Supporting Students in a #Flipclass

I saw a tweet come through the feed this morning from Brad Campbell and Vanessa Alander regarding the practice of “implementing” a flipped classroom without appropriate support for students.

These are important discussions to have because, and I cannot emphasize this enough, good pedagogy must come before technology use. A flipped classroom is not successful because of the videos being used, but because of the interactions teachers can have with students.

Some things to consider as you plan on flipping your class:

1. Build a support network for yourself – Anything worth doing is always better with companions. Whether it is in your building or online, a support network is imperative as you begin something new. Colleagues will be there to give feedback on your methods as well as support in failure. When working alone, it is too easy to give up when faced with setbacks. Having people to work with will significantly ease the burden of the transition you are making.

2. Do not focus on the videos – This may sound counter-intuitive, considering many flipped classrooms use video to deliver instruction. The best technology use comes when sound pedagogy is maintained. Remember, students may need to be taught how to learn from the internet. I have written before that the internet needs to be a resource, not a destination. Do not introduce videos as the only way to learn the material. The videos are a resource being provided to students. Pigeonholed ideas will rarely be successful.

3. Prepare extensions – Sitting and listening to content is not sufficient in building deep understanding. If you want students to be great at reciting information, then stop at the lecture notes. If you want students to be critical, creative thinkers in the context of the content, then there must be extension and application. Design these before introducing the content. Much like writing assessments before teaching a chapter, have your extensions in place before beginning to help lay the course of the unit.

4. Model and scaffold – Again, remember that students are students. Independent learning may or may not be an intuitive action. They will have a very difficult time navigating content if it is not modeled for them. Take time in class to discuss the power of videos in delivering content. Show them how to access the material. Show them how to use any print materials you are providing with the video. Give a daily list of goals (when first starting) for students to work toward. Assess (formatively) frequently to get an idea of where students are in their learning. Take time to work as a whole class to address common strengths and weaknesses. As you repeat this cycle, students will gradually become more independent in their learning.

5. Reflect – Ownership of learning is a key to improvement. Reflection must be part of the learning cycle for both the teacher and the student. Discussion and cooperation is a powerful catalyst in building a student-centered class. As the teacher, reflect on what went well from a standpoint of implementation. As students, have them reflect on what helped them learn the best. Collaborate on the two and move forward as partners.

Flipped classrooms can accentuate good teaching just as well as it can accentuate bad teaching. The guide laid out can be helpful, but it is by no means comprehensive. Find what works best for you and your students and run with it.

Three Things I Should Have Done in College

I got to speak with a group of preservice teachers this morning at the University of Evansville. Heading into the class, I was thinking about what things I would share to start them off on the right foot. This is what I came up with:

Photo by @ahahahahannah via Twitter

  1. Join Twitter – If you are not involved in some sort of professional learning network, you need to find one. Now. I joined Twitter in my second year of teaching, and the last year of learning has been incredible. I want young teachers to have that network built before they start working in schools. Preparation should be relevant, and Twitter is the best way to stay up-to-date.

  2. Start Blogging – Reflection is key to improvement. If there is no reflection in the learning process, growth cannot occur. Unfortunately, reflection usually comes when graded papers are returned. We cannot equate reflection with evaluation. Strong programs are preparing our young teachers to be writing for the sake of writing, rather than for the sake of evaluation. I was fortunate enough to have a cooperating teacher during my student teaching that understood, and instilled, the value of reflection in me and my teaching. I want to be able to do the same.

  3. Organize Information – My first year of teaching was a whirlwind of curation. I did not have a good library built up from college (plus, it was all on paper), so I spent a great deal of time hunting for resources. Now, with tools like Diigo, Pinterest, and, students can curate and share information faster than ever. College students should be building this library as they plan lessons and begin practicum placements, not when they begin their first job. Sharing the information they find is also key, and each of those communities can foster that process as well.

I know one student from this morning signed up for a Twitter account. I am looking forward to going back and working with another group next semester.

“Academic Bowl” Paradox

Last night, I read the science questions for the Indiana Academic Bowl our school hosted. The city schools all sent teams of students to participate in an evening of trivia and brain-power boxing. It was fun and it was great to see some of our own students putting their heads together to answer science questions.

I have a small problem with the name “Academic Bowl.” We all love our little bits of trivia, but labeling a trivia night as “academic” seems a little off to me. Academics should be pushing real-life problem solving and innovative thinking, and no question came close to that. Sure, our students can determine the initial velocity of an object with lightning speed, but what good is that in life? What are they going to do with that object once it is thrown?

Or better yet, why are they throwing that object at all?

I think we are sending a mixed message. We ask for creative and original thought in class, but when it “matters” (i.e. “tests”), we are still only asking for basic, rote-memorization, recall. This must change.

My Academic Bowl would look much more like Science Olympiad (do they still do that?). Teams are given a problem prior to the competition. Instead of drilling physics equations, they spend the time leading up to the event problem solving, planning, testing, and designing a solution. It could be something as simple as:

Design a system to keep an egg from breaking when dropped from a height of 50 feet.”

