The People of Flipped Learning

School is getting started again for just about everyone and as flipped learning becomes more and more popular, we’re all looking to make connections to continue our growth.

The first way is to join in on our #flipclass chat Monday nights at 8PM EDT. We have a wonderful team of moderators (many who are included below) that help host the chat each week. Topics are chosen by a poll that is tweeted out Sunday nights and Monday mornings. We’ve gone strong since beginning in March this year, and we’re looking forward to expanding as a new school year begins.

If you’re looking for content-specific folks, this is a list of some amazing flipped educators I’ve created just off the top of my head. If there is someone I missed, please add them in the comments.

English

Cheryl Morris and Andrew Thomasson are a dynamic duo who co-teach their English classes. With Cheryl in the Bay Area and Andrew across the country in North Carolina, they use Google+ Hangouts to create content and flip their classes from 2,500 miles away. You can read about their story or take a look at their materials on their collaborative website or YouTube.

Troy Cockrum is a middle school ELA teacher in Indianapolis. You may recognize his voice from the Flipped Learning Podcast that’s a part of the EdReach network. Check out his blog and YouTube channel for a look at his videos.

Math

Stacey Roshan is a high school math teacher in Potomac, Maryland. Her flipped class focuses on reducing student anxiety through flexible testing and student created content.. Stacey’s content is on her class website and on Screencast.com.

Graham Johnson is a secondary math teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia. He and a colleague hosted the first-ever flipped learning conference in Canada in June 2012. Graham writes on his blog about flipped learning and also shares his content on his class website.

Crystal Kirch teaches freshman algebra and math analysis in California. She developed a Watch-Summary-Question (WSQ, pronounced “whisk”) cycle with her videos that has taken off in flipped learning circles. She writes very frequently on her blog and posts her content to YouTube or on her dedicated Algebra I and Math Analysis class websites.

Cheryl, Andrew, Troy, Stacey, and Graham

Crystal, Marc, Carolyn, Karl, and Delia

Science

Marc Seigel teaches chemistry at a public school in New Jersey. He was an early adopter of flipped learning tools and presented at the 2012 Flipped Learning Conference in Chicago, IL. Marc focuses on inquiry and PBL strategies to get his students to engage with chemistry. He writes about his successes and failures in teaching on his blog.

Carolyn Durley is a colleague of Graham’s, teaching biology in Kelowna, British Columbia. She co-hosted the 2012 Canadian Flipped Learning Conference and is a first-hand account of how teaching practice can change after many years in the field. Carolyn’s energy and writing are infectious as she engages with people in discussions about flipped learning.

Social Studies

Karl Lindgren-Streicher teaches world history in the San Francisco bay area. He has grabbed the inquiry learning approach used by many science classes and applied it to the history classroom. Karl shares his methods on his blog if you’re interested in learning with him.

Primary Grades

Delia Bush is an elementary teacher living just outside Grand Rapids, MI. She learned about flipped learning in 2011 and it has taken off with her students. Delia encourages digital tools with her students and is constantly sharing their learning on Twitter and through her blog. You can see examples of her video content on her YouTube Channel.

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This list is by no means comprehensive. Feel free to add names in the comments. Also, if you enjoy reading this blog, please take a minute to subscribe to email updates in the right-hand sidebar.

Guest Post: Where I Am to Where I’m Going

Where I am to Where I’m Going

By the time you read this post, I will have already began my school year, crossing my fingers, and praying that what I put into motion will pay off in dividends down the road. This year is a lot of firsts for me. This year I will be pressing play on class, 6th Grade Science Applications, 1st year for 1:1 MacBooks, and I am dipping my toes into the flipped model. I caught the bug in a training on Macs when conversing with the trainer we had from Colorado (Aaron Sams’ and Bergmann’s home state). He teaches physics through this model using 1:1 iPads and I was intrigued by his enthusiasm, the tech applications, and by my own skepticism. I read further and went all in on the flipped method.

Moving from Smath

I worked in a co-taught science and math integrated class (6th grade SMATH). Most of class students would work in center rotations with a 20 minute small group lesson within each class period. One teacher would facilitate while the other would teach small groups for the day. It was a great constructivist model where students were lead through inquiry-based activities to construct their own understandings. There were some holes, however. Since these were going in a rotation basis, the direct instruction would be disjointed from the centers from which they experimented and worked with the content. They may have hit a center on density on day 2 of the rotation, but not receive direct instruction from the teacher on the content until day 10. Second was that students were assessed through observation or quizzes at the end of the unit. Students would receive small checks in the lessons, but students were not as accountable in center work. These led to some content missing its full potential and left students that weren’t able to transfer learning to practice in a bind. With now only myself at the helm, I wanted to keep what was good, but eliminate these known gaps in the model.

