Orlando, here I come!

I’m very excited to be attending the College Board’s AP Annual Conference this year!  My department chair and I both went to the conference last year in San Francisco.  I learned so much – who ever thought that I would be excited about attending an hour-long seminar on El Nino/La Nina?  But it was one of those subjects where I wasn’t very confident in my knowledge, and that probably came across to my students in my AP Environmental Science class.  After attending the seminar at the APAC, I felt like I did a much better job of explaining El Nino and La Nina to my students in a way they understood.

If you teach AP courses and have never attended an Annual Conference, I recommend going.  The down side:  it ain’t cheap!  Registration and hotel and travel adds up to over $1000.  I am amazingly lucky in that my principal is happy to use a portion of the AP money that the school receives to pay for teachers to attend the conference.  Last year he paid for four of us to travel (my DC and I, and two of the foreign language teachers) to San Francisco.  I probably would not have asked to attend this year again, except for the fact that this conference is just 3 hours up the road from me.  I was actually surprised that more teachers from my school didn’t ask to attend since it’s so close.

The College Board AP Annual Conference in Orlando, FL




One reason it’s so helpful is in the opportunity to talk with other AP teachers.  I’m the only person teaching AP Environmental at my school.  Occasionally on a PD day, my school district will hold an AP Roundtable so all the AP teachers can work together and share ideas.  At the APAC, there are many APES teachers from all over the US and all over the world, so it offers a lot of different perspectives on teaching APES.  Last year I came away with so many lesson ideas and resources that it took me a long time to sort through them.

One of the workshops this year is on Climate Change and Global Warming.  These topics make up 10-15% of the Topic Outline for AP Environmental, so it’s crucial for me to understand these concepts.  I expect to learn a lot!  I also can’t wait to attend the session on flipping prelabs.  If you aren’t familiar with flipping, it is the process of using students’ out-of-class time (aka homework) to have them learn some of the basic concepts.  Many teachers use podcasts or videos (a la Khan Academy, but usually recording their own lessons) to introduce content.  Class time is then freed up to answer questions, discuss in more detail, or, in this case, have students come in to the lab PREPARED to do the lab.

I’m not taking my laptop with me, so I’ll update when I return.  Now I’ve got to go pack!

It’s a steep learning curve

Don’t you just hate it when you’re all gung-ho for a project, and hurdles keep jumping up in your way?  I’m very enthusiastic about flipping my AP Environmental Science class this year.  With that class, there’s so much material to cover that the pacing is brutal, and I feel like I don’t have enough time to cover it in the depth my students need.  I love the idea of posting lectures online so students have the baseline information coming in to class.  This will let me use class time to discuss, to do labs, and let them develop their critical thinking skills.

The first lecture topic I picked to flip is The Tragedy of the Commons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons  TOC is a very common theme in environmental science.  In a nutshell, TOC says that if we rely on human conscience to not overexploit limited resources, then we will run out of those resources.  Basically, humans can’t be trusted to preserve assets that they want to use.  Thus, the only way to protect common assets is to either allow private ownership, create voluntary agreements to limit use, or to designate the government the authority to limit use and penalize those who overuse.

What I want to do is make a PowerPoint presentation that I can annotate with my Mobi interactive tablet, record video of me expanding on the topics on the slides (because the slides are very sparse in terms of text), combine those two things and make a vodcast.  The vodcast will be uploaded to a website (Youtube, or maybe my school district’s server) so students can view the video and take notes on it.

Made the PowerPoint (on my Windows laptop).  Wrote the script (by hand.  I’m such a Luddite.).  Tried to download the software so I can use the Mobi pad with my Mac laptop.  Nope.  My school-district-issued Mac won’t play nice with the software.  Crap.  Look at downloading the Screencast-O-Matic software onto my Mac laptop.  Nope.  The free version apparently isn’t available for Mac.

There’s got to be a way!  I gave up in frustration yesterday, but got a lead to check out today.  I have to see if my version of iMovie has the picture-in-picture function.  If so, I can use my Windows laptop with the Mobi pad to annotate my PowerPoint and do a screen capture (possibly with a trial version of Camtasia Studio).  I can record my video with my handy-dandy Flip camera, then cobble the two together.  Seems like an indirect way of getting to my goal.

Crossing my fingers.