Currently I’m struggling with my work/life balance. More than ever before the distinction between home and work is blurred. I’m spending a ludicrous amount of time each week either at work, or in work mode. More alarming is my current inability to be present when I am with my family.
Luckily I married an amazing women who hasn’t smothered me in my sleep with my pillow… yet.
The last time I felt even marginally like this was when I took on my first managing role. I was young(er) and taking on everything that was thrown at me. The solution was to examine how I managed my work and I researched workflow methodologies. This led me to David Allen’s Getting Things Done and to a lesser extent, Inbox Zero. Eight years on and both of these methodologies govern my productivity and workplace procedures. Sure I continue to refine, however the underpinning strategies still exist.
But this time it’s different…
This time it’s not about being more productive. This time it’s about coming to the realisation that I am literally at capacity. I know what you are thinking, everybody believes they are working at capacity. Surprisingly it was my boss that, unknowingly to him, pointed me in the right direction. At the time, even I didn’t realise that the “hey, here’s something I heard at a recent conference” spiel I was sitting through would potentially save me from myself.
So that’s why it’s a Friday night after another week which included 50+ hours at work and many more at home engaged with work. A week that doesn’t include morning tea or lunch breaks. I eat one-handed at my desk, or as I walk, and I don’t drink close to enough water. A week where I come home drained everyday, without the energy to exercise or be present with the family. A week where I haven’t been able to successfully transition from one place to the other. It’s this reason that I have turned to Dr Adam Fraser’s Third Space for answers (again).
I have a bit to work through. One thing is for sure, if I can’t find my third space and I continue on this trajectory… things won’t end well.
Here’s Dr Adam Fraser explaining the Third Space.
Watch this space to hear about my Third Space. Long live the work/life balance myth…
Update: I just changed the title to this blog post from “how I deal with emails” to “how I ‘currently’ deal with emails” as my constant pursuit of productivity doesn’t end with the full stop at the end of this post.
My workplace currently uses Microsoft Office 365 as it’s mail client and I can’t fault it. Over the last 12 months I have been working to improve how I manage my emails within the Office 365 environment and the desktop client Microsoft Outlook. Here’s where I am currently at:
I only check emails twice a day
Firstly, and this is super new to how I manage my email, I only action my emails twice a day (8am and 2pm). Desktop notifications and emails arriving every few minutes does not assist with getting things done. Every new email is another distraction.
In Outlook I spend most of the day in “work offline” mode (Fig 1). I can still send emails while in this mode by clicking the send/receive button (F9) but emails aren’t received. At 8am, and again at 2pm, I change Outlook to online mode and allow all of my emails to download. Once completed, I switch back to offline mode and action the emails I just received.
Figure 1: Work offline when using Outlook
I don’t check my email, I action them and (mostly) maintain inbox zero
When I flick the ‘work online’ button and my incoming emails stream down I action them, not check them. That’s just semantics I hear you say. Maybe, but I try to be in the mind set that every email I receive I action. I do something with that email right then and there. These 4 actions have been adapted from David Allen’s Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero:
I don’t delete emails. Luckily my organisation has awesome filters and I receive almost zero spam emails. If I don’t have to do anything with the email, I archive it. I also don’t sort me emails into intricate folders, I find this to be false economy. The time spent deciding on which folder to put the email in, or scrolling through the long list of folders you have, is lengthier then the time spent searching for it if you require it in the future. I simply move any email I don’t need to action immediately into a folder called Archive 2015 (or whatever year it is). Having the year on the folder is important. I have Archive folders right back to Archive 2012. Easily searchable and easily backup up if required.
To make the archiving process quicker I have created a quick step in Outlook (Fig 2). If I decide to archive an email, I click the archive quick step icon and the email is immediately marked as read and moved to the archive file. The email is dealt with, and I am one email closer to regaining inbox zero and getting back to getting stuff done.
If I am not the person to action the task in the email I forward it to the correct person, or reply letting the sender know the direction they should take. If I need to check the email was followed up, or I need a response from that person, a copy of the email ends up in my ‘waiting for’ folder, see below.