Flipping to Meet Knowledge and Application

What I have learned in my many nights of researching the model through blogs, PLN’s Twitter feeds, and other PD outlets this summer is that flipped model teaching is as diverse as it is direct. Though in its simplicity flipping claims to “implement instruction in class and practice at school,“ how many ways do teachers deliver content at school? There’s the acronyms of PBL, IBL, the 5 E’s, LFS strategies, as well the myriad of other philosophies that we use to impact our student. This leads me to believe that even though the majority of flipped learning PD is on how to screencast, this does not have to be the case. It is in this that I have implemented my pedagogy on the model. Here are some thoughts on how I plan to implement the flipped learning model (not mastery yet…) in the classroom.

  1. Align Content, Pedagogy, and Technology – Do not be a slave to the video, because its not about the video. In fact, your instruction doesn’t even need to be as a video. Make the content the driver of what tool to use. You may just need the students to research a concept, or follow a powerpoint, or read two conflicting viewpoints to contrast. I plan to use videos where prudent, and where it suits the content best.
  2. Class time for Lab time – Students will gain instruction at home, and use that knowledge to dig deeper into the content at school. I already have several projects and labs in the works for the beginning of the school year.
  3. Symbiotic instruction with meaningful assessment – To close the disjoint of instruction that SMATH presented, I plan to have many small assessments that will guide my instruction. Students will take notes and summarize their learning after the video using google forms and ask questions for the homework. I can use this to clear misconceptions in class, provide clarity if needed, and use the questions to guide further investigation.

I think if I keep these thoughts in the front of my mind while in the thick of things, I can create a flipped classroom that’s me, that’s meaningful, and produces lasting results. Any thoughts, questions, and comments on my plan are greatly appreciated. If you are looking to see my progress in the class, I will be posting updates, thoughts, and other tid-bits often on my blog, What Swords SED.

Mitchell Swords

6th Grade Science

Guest Post: Alchemy in the Midst of Chaos: Collaboration and Community in the Flipped Classroom

If you had walked into our rooms the first week of school, you would have seen chaos. Complete and utter chaos. Students lining up to take their picture on our laptops for a class directory. Students wandering around campus, taking pictures that define the way they view school. Students watching a video on their smartphone while writing responses in a Google Form. Students gathering around the extra classroom computer, entering their questions for Blank White Page. Students doing their chemistry homework, because they had finished a week’s worth of English in two days…but their chemistry homework was due next period.

You would have seen thirty separate learners, on thirty separate trajectories, but all pointing towards one learning goal.

Yes, our flipped classroom is chaotic. And yet it is a concerted chaos – one that is managed and structured and organiszed without any of those things taking precedence over the learning. Even though students are working on different tasks, they aren’t working in isolation. They form small groups, un-managed and independent, share resources, trade devices, and answer each other’s questions.

You could be forgiven for mistaking our classroom for independent study. And though the flipped classroom model we use allows for independent learning, there is a larger force at work, holding all the individuals together, unifying them, forging between them something that is stronger and more enduring than our classroom walls, or even the learning that happens within them.

And that force is the alchemy that neither of us, nor our students, truly understand: when a group of learners enter into a flipped classroom together, the individuals are transformed into a community in which the learning is self-paced, managed by the premise that you can work ahead, but you cannot get behind.

This alchemy can’t be achieved through independent study or group work. It must be created, intentionally, through a process of modelling collaboration and learning, and creating the environment where those two things can flourish. It must be created by teachers who are open to showing their own mess, making mistakes openly, and working in collaborative relationships to clean up the mess and find better ways through failure.

Being the “sage on the stage” isn’t going to do it. Neither can taking ideas from the other amazing teachers who have flipped their classes. There is no shortcut, no magic bullet, no I-Do, We-Do, You-Do that will turn a class based on group work into a class based on collaboration.

It is only after we experience for ourselves the transformation that is possible through collaboration that we can help foster that kind of collaborative relationship between our students. The kind of collaboration that changes both partners; one that gives you both a way out from under the isolation by which too many teachers (and teenagers for that matter) are crushed.

