We didn’t flip the classroom
It’s always been turning
Since the kids have been learning
Why Flip the Classroom?
Education, particularly as it concerns the needs of students in a new age, has been very present as a topic in the national consciousness this past week. It formed a major plank in President Obama’s latest State of the Union, at a time in which, despite the average standard of living continuing to rise in America, and crime continuing to fall, high school dropout rates have risen since 1965 to over 30%. High School graduation rates rose meteorically from 1910 until the mid-60’s, from 10%, to just under 80%, but they have slowly fallen over the proceeding 50 years, to just under 70%. Clearly, as Obama keenly notes: we are losing ground for some reason.
The Glogster Team has its theories about what the problem is, and that’s where Flipped Teaching and Blended Learning step in. Part of the problem in American education has been that, up until 1965, when near 80% of youngsters could expect to graduate from high school, it was hard to recognize that, perhaps, no matter how much the economic situation improved, as much as 20% of the nation’s youth weren’t getting much out of school. Educational paradigms hardly changed between 1910 and 1965, but more people had the means to stay in school, and the states had increasingly more money to pay for it. Still, the average never breached 80%, and has declined alarmingly since then. Could it be, perhaps, that traditional school never did appeal to a large portion of that 20% who fail to graduate? Could it be also that graduation rates continue to decline and stagnate because school is failing to keep up with a rapidly changing world?
Despite our occassional grumbling about “those kids on my lawn,” we have to admit that today’s youth is pretty darn clever. And so it’s as surprise to hear that graduation rates are falling. But who’s the wiser, really? It seems to us that young people have their fingers on the pulse of new technologies and a changing world. They are immersed in it every day, and if school is becoming less relevant to that world, they will be the first to sense the lack. This is what Flipped Teaching and Blended Learning accomplish: effective leveraging of new technologies to use classroom time, and home time, more effectively. Our kids would laugh us out of class if we suggested they do math homework with a slide-rule. But that’s not far off from what we do every day, if we insist on sticking to methods of teaching and teacher/student relationships from a century ago. We need 21st century education for the 21st century student. Thus, most of our 10 Habits are going to have to do with technology.
1. Being Organized
We know. Since you were a high school freshman, or maybe even before, everyone’s been harping on this point. “Get your stuff together,” everyone says, “take notes.” If you’re like us, being a student didn’t really prepare you for the challenges of teaching. We all learn in different ways, and some of us simply didn’t get anything out of writing down the fact that Russia adopted the Julian calendar in 990 C.E. (we googled that, naturally). But getting organized doesn’t mean adopting a system that doesn’t work for you. It means making sure that you are doing your work in the most efficient way possible. It’s about saving yourself the pain and anguish of realizing that you aren’t prepared for something new.
Getting it Done:
Organization is physical and mental. There are some great guides available for organizing classrooms, but before you follow them, plan your reorganization. That’s right. Plan to plan. Write down a simple outline of what is needed, what has worked in the past and what needs improvement in your classroom, and in your approach. We use and recommend Google Docs, Google Calendar, and the associated program Google Drive to help you organize computer files between home and school. With Google Drive or products like dropbox, you can make sure all your teaching files are accessible from anywhere you access a computer at school. No fumbling for a flash drive- you have everything in one place. You should find that it will be easier for you to stick to a planning commitment if it is written down: “a plan to control all plans.”
2. Keeping Communication Channels Open
The Flipped Classroom relies on the understanding of family and caregivers who were taught in a traditional, teacher driven, homework heavy environment. Lots of parents want to see worksheets, spelling practice, and book assignments every night, if only to satisfy themselves that something is being taught at school. But the Flipped Classroom is different, and you’ll need to be prepared for some questions and concerns. Prepare some literature or a small seminar for your parents, and keep at it. Parent roles will also have to change to make the flipped approach work: they will have to be partners in educating their kids, and like you, they will have to relinquish their old roles as homework taskmasters.
Getting it Done:
You will need a simple, secure, multi-level process for communicating with all your students, and their parents. Luckily, the past few years have seen dozens of new communication services that put teachers in contact with parents. Keeping in contact securely with students is easy on Glogster EDU, and in case parents need to contact you, set up an alternate communication email- one only for parents, so that school work and politics won’t intrude on your personal time. If you feel the need, you can even publish a google calendar of all assignments and due dates, and share this with parents as well. The technology is easily scaled to your needs.
3. Being Adaptable
When you first got an AOL account, you probably thought you were sitting at the pinnacle of technological achievements. Your computer could dial a local phone number, and you could “log on,” to receive messages instantly. Incredible! But the technology has progressed since 1994, and today, the rate of advance can be dizzying. But that doesn’t mean you have to be an IT wizard- quite the opposite. Technology doesn’t solve anything on its own. It just means that you need to be willing to add tools, take tools away, and change processes if and when they don’t work.
And your view of yourself will have to change as well. A flipped classroom needs a flipped teacher, and that means you have to be comfortable not being in front of the class all the time. It also means you may need to be comfortable in front of a webcam, recording lessons for your students. If you’re camera shy like us, that’s not always the easiest thing in the world. Work with your strengths- maybe you just need to record your voice, or maybe there’s another solution: a husband or a wife, or a friend could volunteer to narrate your video lectures. Just as the Flipped approach teaches us: there are many solutions to a single problem.
Getting it Done:
Enlist a colleague to review and critique your teaching materials and methods. Invite input from the parents on what the kids enjoy or don’t enjoy. Ask the kids themselves what tools they like using most, and try to shift as much of the teaching into those tools as you can. The students love video lectures? Why not give them more, or save them for a special treat? Some teachers even do flash animations to teach some of their lessons. Teaching is an art, as well as a science, and experimenting with your flipped content is where your creative side should really let loose.
4. Timelining and Planning Ahead
More planning! Your classroom and your computer are organized, but your goals and benchmarks for success must also be clear- and not just to you, but to parents and other faculty members as well. A big part of the Flipped approach is making sure that everyone knows what the goals are, from the beginning, so that everyone can participate in making sure those goals are met.
Getting it Done
In the spirit of the Flipped approach, why not create a timeline the artistic way, to share your plans and visualize your goals. Having a clear schedule will help parents and other teachers to make sure that students stay on track, and are keeping up with new material. This will also help you to make sure you have enough time to plan, execute, and troubleshoot your own new materials. We hear that some teachers take a weekend out of every month to get their teaching materials organized. That means coming back to your plan and your materials and looking everything over, to see if everything is in order, if anything is missing or incomplete, and to make sure you are on track with your yearly or quarterly goals. This will give you a definite sense of achievement, as hopefully each month you return to your planning phase to discover that it has become easier and easier.
5. Being Security Conscious
For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume your school is already a secure environment. Flipped teaching should come with the awareness that security precautions are a must, when dealing with electronic communications, and children. Glogster EDU is the most secure environment for students on the web, so staying within that safe zone presents little risk. However, when and if you involve other online resources in your teaching, it should be done with knowledge of the dangers presented to children online.
Getting it Done
Set up and follow communication rules with your students, and communicate these rules to parents. Do not communicate with students outside of a secure, auditable environment such as Glogster EDU. Talking to students on Skype, ICQ or by email presents the risk of impostors, and unsecured communication channels such as email or Skype present risks of the exposure of personal information, as well as spamming and phishing scams. Your electronic communications with students should always be visible and transparent to school authorities, for your safety and that of your students.
To be continued… in Part 2
What say you?
What are the vital habits of the Flipped Teacher? What are your organizational tips, your favorite Flipped tools and resources? Comment below with your stories about flipping the classroom!