Saturday, 12 October 2013

Judi Francisco’s amazing Grade 6 blended/flipped classroom project at Micklefield Primary

Judi Francisco is a very creative technology co-ordinator from Micklefield Girls’ Primary School in Cape Town. I always like to keep my eye on her to see what she is up to next! (In fact I wrote a blogpost about the event she co-ordinated at Micklefield last year - "What a privilege to attend IT Design Week report back to parents at Micklefield Primary") So when she invited me to visit her classroom on the last day of her Grade 6 flipped/blended classroom ‘JustBlendit’ project a couple of months back. I was VERY excited! I’d like to share with you what I discovered!

Judi got permission from her principal and one of the Grade 6 teachers at Micklefield to take over a class of 25 Grade 6 girls and do all the work and lessons for just under two weeks, every day and all day, using project-based learning and digital media! The girls were ecstatically excited!

Why did Judi do this blended/flipped classroom approach?
Judy's comment to this question was,"The school wanted to experiment with and experience a blended classroom to see which aspects we could apply to our school in the future." Flipped learning inverts traditional teaching methods delivering instruction online outside of class and moving homework into the classroom. In blended learning the student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path or pace. Classroom methods are combined with computer-mediated activities.

The classroom
They chose a room set aside for Science, and had WIFI installed so that they could use the BYOD approach (bring your own device). Judi is very interested in classroom design and showed the girls some of the websites that showed flexible learning spaces for the 21st century classroom. The girls wanted the room to be furnished as their ideal classroom so they brought all their own furniture from home and moved all the classroom furniture out! When I arrived on the scene I could hardly believe my eyes at the transformation!



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This was before!


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This was after!

The girls were each placed with a partner, and then each pair linked with another pair to create a group of four. Each group could bring their own furniture choice from home. These included relaxing bean bags, coffee tables, carpets (even thick pile carpets), rolling chairs, Ottomans etc and the girls worked collaboratively to design what went where. It looked like a trendy interactive internet cafe! Gone were all the desks and chairs!!  The girls even drew up their own list of rules for the classroom.

This is what I saw when I arrived…


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The preparation
Judi and the Grade 6 class had a big build up to what she called JUST BLEND I.T project…and the girls all had to bring in their own devices.   Phew – phones, tablets both Android and iPad, laptops and anything in between was allowed! 

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In preparation for the project the girls had lessons in fake Twitter, blogging, Skype, digital art, Xhosa orals, Afrikaans Google Docs and online forms etc. 

The project
The girls worked in groups throughout the week. Their JustBlendI.T. project was linked to learning about telescopes for space discovery. They found awesome scientists who were excited to link up online with them. They were from  the South African Telescope project, known as SKA Meerkat Project - a global project with South Africa leading the way. The various scientists visited the classroom via Skype on a daily basis and answered any queries the girls might have.

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What made this project a flipped/blended classroom project?
Work was set out by Judi on a class blog, and the girls displayed their learning on their own group blogs. They researched, discovered, investigated and created using mobile/digital devices. They used social media, blogging, emailing, fake Twitter, video conferencing, slide presentations, movies, movie trailers, Science songs, podcasting, YouTube, Google Docs and Digital Art. Gone was the traditional style of teaching, and in came blended learning using digital media. This meant that they were all learning using a wide variety of applications and devices. Each group seemed to know which device worked best for the various tasks. Judi had a rule that the girls need to learn the technology from one another and not from her during this week unless there was a real crisis that noone else could solve. 

What I saw when I was there
I spent such an interesting morning in the classroom. The girls were thoroughly engaged in their tasks for the day. I walked around chatting to them and they were all loving the experience.
  • Judi was also walking around providing assistance where necessary. If someone raised a question that she felt the whole class should hear she stopped the class for a discussion on this aspect. 
  • The girls had created songs about Space which they presented in their groups. I loved the creativity! 
  • Soon it was time for the scientists to visit via Skype. There were three scientists that called in. The groups had prepared their questions and the scientists did an amazing job of answering these. The girls  recorded the conversation and took photos of any screenshots shown by the scientists. After the session they set about the task they needed to do as a result of the Skype session.
  • I marvelled at the way the girls collaborated and seemed to work out which of their devices would be the right one to use for the assigned task. 





The results of this project
Judi has entered this project for the Partners in Learning competition where anyone can read about it if they log into 
http://www.pil-network.com. Here are some of her observations: 
  • The amount of collaborative learning that took place was enormous. 
  • The engagement during the project was enormous.
  • The girls loved being able to share, create and collaborate in a vibrant environment. 
  • The girls’ knowledge of using technology grew in leaps and bounds – they learned so easily from their peers.
  • Everyone experienced a steep learning curve (including Judi).
  • Teaching using blended learning is exciting, stimulating, supports all levels of abilities, creates excitement about learning, encourages deeper learning, aids collaboration and makes you smile!
  • The girls LOVED the experience and wished it could continue for longer.
Resources
If you would like to view Judi’s teaching blog the URL is: http://justblendit.blogspot.com

The girls’ group blogs can be viewed from Judi’s teaching blog, but here is one of them for quick reference: http://justblendit1.blogspot.com/


The girls responses to the project can be found here:

I found this experience very stimulating. Thank you SO much for inviting me to witness this, Judi and Micklefield Primary! Yes, you flipped and flattened the classroom very successfully!


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