It is within that kind of collaborative partnership that alchemy can happen. And that alchemy cannot help but change our practice, and through that, the experience of our students. And while it happens around and through us, we can’t manage it, we can’t manufacture it, and we can’t maintain it.

The way we experience alchemy in our flipped classrooms, the one that takes disparate individuals and forges them into one community, is through collaboration – with each other, with our students, and by helping our students collaborate with one another.

But the essential question is: How do we get there? What has the transformational power to move individuals into community, into collaboration, and into friendship?

And the answer is not what we expected. We thought that by working together, dividing the load, being nice to each other, etc. we were collaborating.

Until we realised that collaboration lies not in what we do, but rather in who we are.

Three months ago, we were two individual teachers, trying our best to manage our careers and make up for our failings. We met by chance – both of us tagged on a tweet about making flipped English videos. So initially, we approached this partnership as group work. Each person would contribute half the ideas, do half the work, and take half the credit.

But we realised quickly that each of us doing half didn’t add up to enough. We were trying to turn relationship into a transaction, where we traded our own individual roles and responsibilities for what the other person had. We were approaching this like the group work we had assigned our students for years.

And it wasn’t good enough.

It had to radically change. We had to radically change.

We had to invest time and energy not only in the work, but also the friendship, because the work may have started the friendship, but the friendship is far more valuable.

We had to stop seeing ideas and products as coming from two people, and instead see them as a natural outpouring of our collaboration, and belonging to both of us and neither of us.

We had to stop trying to coerce the other person to walk down the path we were on, and navigate a new one, together.

We had to experience alchemy.

That we, as two separate individuals used to teaching in isolation, developed into a collaborative partnership that fundamentally changed who we are as teachers, but also as human beings.

That we would come to see that collaboration is not what we do, but who we are. That we can do this alone, but it’s never as good as what happens when we work together.

That we had to be transformed, and through our transformation, our classroom was also transformed.

For those reasons, after knowing each other for about five weeks, we decided to team-teach. Even though we both are at new schools. Even though we live 2,500 miles apart. Even though neither of us knows how to do this.

And like any alchemy, if you tried to break it down into a step-by-step process, you would lose the essence of what makes it work.

You would lose the alchemy that comes from two people, sharing the mess of their lives and careers, and helping each other build a collaborative community around the mindset and pillars of the flipped class. We don’t know how the alchemy was created, but we know that it’s worth fighting for. It stops the isolation from winning.

And perhaps what is more transformational about this alchemy is how it shows our students that who we are is more important than what we do. That what we learn is more important than the grade we receive. That collaboration will change the way we teach and the way we learn.

Now, can you be a good teacher without being collaborative? Sure.

But you cannot become a great flipped class teacher without collaboration. Collaboration is essential for flipped class teachers, because there is no way to do this alone.

The entire premise of the flipped classroom was built on the collaboration between two innovative teachers working together to figure out a better way to reach their students.

It took two people, working together, taking a risk on something untested, something that probably seemed crazy to everyone else.

At the core of the collaborative whirlwind is two friends, teaching, learning, collaborating.

And now, we are caught up in that same whirlwind. It’s exciting. It’s terrifying. It involves trusting that collaboration can be simple, but it’s not easy.

It takes commitment, it takes friendship, and it takes experiencing, but not accepting, failure.

It takes creating four versions of a blog post or a video to get the one we feel communicates what we wanted it to communicate.

It takes being willing to throw out the to-do list to attend to the needs of the other person, because the friendship is more important than the work, and in fact, friendship and collaboration must be inextricably linked.

It takes risking failure, but risking it together. Understanding that while there is magic in alchemy, for the process to take place at all you need to throw out a lot of rubbish first.

It takes a constant process of adapting and changing and growing.

And at all times, it takes commitment. Commitment to each other, commitment to the work, especially when the magic is nowhere in sight and there lies only an endless series of tasks ahead.

And finally, commitment to The Narrative upon which all else is built:

This – with all the mess and all the chaos and all the hard work – is better when we walk through it together. That all those things are what makes the alchemy possible. That it’s not just about what we believe or what we produce; it’s about how we live, how we teach, and who we are.

And therein is the most magical, powerful, transformational thing: We are Not Done Yet.

