Sunday, October 26, 2014

Too much, too little, too many

I'm hoping to facilitate a Flipped Classroom online workshop for the IB soon, so I've been reading more about individual teachers' experiences with flipping their classrooms and flipping student learning.  In Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams' book Flipped Learning:  Gateway to Student Engagement a number of teachers tell their story.  The reason why many decided to give flipped learning a try was in response to the challenge of too much curriculum to cover, too little time to do it in, and too many students all with different learning paces, styles and needs.

Teachers such as Carolyn Durley write about how they used to spend time on "content organization, behaviour modification, class control, entertainment and engagement" - areas that might be useful for passing exams, but which did not promote deep learning.  She writes that she knew she needed to find more time to explore things like inquiry, Understanding by Design, Project Based Learning and so on, and that removing content delivery from the face-to-face time in class allowed her to have more meaningful conversations about learning with her students.  In turn this led her to understand that "many students can be responsible for their own learning" as long as they get the support to identify their ideas of difficulty and to make a plan of action to overcome this.  Flipping the class enabled Carolyn to give her students the time and assistance they needed to take charge of their own progress.

Carolyn started her flipped teaching journey the same way that many teachers do - by making videos.  After this she was free to use the time in class to concentrate on differentiation and developing a more student focused classroom.  Steve Kelly, who wrote another chapter in the book,  also describes how in the past he was focused on finding enough time to get through the curriculum, but after flipping the learning he has been able to introduce digital-age projects that use higher-order thinking as his students apply their learning to new situations.  I was interested in Steve's description of the video projects his students make which he describes as one-shot takes.  He writes "students must prepare more than they would for an edited video, since they only get once chance to get it right."

With the Ebola crisis, many schools around the world are starting to think about what they will do if, as in the case of some international schools in Africa, they are forced to shut down for a period of time.  In this situation it would be good for teachers to have a bank of videos ready to use with students who are forced to stay at home and learn.  Discussing these contingency plans in the event of an emergency school closure, could be one way of getting teachers to start thinking about and preparing videos for flipping their classrooms.

More examples of the benefits of flipped learning can be found in the recently published ISTE book Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams.

Photo Credit: dkuropatwa via Compfight cc

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