedule, we have decided to make it a Fourth of July tradition.

Here are a few of our highlights.

We began in Wellsboro, PA.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


First stop Darling Run….  2013-07-04 09.59.00 This is the head of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.

This is a shot of the cliffs along the Canyon.    2013-07-04 17.06.16


Lunch at Blackwell.    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEric brought a 2lb jar of peanut butter.  Poor Tom…..

A jump from Rattlesnake Rock (click here) and another jump.



And a flip off Rattlesnake Rock.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(pretty good form Max).

Emma and McCartney didn’t want to leave….  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand Jacob wanted to be in every picture.



and another break below Cedar Run (it was hot!!) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Miles 40-55 were long and hot.  Legs were tired and butts were getting sore.

Last stop near Ramsey.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This stretch home was very familiar as we frequently bike this area.

The end of our trip entering the Boro of Jersey Shore.


And Dinner!   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I couldn’t wait to get a shower!


Journey to the #Flipped Classroom… Part 2

Some of my students didn’t learn best by reading.  Some didn’t know how to take notes.  Some didn’t even bother trying.  I did take a step in the right direction…..  but now I needed to meet the needs of all learners with regards to their learning styles and multiple intelligences.

Snow days wrecked havoc to my organic classes during the Spring of 2011.  I lost almost 2 weeks of class.  How to make up the days???

Early in my online teaching career, I found my online students learned in different ways and just reading directions was not meeting the needs of all learners.  As a result, I had been using CamtasiaRelay to screen capture my Angel site to provide a “tour” of the site.  These screencasts provided students with directions and an introduction that met the needs of the both the auditory and visual learner.

Could I “lecture-capture” my organic lectures using Camtasia Relay and assign these vodcasts prior to the face-to-face (F2F) class?  It would save at least one hour of face-to-face time and I could spend more of this valuable time working on problems. 

So I began “lecturing” to my office  wall.  I was SO boring!  I could hardly stand myself.  I got better at talking to myself as I recorded more lectures.  (This really scared me!).  This served the purpose and I did save valuable F2F time.  However, I wanted to capture myself in the element of teaching.  I wanted to capture not just my screen, but how I manipulated the chemical model set and did funny (but memorable) things with my hands and arms to illustrate how chemicals moved. MediaSite was the answer.  For an entire semester, OIT has classroom-captured my “lectures” in a room in the library where MediaSite is installed.

My lecture class is now captured.  Students benefit from student questions, and the “real” lecture from me.  My “flipped class” and “lecture” class have the opportunity to watch these lectures, pause, rewind, listen again.  This is something not possible in a normal lecture.  No rewinding or pausing the teacher!

In future blogs, I will explain HOW I get students to interact with the videos outside the class and reactions to this new learner-centered environment.

Stay Tuned!!

Make Cycle 3 #clmooc

I have not been keeping up with my blog entries about my #clmooc experience.  In fact, life has really been taking my time hostage.  I am pretty sure I put over 1000 miles on my car just taxiing the kids to their activities and friends’ houses.  The weekend activities required my #swimmom and #basketballmom attire.  I will one day wish these days back….

Back to the #clmooc….  The best part about participating in a MOOC is that there are no “due dates” or assignments that must be complete.  I liken this experience to a restaurant smorgasbord… here are your options, take as much or as little as you want.  These past few days I have been in lurker-mode.  Reading but not much making.  This week’s Make Cycle is titled Interest-powered, peer-supported, and connected.  From the #clmooc blog, we are asked to consider how, “we focus our thinking and reflection around the Learning Principles in Connected Learning: interest-powered, peer-supported, and connected to larger systems.

As you create and compose this week, we invite you to think about these questions:

  • How is what you create driven by your interests?
  • How is your learning and making supported by peers?
  • How is your learning and making connected to larger systems?”

We are asked to Make with Me using maps.  I chose to do a Mindomo mindmap.  Since I mostly create things driven by my profession, I created a mindmap on how one would think about starting a new online program.  Take a look at My FIRST Mindomo map.  It’s not very complex or creative, but it is a start.  The cool thing about Mindomo is that it is collaborative.  I could send the link to a colleague and he/she could add to it.  I am all about collaboration!! The more brains the better!

Back to Make Cycle 3…  My “creations” are often driven by professional interests.  I LOVE designing new courses, especially those delivered online.  I feel online courses allow me to be more creative as I am not bound to the traditional lecture….. though I am breaking free of the lecture… I love teaching, but I would love to help teachers design new courses that integrate constructivism and technology.

It is my goal to implement more problem- inquiry-based activities into my classroom.  I just have to use my creativity, peer-support as a #connected educator.

My Journey to the Flipped Classroom– Part 1

Before you read my this blog post, read these two articles:  7 Things you should know…..    and The Flipped Classroom   

I swore I would never be like Ferris Bueller’s teacher. However, there were times when I was “lecturing” that I would look out at my students and see the glazed over eyes and drops of drool coming out of their mouths. I used the Socratic Method of questioning where I attempted to engage students with questions about the content. Inevitably, the same student(s) would answer. Calling on students at random would result in awkward situations and sometimes anger. Most students wanted to be left alone; secure in their passive-learning environment. Engaging students was a lot of work.

I started teaching online in the early 2000’s. Several good pedagogical practices resulted from teaching online.

1. I needed to replicate my “lecture” for these students. Uploading a PowerPoint presentation was not sufficient. I began podcasting my lectures in 2008 and using a SmartBoard to save my board work. Both my face-to-face and online learners benefited from this. Students could review the lesson or watch it for the first time if he or she was absent. Students were also able to relax during the lecture knowing that they didn’t have to write down everything. If something was missed, they could listen to me again and see the board.

2. I held online problem sessions for my online chemistry class and noticed that not only did students come prepared for the session having been actively engaged in the content, but they asked GOOD questions. I was able to spend the entire hour just working on problem-solving. How could I mimic this same environment in my face-to-face class?

Well, who better to ask this question to than my students? I brainstormed with them. How could I spend time in class just working on the problems? I couldn’t do this if the student was not prepared.

Solution:  First, I found an excellent, readable textbook. Students were assigned readings and encouraged to take notes. I started administering “reading quizzes” at the beginning of each chapter that covered the concepts, definitions, terminology. AND students could use their notes on the quiz! Woo hoo! “magic bullet”! Students would come to class prepared to perform those higher order thinking skills on Bloom’s Taxonomy like analysis, evaluation, synthesis!   not exactly…..

to be continued….