Both Andrew Thomasson and Cheryl Morris teach English at the high school level. Andrew is a 10th grade teacher at Forestview High School near Charlotte, North Carolina, and blogs at www.concertedchaos.com (on Twitter – @thomasson_engl). Cheryl teaches 11th and 12th grade at Redwood High School in Marin, California, and blogs at www.morrisflipsenglish.com (on Twitter – @guster4lovers). They operate a website for their students at www.tmiclass.com and can be reached through their joint email at tmi@tmiclass.com. More information on how they are team-teaching from across the country can be found at their blogs and www.tmiclass.com, and their instructional writing/reading videos are on YouTube.

Note: there are many things that we agree on, but one point of disagreement is spelling. Cheryl spells things the British way. Andrew spells things the right (i.e. American) way. So we collaborate and use a hybrid of the two, ergo, the odd spellings.

Guest Post: A Brand New Year

This week, I will start my 20th year in the classroom, and for the first time, I really don’t know what I’m going to do. I should probably explain.

For the first eighteen years of my career, I was a good teacher. My lessons were planned, my curriculum was covered, my grades were recorded, my students were happy and successful. Everything was good, some might even say great. Late in my 18th year, I discovered the flipped classroom. I tried it out toward the end of that year and loved it.

So I dove into it last year. All of my classes were flipped. Students enjoyed the change. I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with each student every day and really help them with their learning. But, one aspect of my classroom hadn’t changed: the learning was still happening according to my schedule. I planned out the unit, decided which videos were to be watched each day, what problems were to be completed and when the test was to be taken. Everything needed to be on a schedule so we could all cover the necessary material before the end of the semester ( or quarter or next vacation). Sure, I now had some flexibility for students to spend a little more time on one topic as long as they were ready when I was ready to give the test.

Which brings me to this year and my original statement. For the first time, I really don’t know what I’m going to do. You see, I’ve decided to take the next step and create a flexible learning environment based on mastery that allows asynchronous progress. I’m giving up the control of the pace and plan to allow students to demonstrate their learning when they are ready and in a variety of ways. In my 9th grade math class, I’ve identified the major concepts from our guaranteed viable curriculum and the common core. I have videos made (from last year’s work) for all the content. I’ve decided to use Crystal Kirch’s WSQ form to help students process their thinking. I have a variety of practice opportunities and projects that have worked well in the past

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But, I want the students to actually learn the math and make connections among the topics rather than just doing the math because it’s what’s next on my calendar. I want them to work at their own pace and continue working until they can demonstrate their understanding of the concepts. I want my students to demonstrate their understanding in ways that make sense to them (which might include tests).

I want them to create websites that contain applications of the various math topics from the curriculum ( an idea from Ryan Curtis at flipcon12). I want them to find math problems that are “worth solving” by looking at photos of real objects (an idea based on the work of Dan Myers). I’ve started a collection of photos, but want my students to take pictures to add to the collection.

And so, I have a lot of ideas (some old and some new), but I’m not sure how it’s going to go. Will I be able to manage a group of students working at varied paces in the same room? Will students be able to take the ultimate responsibility for their learning? How will I keep them involved with their websites throughout the semester? Will we find math worth learning in the photos? Will I be able to give tests over a larger window and maintain test security and integrity? And what about grades? How do I reconcile grades if two students are both working at their best level, but one happens to “get it” faster?

I have many more questions and right now, my answer to most of them is “I don’t know” and I think I’m okay with that. I know that I will have to teach my students to take responsibility and coach them throughout the semester. I know that some students will take to this mastery approach more readily than others. I know that this next step in my teaching will help me to ensure that my students are learning and understanding the math concepts. I know that I will have to listen to my students and adjust. I know that I will be learning as I go along. But, I know that it’s the right thing to do. And that makes my uncertainty okay.

John Tague teaches students math in Fairfax, Vermont. He coaches his school’s Scholars Bowl team and advises the Design TASC team.You can follow him on twitter (@jtague252) and read his blog ” Left Handed Educator” at http://lefthandededucator.blogspot.com/

The photo was taken at Fort Pulaski in Savannah, Georgia. It represents a solid foundation leading to the unknown.

Guest Post: Inquiry-Based History Class

Note: This is a guest post that will be the first in a series. All posts follow the theme of “Changes in class because of summer learning.” Hopefully, these varying perspectives will continue to spark discussion and growth among readers.

