Another Year Already?
Wow, another year goes by. As a teacher, they go by too quickly. Fall brims with excitement and new promise, suddenly it's Thanksgiving (Canadian-style), Halloween, Christmas Break, Semester Two, Spring Vacation, then exams and another year is done. You'd think given all that time I'd have posted more often, but in truth, my Flipped-Project-based Learning class took up all my spare moments. Anyone claiming a flipped classroom or PBL equates to less teacher workload, is far off the mark.
Semester One, eCL Biology 12 evolved considerably. I've a penchant for dusting off old activities and giving them a PBL spin. In A Curious Case Indeed, it was great fun to create a murder mystery themed experience from a traditional nutrients testing lab. Reflecting, I discovered I am "done" with science labs that resemble cooking exercises. Instead, my renewed focus centres on discovery, application, and addressing the natural questions that arise during inquiry. It's more engaging for students, myself, and overall motivation. There is a report, but it's more of a narrative.
In addition to reimagined labs, the Dr. Awesome Series remains a steadfast and inspiring challenge. There are new scenarios, medical challenges in draft form due in Semester Two, 2017. Creating new challenges and learning resources is tremendously motivating. I've always loved created original resources or ones with a twist. Authorship is it's own reward as I came to learn in the UBC MET Program.
Having the honour to present eCL in the 2015 Provincial Innovation Showcase was a pivotal moment in my career. Showing, no proving, that a Flipped Classroom was not only feasible but richly rewarding for students seemed a career epoch, yet it still felt there was so much to do. So, it came as no surprise when colleagues at the Centre for Learning Alternatives (CLA) asked if I'd be interested in working on a blended learning, trades program, that I jumped at the chance. A Provincial Innovation Project, the initiative provides online science courses for students interested in trades. Partnering provides lab space for CLA when eCL students are engaged in a research phase. Working together, the project is developing nicely.
As a member of CLA's team, I travelled to Vancouver for the Innovation Symposium, a chance to meet other teams working towards new vision for education. And then, it happened. I spoke with the Principal of Templeton Secondary and asked the fateful question - "So what are you working on?" The response astounded me. Templeton runs a year-long STEM Program partnering with BCIT and post-secondary partners. One of their capstone projects included a solar tracking array for more efficient power generation. At this point, I was a "tad bit hooked." Being a Flipped Classroom, PBL, Biology instructor is amazing, but running a full year STEM Program? Wow!
On the plane home, my mind swam with ideas. You see because in addition to Biology, I also teach computer programming, 3D printing, and robotics. Imagine creating a smart plant pot with a Raspberry PI... The writing on the wall was becoming apparent. eCampusLive is project-based, but what if it became a STEM Program? All the elements are in place: digital instruction, a course management system (Moodle), and students interested in project-based learning. Our local college - CNC and the University of Northern BC have been great partners over the years, so reaching out with a new initiative to work with them is something I greatly look forward to. Yet how to create a year-long program in a semester environment remained a challenge. As I prepared a Star Wars themed Google Forms Digital Final Exam for eCL Biology 11, I had an epiphany on how to create the program. While I can't fully disclose the idea now, it involves creating full year Biology and Mathematics streams. It's not only feasible, but brings project-based learning, coding, and robotics to the mathematics classroom, an endeavour a great friend and colleague is tremendously excited to jointly develop in 2017.
Innovation and Growth as a Mindset
Embarking with the eCL Program was an affirmation of my belief in changing education. As it grew, opportunities continually presented themselves in a manner seeming almost fated. And working alongside colleagues to tell the tale and share some wisdom about challenges, frustrations, triumphs, and more became a continuously present element.
In a spring-time conversation with Scott McKay, a Coordinator for SETBC, taking the time to discuss eCampusLive was amazing. With so many new initiatives, elements, and projects in the program and with colleagues, it was almost cathartic to express my views on eCL and the journey ahead. Most significantly, I learned that change is a continual process. Akin to flying to Neverland, one just aims for the third star to the right and carries on till morning. That is to say there is not "sure fire" plan, only a general one that becomes more defined over time, shedding aspects that are less successful, retaining ones that are inspiring, while taking on new challenges to determine their merit. All the while, creativity and innovation remain constant.
Looking ahead to 2016, 2017, my greatest goal is professional development- for myself and colleagues. Taking time to network is vital, although there never seems enough time. I've my sights firmly set on ISTE 2017, potentially as a presenter, which would be a dream come true. Plus, it's in San Antonio, home of the Alamo and the Rio Grand. I've always wanted to see Texas. Perhaps it will also be the year to tell the eCampusLive story, how a Flipped PBL Program evolved into a STEM Initiative.
Welcome to the eCampusLive blog. I'm Jerry Bleecker. I teach Biology, Science, Information Technology, Computer Arts, and more. It's an exciting year to share our experiences with our flipped classroom endeavour.