Over the course of the past few years, the conversation focusing on “flipping” the classroom has been active and at times controversial. The traditional notion of flipping re-imagines and restructures the teacher’s role of delivering content during class time. Rather than using the class time to lecture or delivery content from text, teachers embrace technology to distribute content to students in digital format – videos, multi-media presentations outside of the classroom space. In such a practice (insert the controversy) the big question flourishes: What happens with class time when content is delivered during home time? For some teachers who are liberated from the disconnection from traditional content delivery, the flipped framework provides them with an opportunity to enrich student experience through collaborative activities where “homework” is done in class. Thus, the classroom becomes a time where they can support active learning, ignite curiosity and ensure that next steps are meaningful to students. Such a change can be a challenge – a challenge for the teacher to break away from the traditional and a challenge for the student to find comfort outside of the overtly institutional. It is this freedom that perhaps challenges some teacher’s connection and dependence on content – content is what they teach and practice and process is perhaps secondary. Regardless, flipping (in a number of variations) can provide students with enriched and meaningful learning opportunities. As noted in the educational article entitled Expanding the Definition of the Flipped Learning Environment, “A flipped classroom allows instructors to introduce new ways of doing things. Yet adding something new generally requires letting go of something old. In the flipped classroom, instructors need to let go of their reliance on the lecture and focus on other ways to enhance learning by introducing active learning strategies that put students in the center of the learning experience.” (Barbi Honeycutt, PhD and Jennifer Garrett)
It is with the focus of putting students at the center of the learning experience, that I have recently begun working with a dynamic teacher by the name of Helen Estrada. Helen teaches at an Alternative Education school – where teenagers and young adults work towards their secondary diploma. Her students represent a true diversity – attending the school for unique and particular social, emotional and educational reasons. They are a great group of young people and deserve the opportunity to learn in active ways.. As such, with Helen her students are very much at the center of the learning.
Helen and I began working together after a brief meeting to discuss a pilot for Blended eLearning – the goal to flip aspects of her classroom. She is currently teaching an interdisciplinary course that marries Media Studies with English. Excitingly, we found a very common ground in providing students with an opportunity to mediate their voice. Thus, in working towards the notion of “flipping” it become essential to determine some real goals etc. Thus, to being flipping, the following must happen.
Reflect on Your Reality:
Before embarking on a flip, the teacher must be actively aware of their lived reality. This takes into account the learning clientele and also the resources and culture of the learning community. In Helen’s situation, her particular clientele flourishes from social interaction where debates and discussion can take shape. The students have limited access to technology outside (and inside) of school and require extra support to synthesis information etc. Thus, traditional flipping through online videos and other applications may not be suitable. The goal then becomes to extend – flip expectations for student work. Thus, I humbly supported Helen in her design of a Blog activity where expectation for submission would be restructured. Students will actively blog through the use of an LMS. Extending from this, students would then submit blogs of their choice to a school community showcase. Thus, where students have become accustomed to working at home and submitting work to Helen – they will now be given active time in class to brainstorm, reflect, write, peer edit, debate and prepare their online blog submissions. Their blogs will be the start of their digital footprint.
Planning the Lesson:
With the goal to provide students with an opportunity to shape their learning, the goal was to scaffold learning that was grounded in the students being participatory. Thus, in Helen’s situation, classroom time needs to be less about her instruction and more about where the students want to go. Thus, as part of each lesson, Helen intentionally embeds an opportunity for students to be reflective. Students, after each class, complete an exit card. This card asks: What did you learn today? What do you need more help understanding? What do you want to learn next? It is with these questions that Helen gives control – her students are active in directing the teaching and the learning.
Like Helen, you cannot be afraid to take action and find which mode of flipping works for you. Just go for it and build through trial and error. In taking action you must also be open to adapting.