Inquiry-Based History Class

If you listen to too many of the jargony phrases in education, your head might explode. Or you’ll design a tic tac toe board with educational jargon in preparation for a big conference (LINK 1). Either way… But despite (or maybe because) talk about education can become buzzword-y, it is always a good idea to know what people in your field are buzzing about.

I saw (thanks Twitter) a lot of discussion about inquiry-based learning this summer. In some ways, it was fascinating reading about these classes, particularly science classes. To have students do experiments to learn scientific phenomena (as opposed to learning about these phenomena out of a book and then experimenting to prove that they are true) is a darn cool way to teach, and intuitively it seems very ‘sticky’: kids seem more likely to remember what they have deduced from their experiments.

In other ways, reading about inquiry has been incredibly frustrating. As a history teacher, I don’t have tangible objects to manipulate to determine the laws of nature. This makes the type of inquiry that goes on in science classrooms difficult in history classes. Still, there has to be a way to teach an inquiry-based history class, right? I think there is. In the conversation around what history teachers should be doing in their classroom, flipped or not, it seems like there is a way – a necessity, I’d argue – to base history classes around inquiry.

In short, I believe historical inquiry means having our students do the work of historians in class. Students receive (or find, depending on the teacher’s preference and/or students’ abilities) multiple primary and secondary sources about an era or event and figure out why and how things happened in the past. By doing this, students analyze the past by creating meaning, not being handed facts. With historical inquiry, students synthesize disparate interpretations of events to create their own unique understanding of the past. They are also given opportunities to connect events that happened in the past and in a particular place to what is happening now around the world.

Focusing on historical inquiry pulls to the fore the content skills students learn through history class, skills that are absolutely essential for any functional member of a democracy. (For example, how to find bias, analyze meaning behind and within a source, or make meaning from conflicting accounts of the same event to name a few.) By doing this, historical inquiry also pushes the knowledge of historical content a bit to the backburner. Students still need context (the basic facts around a historical event) to do the work of historians but how they use these facts becomes far more important than if they remember when World War I started.

So what is historical inquiry? What does it look like in a classroom? I’ll be writing about that more on my blog – I’d love your thoughts and feedback on it. A great place to start, though, and a source on which I base much of my thought on historical inquiry, is this book (LINK 2) by Sam Wineburg.

Karl Lindgren-Streicher teaches world history in the Bay Area. He can be found on Twitter at @kls4711 and blogs at http://historywithls.blogspot.com/.

Give It Back

After a horrendous start of the year (I won’t go into it here…) I was finally able to introduce the whole flipped classroom idea to my students today. They had a taste yesterday, but with the materials in hand and the technology to use, it finally began to click for many of my students.

photo credit: danorbit. via photo pin cc

I’m convinced that the key to handing education back to students lies in the simple act of allowing some freedom. The concept is so foreign to students that they don’t know how to react when they have freedom.

“Can I work ahead?”

“Can we work with someone else on this?”

“I can use pictures to answer the questions?”

As I enthusiastically answered yes, the questions became more bold.

“Do I have to watch your videos?”

“I remember how to do this…do I have to listen to this section?”

They were analyzing their prior knowledge and critically thinking about what I was asking them to do. There was creativity in their responses. They immediately formed groups and began to problem solve on some of the tougher components. My students were engaged and deeply involved in the learning cycle from the start…because they had freedom.

Freedom to make mistakes without repercussions.

Freedom to forge their own learning path.

Freedom to talk and share and collaborate.

The best part was watching the light bulb turn on for kids that had no interest in science when they walked in the door that same day.

I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Three Responses to Failure

Things go wrong. It’s a fact that we have to embrace and learn to live with if we want to be great teachers. I’ve learned some of my most valuable teaching lessons from classes or activities melting down in front of me.

Adversity is inevitable when we work with other people. We have disagreements with colleagues, students will fight for something…it’s human nature. By nature, we all work for ourselves. To be effective in schools, we must be willing to step out and support one another.

We tend to think of our best days when everything goes right. The lab worked perfectly, kids got the concept, we all cooperated, and maybe even had some fun in class. I’m not convinced those days offer significant opportunity for growth. We can learn from success, but we all know our best learning happens in failure. How we handle that failure in the moment gives us a glimpse of our growth. I’ve observed three responses to failure and supports for people that fit each category.

The Pouter – I think this type of response is a symptom of entitlement. When something doesn’t go right, it isn’t our fault. We were wronged and there’s nothing anyone can say or do to help us move on. Give me space and I’ll check back in when things smooth out. This isn’t necessarily withdrawing physically, but a mental check-out that hurts the learning atmosphere, and worst of all, the students.