Next, I click the archive quick step mentioned above and the read email is moved to the archive folder. Done.
If the email requires further action that can’t be completed immediately, I turn it into a task in my todo list. It’s important that your inbox doesn’t become your todo list. Your todo list should be your todo list, makes sense right?
When I turn the email into a task, I give it a name that clearly explains what I need to do. Often an email subject isn’t a clear indication of the next action it requires. I also attach a copy of the email to the task as reference and if needed add a couple of notes to the body of the task.
In Outlook I have created a quick step named ‘create task’ that does the following:
1. Creates a task with the original email attached
2. Moves the original email to the archive folder
3. Marks the email as read
I do have a process for dealing with my task list in Outlook too. That can come later…
When I receive an email that I have to action on a specific day, like an agenda for a meeting, I add an entry directly into my calendar and attach the email. Again I have created a quick step button to do the hard work for me. It opens a new blank calendar entry and attaches a copy of the email to it, then it moves the email to archive folder and marks the email as read.
If it takes less than 2 minutes to do, I do it.
If I don’t have the time to do it, then I shouldn’t be ‘checking’ my emails and looking for distractions. I need to get back on the task I am distracted from and action my emails at a different time.
One other important part of my email management system is my waiting for folder. When I email someone asking them to complete something for me, it may be important to check at a later time that the task was completed. I call it my waiting for folder, because often I can’t complete the task as I am waiting for something else to be done first.
In these cases, I add my email address in the Cc: field, which in turn emails me the same email I sent. I have a rule in Outlook that if I receive an email sent from me and my email address is in the Cc: field the email is automatically moved to the waiting for folder. Basically if I put my email address in the Cc: field and send it, it appears in my waiting for folder and not my inbox. I also change the settings on the waiting for folder so it shows the total number of items inside so I can see at a glance how many emails are in there.
When I review the waiting for folder I have a list of the emails that I sent people requesting something to be complete and I can check that has been completed, or send a kind reminder email.
I subscribe to a few mailing lists. I have an email rule that automatically moves emails from these mailing lists to a mailing list folder with a subfolders. This way I can flick through the mailing list emails when I get a spare moment, or when I am searching for something specific. Most importantly this keeps my inbox from being inundated with these potential time-wasting emails.
So all that sounds really confusing? It’s not really. Here’s the brief summary:
I only check emails twice a day.
I action every email and do one of the following:
I have the following quick steps set up:
Archive – marks email as read and moves to archive folder
Create task – opens a new task dialogue box, moves the email to archive folder and marks the email as read
Add to Calendar – opens the create appointment dialogue box and attaches a copy of the email to it, then it moves the email to archive folder and marks the email as read
My email folder structure looks like this, and only this:
– Archive 2015
– Mailing Lists
– Waiting For (4)
As requested, here are the slides I used during my Flipped Classroom presentation at the 2015 Council of International Schools Regional Conference.
If you run into me and don’t want to get stuck being talked at for a length of time let me give you a simple piece of advice. Don’t tell me any of the following things:
1. Numeracy is the same as Mathematics; or
2. Numeracy is just the simpler Maths stuff; or worse still
3. Numeracy is the job of the Maths teachers only.
“In the Australian Curriculum, students become numerate as they develop the knowledge and skills to use mathematics confidently across other learning areas at school and in their lives more broadly. Numeracy involves students in recognising and understanding the role of mathematics in the world and having the dispositions and capacities to use mathematical knowledge and skills purposefully.” http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Pdf/Numeracy
Every teacher, in every context, must identify the numeracy moments that happen in their classroom and jump on them! Tackle them to the ground and really explore the numeracy demands with their students. What are the numeracy moments that happen in your learning contexts?
I am fortunate enough to attend a few conferences each year. They usually revolve around technology education.
Here are some of the tools and strategies I use to gain the most out of a conference. I continually hone these strategies and seek best practices so I don’t just walk away with a heap of ideas or visions, but walk away with real strategies for implementation.
Rule 1: Don’t use anything you don’t already use.
