Friday, July 13, 2012

I'm Gonna Flip (Flipped Learning)

It's summertime. It's the time when many people head off to the coolness of a swimming pool to beat the heat. I, too, feel like taking a plunge, but it won't involve chlorine.  I'm planning on diving into flipped learning - or at least getting my feet wet.  

When I first was introduced to the idea of Flipped Learning at the San Diego Area Writing Project (#SDAWP on Twitter), my eyes narrowed and my arms crossed. The idea, I learned, was to assign the instruction as homework, and the practice would be completed at school. Usually, but not always, the home instruction would be delivered through a teacher-created video.

I scoffed at the idea of replacing the teacher and classroom discussion with a video.  My thoughts went to Once again, they're trying to digitize teachers' jobs in order to save money, and  Some people always think that digital instruction is the magic bullet. It reminded me of a classroom that I had witnessed where the teacher proudly presented a lesson that consisted of having the whole class watch a computer "Khan Academy" type math lesson. 

I left SDAWP  knowing that I'd never use this strategy and thinking it was a "dumb idea."

Fast forward to the ISTE 2012 Conference where the big buzz was all about Flipped Learning.  The creators of the approach, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sims, offered several sessions about this new teaching strategy, and at the beginning of the conference, I had no intention of attending these presentations.  

It wasn't until my ride home on the first night of the conference with a fellow colleague that I started warming up to the idea.  She had attended the first session on Flipped Learning and could see the possibilities.  For every negative question that I posed, she was able to answer with a reasonable argument.  For example, because I have 1:1 iPads in my classroom and the students are able to take them home at night,  access to the Internet for my students shouldn't be a concern.  I also have an after school program in my classroom every day, and students are welcome to stay and use our facilities.  I do, however, wonder if students without these advantages should be required to figure out the connectivity issues.

Because of her clear reasoning, I decided to attend the next presentation by the authors.  Once again, teacher collaboration had opened up new approaches to teaching. The next day, I not only attended the session, I bought the book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Class Every Day.

I have come away from the conference with persuasive reasons for creating a flipped lesson:
The students can rewind and reread a lesson if they don't understand something.
Parents can view the video and better understand what we are doing in class.
If a student is absent, they can read the material and watch the video to catch up.
I can use the time in class to assist my students with mastery of the concepts.
I could use it when I need a substitute teacher
Students have more control over their learning

As I leisurely contemplate my next year's teaching strategies, I'm beginning to develop my first flipped lessons. I'm creating a Google Site for writer's craft where I can explain each craft and offer simple videos.  I'll restructure the lessons so that the students will be expected to read the information, watch a video and take notes or write a question about the topic.  When they return to the classroom the following day, it'll be my job to make sure that they understand and are able to apply the concept.

I'm haven't completely decided to restructure every lesson, but I'd like to experiment with this new approach to teaching.  I still have questions.  For instance, what happens if a student doesn't complete his homework assignment?  Would this add a new complexity my daily lessons?  Or could they just watch the video in class and complete any unfinished work on their free time, like they would do for any missed assignment?

 I haven't gone off the deep end yet.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Connecting the Learning With Blogging

How can I link my students' learning from one year to the next?  On the last day of school, I didn't want to sweep up all of our accomplishments and lock up the doors to the classroom.  Our room was a laboratory for learning, and we need to build on this knowledge.  I want to extend our skills by revisiting the students' projects and sharing their skills with the incoming sixth-graders.  This idea of year-to-year sharing is not new.  Of course, they already know about this in Finland.

Over the year, the students and I spent a long time learning the basics of blogging. We thought about the needs of our Australian audience and how we could best engage and entertain them. For example, they knew they needed to make their blogs visually appealing, so they struggled over how to include graphics and video into their posts.   

And although they learned a lot, they encountered many roadblocks. Throughout our trials, we all became problem solvers, and I now have a group of students who are more comfortable with this writing genre.

Next year, I'd like to have our students focus on making more connections while blogging.  We can start by reading last year's posts, including those of our Australian partners.  Reading the writing will help my students formulate questions about their blogging partners.  We can also use our student blogs to examine the craft of blogging. By analyzing the posts, we can have a discussion on what we learned about academic online writing. 

We can build on the basics of blogging by creating more Internet connections.  Rather than simply writing their own thoughts, they can begin to make connections to other relevant sites through the use of links.  They can expand their messages by offering opportunities for further exploration.

Our classroom blogs will be a wonderful opportunity for collaborative learning, both in my classroom and the world at large.  Since I had a fifth-sixth grade combination class, I'll have  many of the same students in my classroom.  They will be my experts.  They will open the doors to the many possibilities of digital writing. 

Bosworth Traveler

Bosworth Traveler
The Taj Mahal