SupportBe a gentle voice. Offer help on small tasks so they can focus on teaching. Finding a way to make sure students are supported, even in the midst of failure, is priority. Give your colleague some space, but also remind them that there is a support network to help move on.

The Worker – Driven by a need to make things right, this person puts their head down and plows forward. Unfortunately, they often shoulder the entire burden and do not ask for help, leading to an eventual burn-out. These people are great problem solvers, but miss the group atmosphere of finding solutions. Colleagues may feel a little helpless as they watch The Worker power through issues on their own.

SupportThe Worker is not used to asking for help and may not be looking for areas that are open for outside support. When you have time, offer to do small tasks. Find ways to engage students by taking a class over or by stepping in and co-teaching for a period. Be forceful, but defer to the person you’re supporting.

The Engager – This person looks for ways to meet the situation at face value and move forward collaboratively. Working with colleagues and/or students as needed, they are able to find effective solutions and avoid a burn-out during the problem-solving process. The Engager is a good leader and is willing to accept responsibility for mistakes that are made.

SupportBe ready to take on a leadership role within the group. The Engager is looking to delegate and they need people they can count on to take care of particular things that need to happen. Follow through with whatever task is given and be willing to do more for them.

Notice that each supporting role is just that…support. Failure needs to be a collaborative experience, and by taking on a support role, we can encourage learning rather than bitterness. These are not at all comprehensive, not permanent labels, and apply to students just as much as they apply to teachers…more so, even. I have fallen into each of the categories depending on the particulars of the problem. But, if we can recognize what role we’re taking in a situation, it will help the healing and learning process begin sooner rather than later.

The featured image is from James Sanders’ Instagram library.

Do You Want to Write a Guest Post?

I want to try something new. In addition to the writing I normally do, I want to give some more people a chance to publish a guest post on my blog. I get to talk to many of you through Twitter, but I also want to include other voices on a larger platform. Hopefully, this will spur more discussion and discourse on teaching and learning in connected classrooms.

If you’re interested in posting:

– Your post needs to be ready to publish starting on August 27th.

– Your final article should be original and between 500 – 750 words in length.

– Focus on pedagogy or methods in your class or school.

– Please don’t write a list of tech tools you use. I’m looking for discourse on how you’re changing your class with what you’ve learned.

– The application deadline is August 15th. Selected writers will be notified no later than August 17th.

– The content is yours, and you’re free to cross-post the article on your blog 24 hours later.

If all of that looks good, fill out this form. I’m closing the form the evening of August 15th, so make sure you have it in before then!

Flipped Classrooms: Let’s Change The Discussion

NOTE: This is a cross-post of a piece I wrote for SmartBlogs. You can see the original here.

Since Sal Khan’s 2011 TED Talk, the Khan Academy has been nearly synonymous with “flipped classrooms.” This is because since then, Khan Academy has been promoted by the Gates Foundation as well as major media outlets like CNN and CBS. But, what the media and outsiders (non-educators) fail to recognize is that Khan Academy is just a tool and not a methodology or pedagogy on its own. Debates have raged simultaneously in educator’s circles, especially in social media and blogs, about the benefits (or lack thereof) of flipping. Through all of this, the term “flipped classroom” or even “flipping” has been misconstrued and inaccurately represented. Rather than argue about titles or labels, let’s get into the philosophy of flipping.

photo credit: Phillie Casablanca via photo pin cc

We need to change the vocabulary. The term “flipped classroom” has an implication of isolated instances or a single mode of instruction…sort of, “If you do x, y, and z, then you have a flipped classroom.” I want to lay out major themes that can be found in all instances of flipping.

Flipped Learning as an idea encompasses a variety of individual practices that are tailored from class to class, by the teacher, to meet the needs of his or her students. The practices and methods the teacher uses vary, just as traditional teaching methods vary from class to class. However, there are philosophical parallels between any two classes that promote flipped learning.

 

  1. Students have a voice – Flipped learning is about reversing the roles in education. The teacher is no longer the center of attention…students are. Class time is spent focusing on their needs, not on the teacher’s schedule. Students are encouraged to make decisions, question, succeed, and fail in a supportive, dynamic learning environment. Choice is rampant in flipped learning and students are given an opportunity to defend their choices as a partner in learning rather than a subordinate.

