Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Flipped Classroom, in Ten Minutes.

What follows is a copy of a presentation I recently gave for a local civic organization on flipped learning.  I only had 10 minutes, so I wasn't able to get into the details of Explore, Flip, Apply, but I hit on a lot of what I feel is unique about flipped learning.  I've been meaning to get another blog post completed, so this way I've killed two birds with one stone!  (#multitaskingteacher)

How many of you have had one or more of the following experiences?:

  • As a student, you were so busy keeping up with notes in class, you couldn’t figure out your homework once you sat down to work on it at home.
  • As an adult learner, you went to the internet to figure out how to do something, like hook up your dishwasher or get a stain out of your clothes.
  • As a parent, you couldn’t help your child with the math they were doing as homework because it was different from how you learned it. 
  • As a student, you needed to hear your teacher explain something multiple times before it made sense.
These are common educational experiences for many people, including myself.  Being a teacher, I worried about those students struggling alone with their homework and thought there must be a better way.  Then, a few years ago, I came upon an educational movement that goes by the name of “flipped learning.”  Very cautiously, I started applying some of the principles of flipped learning in my classes, and quickly realized that this movement had the potential to make huge changes in student learning that address all of the experiences I just listed.

The label “flipped learning” has turned into a bit of a buzz-word in education, with all sorts of meanings associated with the phrase.  Today, I’m going to share with you what flipped learning looks like in my classroom, which is definitely my own spin on the practice.

For me, “flipped learning” is examining my curriculum to find those activities when the students need me the LEAST, and shifting them to the homework space.  The activities for which it is important or the students to interact with each other or myself are happening in the classroom space.  For example, my students don’t need me to be physically present with them when they are receiving direct instruction, such as notes on a topic.  This transfer of information requires only low-level processing skills.  Any of us who have learned something new via a YouTube are familiar with this idea.  Therefore, my students take notes for homework by watching short videos that I create and post online.  Not only can they get content for class in this manner, but they can pause me, rewind me, and watch me as many times as they need.  They also fill out online feedback for me before class so that I know what each student is struggling with before class even starts.  Other activities students might do for homework include reading an article and posting their opinion on a discussion board, or interacting with an online simulation, for example – a computer generated beating heart – and recording their observations and questions.  Because of its online format, class content can be accessed anywhere students have an internet connection:  during study hall, on the bus, at home, at the public library.

Once the direct instruction has been moved out of the classroom, what is most exciting about flipped learning is that it opens up time for all sorts of amazing things to happen in the classroom.  Students work together in peer instruction groups to solve problems and give each other feedback.  There is time for project based learning and case studies.  In the science classroom, labs can turn into long-term inquiry-based investigations.  Learning becomes more genuine and occurs at a deeper level.  The teacher is able to take the time during class to answer individual student questions and truly connect with each student on a personal level, which means more differentiated learning is taking place.  In a flipped classroom, I have the time to talk individually with each student every day.  This is allows the true craft of teaching to shine:  teachers become facilitators of learning instead of just dispensers of information. 

Students can easily hop on the internet for information.  What our 21st Century students need to learn is how to sort through all that information, how to collaborate to reach a goal, and how to be creative problem-solvers.  In my flipped classroom, these skills are the focus of the face-to-face time.

I want to give just a few examples of what students did INSIDE my flipped classroom during this first week of school.

  • Biology students investigated gummy bear volume changes as a lead-in to discuss the importance of peer critique in science.
  • College Biology students were outside sampling plant species living in different locations to compare biodiversity.
  • Chemistry students used an augmented reality app on iPads to learn about the equipment they’ll be using in the chemistry lab.

As HOMEWORK, here is what my students did:

  • Biology students uploaded photos of organisms they found along the Cottonwood River to use for food chains.
  • College Biology students watched a video clip from the movie “Avatar” and commented on aspects of the fictional ecosystem.
  • Chemistry students watched a video of [a fellow teacher] and myself at the swimming pool to introduce the idea of dimensional analysis, and then learned how to do dimensional analysis from a video tutorial.

Okay, enough of what I like about flipped learning.  What do the students have to say?  Here is just a sample from a question I put on a feedback form from last night’s homework:
  • "I could pause the video and write down notes when I needed to resulting in me not missing any of the information given."
  • "I felt that it was better than being taught in a classroom because there were no distractions. All I had to do was pay attention."
  • "Before this video experience I really didn't understand how the food chains worked. After watching this video I actually understand what every living thing goes through to live. I feel that these videos are going to make a bigger impact on my learning ability."

Now flipped learning isn’t the answer that will solve all of the challenges in education.  Some students don’t like the change, and not all students have the motivation to take care of their homework responsibilities.  But when I consider its effect on my students as a whole, its impact on learning can’t be denied. 

I want to publicly thank [my superintendent] and [my principal] for supporting this risk that I took in my classroom.  Without their trust in me and encouragement of my efforts, my classroom today would look no different from my classroom three years ago.  They have allowed me to grow and explore as a teacher, and I truly appreciate this. 

I’d like to end with a quote from one of my mentors in flipped learning, a Chemistry teacher from California named Ramsey Musallam.  He said,

"We must empower students to become intelligent researchers and investigators of information, harnessing the power of the internet and their global community, to learn in ways the traditional classroom could never have granted them. Simultaneously, we must use the classroom as a medium for critical thinking and information assimilation, rather than information transfer. As a result, students become empowered to obtain a depth of knowledge while teachers are empowered to design learning environments that value critical thinking and application."

This is what I strive for in my flipped classroom.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool indeed. I'm supposed to give a prezi sometime this year. It's hard to figure out the most important points to make to those who don't know much about flipping. You did a wonderful job summarizing the key points. I'll use this post to inspire my presentation.