Rule 2: Keep it simple. If you are in a session you will not want things to be complicated when you are trying to get ideas down.
I only have 4 apps in my conference tool box. All applications I use are cloud based, allowing me to have access to the information stored within them anywhere, anytime and on any connected device.
Every single note I take, regardless if I am at a conference or not, is stored in my EverNote account. This just simply makes sense. EverNote being cloud based means I have access to every one of my notes on any device anywhere I have an internet connection.
And thanks to the desktop and iOS apps, I also have access to my notes when there is no internet access.
I use Delicious to store all of my “tasty” bookmarks I find in one location. When a speaker throws up a good looking website, I can quickly add it as a bookmark in Delicious.
Even better, any links I add to my Twitter feed are automatically aded to my Delicious bookmarks. This is a great way to save time during a presentation. It means that I can tweet about a link and don’t have to double handle the bookmarking of it as it’s already done for me.
With Delicious, tagging is the key. Adding tags helps with searching for bookmarked websites at a later date.
For me, Twitter is a no brainer. I already use it as a tool to engage in a professional learning network, so of course I would continue to use it when I am engaged in learning at a conference.
Every conference I have attended since 2009 has had a conference hashtag. Following the conference hashtag on twitter is an easy way to follow the conference backchannel.
Remember the Milk
Remember the Milk is an integral part of my productivity work flow. I use it primarily to record things I wish to complete, both short term and longer. During a conference I use RTM for the same reason. As todo’s hit me I quickly record them and move on.
It really doesn’t matter what device I am using. However, I try to find a device with the following characteristics:
1. Portable (I have to carry this all day)
2. Good battery life (I have to use this all day)
3. Connectivity (WiFi is a given, but 3G is important as well due to the poor wifi connectivity you often find at conferences)
Currently an iPad and a MacBook Air are my weapons of choice. This will change. The device doesn’t matter. They are just a vehicle for me to communicate with the applications I use.
Last week while the entire student body was sitting on parade. I walked up to a student and held my hand up ready to receive a high-five from her. She slowly lifted her hand to meet mine. I then turned around and walked off without saying a word.
Later that day as she walked into our Maths class she asked “why did you high-five me on parade in front of so many people?”
“Because of this” I said as I handed her an A4 piece of paper containing her final Year 11 Maths result. For the first time in her high school career she had passed maths.
She looked at the result, slowly looked up at me, her eyes starting to well, and said “I’m going to Europe.”
Ok, not quite the reaction I was expecting. As it turns out, her parents had told her that if she passed Maths this year she would be able to go on the school Europe trip the following year.
She asked if she could call her parents and tell them the great news. “Fine by me.”
When she returned to the class she said her dad had mixed emotions. He was very excited that she had passed maths, however now he needed to find the money to pay for the Europe trip.
“You just made my day sir!” She beamed.
“You just made my year” I thought as I politely smiled and nodded.
The primary goal in flipping my classroom is to maximise student outcomes by utilising the face-to-face time I have with my students. In this blog post I have used Bloom’s Taxonomy as a visual representation of what I wish to achieve in my flipped classroom.
Blooms taxonomy challenges educators to get students to go beyond content knowledge, acquisition and memorising and draw upon higher order thinking skills.
Unfortunately in my traditional maths classroom [diagram 1] I spent too much class time delivering the content. This meant the students didn’t have as much time to explore the mathematical concepts at a higher level in class with the support of their teacher. Usually they were instructed to complete the high order problem solving questions that required them to critically explore the mathematical concepts on their own for homework.
The goal of my flipped classroom is to change what the students spend their time doing in class where they have access to their best learning tool, their teacher. In the flipped model [diagram 2] the content delivery is completed for homework through pre-recorded lectures. This allows the student and teacher to utilise the time spent in class on deepening the students understanding of the mathematical concepts through examining more complex problems.
The flipped classroom model I have newly employed in my maths class has meant I can make better use of the face-to-face time I have with my students.
I am no longer the presenter of information out the front of the class. Instead, I spend most of my time working WITH the students to help deepen their understanding of the material. I now have the time in class to assist students who are struggling and extend others.