  2. Teachers improve their craft – Flipped learning does not mean a teacher can relax and sit back while kids work through computer problems or worksheets. It also does not mean that all content is moved to video. Good pedagogy is absolutely essential, and it is the teacher’s job to continue to provide dynamic and varied learning experiences based on observation and assessment. In fact, a teacher’s ability to differentiate and personalize learning in a flipped setting is enhanced; students are given choices on which activities they want to work through and the teacher can help tailor that path to the strengths and weaknesses of each student or group.

  3. Flipping leads to a fundamental redesign of school – When we reverse learning roles and begin to integrate content that is available anywhere and anytime, the role of school begins to take a fundamental shift. Is class time best spent listening to a teacher when students can find the same content on the web whenever they want it (or need it)? Of course not. The role of school needs to shift from content delivery to supported learning, whatever that may be. Flipping can help make that shift. Content is supplied as a resource in the learning process rather than the starting point. This can take the shape of video in some cases, PBL or inquiry in others…it depends on the class and the learning goals. There is no single method of content delivery, and in fact, should be a mixture of methods to meet the needs of diverse learners.

Too much of the discussion around flipping has been on the technology. Let’s begin to focus on the philosophical decisions teachers and schools need to make to move education forward in a connected world. For me, flipping the learning process was the best way to make that shift, and that’s simply what it is…a tool to push teaching and learning forward. I am continually learning and improving on what has worked in the past to become a better teacher.

There are thousands of teachers across the country making the same decision. But, there are also teachers who are deciding that flipping is not the best thing for their students, and that is totally fine. Flipped learning is not a one-size-fits-all approach nor is it appropriate in every situation.

In the end, the decision to flip or not to flip can be made by only one person: you. Understand that making the decision to flip (or not flip) your class cannot be done whimsically…no decision you make in your approach to teaching should be. You are responsible for serving your students. Your class will need to meet your student’s needs…no one else can do that for you. Flipping is so much more than using video to deliver content. It is a mindset that requires you to totally rethink the way teachers and students interact on a day to day basis. Let’s talk about why we’re doing what we’re doing and continue to learn from one another.

Doing What We Do

It is believed that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions every day. There is even research that suggests that decision fatigue plagues many professionals. Not all of our choices are cognitively difficult (Do I feed the dog first, or eat my breakfast first?) but those decisions add up over time. We also have motivations playing into our decisions, and each of ours are different. We have different experiences, plans, or desired outcomes.

I do not think decisions we make regarding teaching should ever be taken lightly. I have made some off-the-cuff choices about teaching or planning in the past. They usually blew up in my face. Because of that, I think I am hyper-aware of each decision I make when it comes to my class.

I’m thinking about decisions this morning because of a comment I heard from another teacher during a group discussion:

I think we should gamify this so kids are hooked in. They’ll do the work if there is a gaming aspect.

I started shifting in my seat because that statement made me so uncomfortable. It is not because I am against gamification…there is research that shows students can benefit from a gaming component in a class. Unfortunately, many people forget that there has to be “implemented according to a solid educational model, grounded in research,” and not just used as a gimmick.

 

photo credit: artnoose via photo pin cc

Khan Academy uses a point-and-badge system (game) for tracking students through the videos. Unfortunately, teachers are using this as their grading system. There is no connection to the context of the course. The points and badges do not inform the teacher of what the student can or cannot do. In fact, there were articles posted on how to gain points in the system without doing the work. These loopholes have since been closed, but the treatment of the symptom does nothing to fight the root issue: gaming as a gimmick will not help students.

Gaming is done well across the country. Paul Andersen is a biology teacher in Bozeman, Montana. He has developed a fantastic gaming system in his AP Biology course that is rooted in sound education practice and provides context for the content. In other words, the gamification in his class is not a gimmick to get kids to “do the work.” You can learn more about Paul from his TEDxBozeman talk.

So, what’s the point? We need to so what’s best for our students. Don’t make decisions about teaching lightly…gimmicks will not help you improve. Kids are resourceful and insightful. They can see when we try something simply to gimmick them into doing the work. I wish I had spoken up during the discussion so we could talk about why we might or might not want a gaming component. If you’re interested in learning more about gaming your class, this list of articles from Heather Scott might help.

If you’re working on gaming your class to enhance the learning, I’d love to hear how you’re doing that in the comments.

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