Saturday, July 13, 2013

Making a Flipped Learning Cake

"Why a cake?" you're wondering.  I'll get to that...

This post is my official "Final Reflection" for my Flipped Learning Class, but I am determined that it will not be my last post to this blog!  As I considered what I would like to write about for this last assignment, I found myself continually looking forward instead of looking back.  Due to a commitment I made last spring, I have the opportunity in August to talk about flipped learning with a handful of teachers in my district and other nearby districts.  I keep pondering how I'm going to sum up everything I've discovered about what it means to flip a classroom in a short, workshop-style conversation.  It is becoming a huge weight on my shoulders.  As I reflect back on my experiences teaching in a flipped classroom last year, being a student in the Flipped Learning Class this past month, and supported by my newly-formed PLC, I know there are at least 3 things I must present in my upcoming workshop.

#1:  Flipped Learning is more than just the videos.
I recall that I entered the world of flipping with this overwhelming idea that I needed to make tons of videos to cover all of the content of my class.  I cringe when I think of my 30-minute videos on Cellular Respiration my students watched last year.  Hassan Wilson, one of my fellow Flipped Classmates, has a great blog post about this exact topic.  The central question to Flipped Learning is not "How do I make the videos?" but, "What is the best use of my classroom time?"  Teachers need to parse out the pieces of their class that are low-level, content-driven activities (which are well-suited to video), and those that are high-collaboration/creativity/inquiry/application type activities (which are much more effective in a classroom environment).  Yes, making the videos is one flashy, technology-based facet of the flipped classroom, but the more revolutionary idea is that this tool frees up time in class to actually engage students in research-based teaching strategies that guide the process of learning.  In a podcast interview Carolyn Durley agrees that the first thing teachers new to flipped learning usually have the most questions about is, "How do I make the videos?"  Through her flipped-class experience she learned that more time needs to be put into "classroom renovation."  What will the teacher do with all of that time the videos free up?

A lot of Ramsey Musallam's Explore-Flip-Apply ideas have influenced my growth in this area as well.  Educators need to understand that the videos are only one ingredient in the "flipped learning recipe."   This ingredient can take on different forms (white flour or wheat flour?), and it can be added to the "batter" at different times (before or after the eggs?).  Also, teachers might use different ingredients for their recipe.  Which leads me to my next revelation...

#2:  Flipped Learning will look different for every educator.
While interacting with my classmates this past month, I have seen a huge diversity in the types of content that video can cover, as well as the formats of videos.  Video can be used to provide a hook for a lesson or explain how to use a calculator, to introduce a new class project, or for iPad training.  Teachers can incorporate mainstream movie clips and images into their video, use a graphing interface, or even create their own characters for a video.  The possibilities are truly endless.  This is where the true craft of being a teacher enters the picture.  Each teacher needs to decide for himself/herself at what point in the learning cycle video would be most appropriate.  This will most likely vary according to student age and the subject taught.  I'm in the process of collecting lots of examples for my district teachers who teach Math and English.  For example, in a podcast interview with Lisa Highfill, she describes some amazing flipped lessons for fifth graders on the topics of money sense and poetry.  Not only is a portion of each lesson based on video, but the meat of the lessons is based on Explore, Flip, Apply.

#3:  Flipped Learning is a Bridge to teaching in the Information Age.
Whether a teacher embraces or rejects technology in their classroom, our students are growing up in an age in which every fact they would ever want to know is at their fingertips.  To round out my "recipe" analogy, are we going to bake this cake in a traditional oven or a high-powered convection oven?  The day will come when convection ovens are the only option for bakers.  As Aaron Sams explained in a Flipped Learning Network Podcast over a year ago, we are in a new educational environment.  Not everyone is ready to take the leap over the chasm and frolic in this environment.  Flipped Learning can be a bridge for teachers to gingerly cross the chasm and begin to think about what a 21st Century Classroom looks like.  And by a "21st Century Classroom," I don't mean a classroom that uses the newest technology at every turn.  I simply mean a classroom that acknowledges that memorizing "facts" is no longer relevant for most subjects.  We need to focus our classrooms on those higher-order Bloom's categories, such as Analyzing and Creating.  We need to prepare our students for the future.

I still have a long ways to go in preparing my "Introduction to Flipped Learning" presentation for August, but I know that I have grown more in my understanding of flipping in the last month than I have in the past two years.  Much of this is thanks to the amazing connections I have made through the Google+ class community, the Flipped Learning Ning, and #flipclass on Twitter.  At some point during my viewing of the FlipCon13 archived sessions, one of the presenters made the comment that the Flipped Learning community is simply a group of educators that want to constantly improve their teaching.  When I heard that, I knew I had landed in the right place.  I feel buoyed by my PLN as I enter another year of exploring flipped learning in my classroom!

**If you have any great suggestions of items that I MUST share with my fellow teachers when I present in August, please respond via a comment or e-mail.  I'd truly appreciate any advice!**


  1. Hi Amanda, happy to find your blog and hear your passion and excitement about change!! I can feel it in your words, so great! Did you already present? If so how did it go? #flipclass was a game changer for me and my stuck practice.
    Great to connect,

    1. Presentation is scheduled for one week from today. You sensed my enthusiasm correctly - I'm really looking forward to it! I'll keep you updated on how it goes. Thanks for the feedback!