The following table compares how I previously spent my time in my traditional classroom and how I now spend my time in my flipped classroom. This comparison follows the same format as Bergmann and Sams used in their book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day.
* or not at all which was often the case
In my traditional classroom I spent most of the time giving teacher directed lectures on the material. This led to the students not having enough class time to fully engage with the activities that allow them to gain a deep understanding of the material.
In my flipped classroom after the students have settled, I question the students on the previous nights video. This ensures the students understood the content and highlights any areas they may require further assistance with. After this, we get on with the learning and this is the real advantage of the flipped classroom. The students get to maximise the time they spend engaging with the knowledge, concepts, processes and problem solving. While the teacher can divide their time between those who require assistance and those who are looking to be extended.
Flipping the classroom doesn’t replace, or lessen the importance of the role of the teacher. What it does is allow the teacher to increase the student-teacher interactions within the school.
The simplest definition I can think of: a flipped classroom is where students do for homework what they would traditionally do in the classroom, and they do in the classroom what they would traditionally do at home.
Here’s a better definition
Flip teaching is a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of Internet technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is most commonly being done using teacher created videos that students view outside of class time. It is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction and reverse teaching - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_teaching
Traditionally in my Maths classes I would give a “lecture style” lesson to the students to front load them with required knowledge and process. The students would then practice this in the class with what ever class time was left, with an expectation that their learning would continue at home where they would do more exercises to help reinforce the concepts.
In my current flipped model I create a “lecture style” lesson that students access online and watch for homework BEFORE the lesson. This allows students to come into class already front loaded with the required knowledge and processes. We can then utilise the classroom time to work on the exercises that allows students to gain a deeper understanding of the mathematical and problem solving concepts.
So why change?
The traditional model of the maths classroom has a number of flaws due to the lecture style delivery of content to the entire class meaning it is difficult to personalise the lesson. Let’s consider some types of students in my class:
The A student
My traditional classroom: While I was lecturing, this student was getting bored. He/she understood the material in a short amount of time and sat through the rest of the lecture while I was either answering other student’s questions or giving more examples to ensure other students understood the material.
My flipped classroom: The student watches the lecture for homework like the rest of the class. The student uses class time to demonstrate his understanding and then has the time to be extended. He/she no longer needs to slowed down by the rest of the class.
The struggling student
My traditional classroom: Often this student would comment that I was moving too fast or they found it difficult to take notes and pay attention to what I was saying. Sometimes the struggling student complains that they haven’t finished writing down the material on the board before I am ready to move on. This student would usually struggle with homework as they required the teachers assistance in completing the exercises that were set.
My flipped classroom: The student watches the lecture for homework with the ability the pause, rewind and re-watch as many times as they like. This allows them to follow the lecture at their pace. One student commented that she like the fact that she could “press pause when ever she liked and not slow done the rest of the class”. When the student arrives in class we can work on ensuring they understood the lecture and continue with the exercises that allows them to gain a deeper understanding. The real advantage for this student is the time the student gets in class to complete the exercises with the teachers assistance.
The absent student
My traditional classroom: Students are often absent from class. This could be due to illness or extra curricular activities. In the past I have found that students with heavy sporting commitments often miss classes due to training or sporting events. These students find it difficult to catch up on missed work when they have missed the classroom lecture.
My flipped classroom: Now students who miss classes can still keep up with the work by watching the online lectures. This also works for students who wish to go back and review previous lectures, something they aren’t able to do in the traditional classroom.
There is no specific methodology to be replicated, no checklist to follow that leads to guaranteed results. Flipping the classroom is more about a mind set: redirecting attention away from the teacher and putting attention on the learner and the learning. – Flip Your Classroom [pg 11]
I have decided to flip my year 11 mathematics class and will document my journey in this blog.
I am using the “Flipped Classroom” category to help document my journey. A link to all of the blog posts in this category can be found on the right-hand menu.
My first blog post in this journey will be “what is a flipped classroom”. I look forward to the challenges that this adventure will bring over the next 6 months, and into the future.