Or, something more complex:

“Design, sketch, and propose a location for a new power station in your city. Include resources needed, civic impacts, environmental concerns, and other pertinent information.

We need to remember that everything we expose our learners to sends a message and leaves some mark on their life.

Maybe I am feeling a little snarky this morning, but I do not want to let my kids think that “academics” equals “trivia.”

It Is Up to Me

I have learned more this year than ever before and I keep coming back to one inescapable truth: If I want education to change, it is up to me to change it.

I am not arguing that I am the savior of American schools. I am saying if we want local, committed, and relevant change in our schools, we need people – teachers, administrators, board members, and students – to make some tough decisions. In terms of function, school has not changed for almost 100 years. Students come, teachers teach, administrators oversee, wash, rinse, repeat. How long will we continue to wait for someone to come along and change school for us?

One thing I try to teach my students every single day is that they are responsible for the outcome of their learning. I cannot learn for them. I will provide opportunities for growth, but they need to meet me in the middle. Think back over the last week or two of teaching. How many opportunities for positive change did you meet? I know I met some head on and there was a step forward for myself and my students. I am also well aware that I miss some completely when they come. I think this happens for one of two reasons: A) I am not interested in changing a particular aspect of my teaching, or B) I am too afraid to take the risk in front of me.

Positive change in education will not come if we sit around and wait for our neighbor to do it for us.

Change is hard, and people will resist. But that is not an excuse to disregard opportunities for growth. Timeliness is important, but if you are not searching out opportunities to become a better teacher, you are doing a disservice to your students and your school. I have written about taking calculated risks in the past and I want to reiterate my points there: change requires risk. The two are intertwined and you cannot remove one from the other.

Risks can be as small or as large as you are willing to take. Some schools encourage risk-taking, while others might not be so receptive. This is why we are each responsible for positive growth. My risks may not be appropriate in your school, and vice versa. You are responsible for taking that risk and leading change.

Here is another practical example of taking a risk. A colleague of mine was absolutely buried by grading. He was taking up nearly every worksheet, reading, article response, and assignment he used with his kids. He felt that if he graded everything, the students would be more motivated to do the work and they would be successful. I saw how stressed he was, and I encouraged him to not grade so much for a multitude of reasons, but mainly to save his sanity.

Taking a risk is sometimes as small as grading one less assignment per week. But for some people, that is a major risk.

What risk are you still waiting to take? After all, it is up to you.


This has been the best collaborative year of my life. I joined Twitter almost one year ago (to the day, actually), and as I write, I am thinking back to all the people I have been blessed to meet and of even more that I am hoping to meet some day in the future (ISTE, anyone?). I have learned innumerable lessons through writing, tweeting, and teaching. I am blessed to be able to share these things and I want to thank my entire PLN, new and old, for pushing me forward. I only hope that I have helped do the same for you.

#Flipclass Chat Starts With a Bang

Monday, March 5 was the inaugural #flipclass chat event. We promoted the chat on Twitter, Google+, and various blogs to push a great first session. After crunching some data collected in the archive, it was bigger than I had anticipated. In the hour-long chat, there were:

  • 95 individual tweeters
  • 888 total tweets, 869 of them being unique
  • 77 links shared
  • hundreds of connections made

The first topic chosen for the chat was “What are some problems you’ve faced since flipping your class?” I knew there were some common areas that would be discussed, but the collaboration last night went above and beyond my expectations.

Rather than lamenting our problems, proactive and encouraging tweets began to flood my TweetDeck column.

Some of the notable tweets from the chat:

Other favorites included discussion about the role of red Solo cups and alien abductions in a flipped classroom.

In the end, the most encouraging thing was to be able to witness an amazing group of educators find new contacts or encouragement, all through the power of social media. People chatting from across continents and in different countries were able to find common ground to push their own classes to new levels.

The #flipclass chat will continue to be on Monday evenings at 8 PM EST. Polls and archives are all linked from the Flipclass Chat page on this blog. I want to encourage you to connect with some of the people participating in the chats and we all look forward to having you join us next time!

Reach That One

I had a severe case of the “Mondays” today for some reason. My patience was thin and kids seemed to be a little bit more opinionated about their assignments than normal. Needless to say, it led to some rough edges for me and some of my students. Those days are unavoidable and I really hate it when they come around.

Days like today are when my PLN come to my rescue. I sent this tweet around lunchtime:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/bennettscience/status/176721427557388288″]

Lindsay Cole sent this tweet back:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/lindsaybcole/status/176747447773696002″]

For me, this is always the longest part of the year. We have a big stretch with few breaks and we are working through the heaviest part of the curriculum. Edges are frayed and brains are fried. When the going gets tough, remember, there is a room full of students that need us to make the choice to be present and be at our best, even if we do not feel like it.

Whether they know it or not, your students are reaching out for you. Will you reach back?