I've thought about flipping my classroom. A lot. But I never do. Flipping means a lot of different things to educators, but the big idea is that kids learn outside of the classroom (via technology) so that they things like practice, discuss, and create in the classroom when they have this valuable time with teachers and peers. As much as this idea appeals to me in theory, in practice I've finally reached a verdict in the case for flipping. I can't and won't do it. Here's why:
Roadblock 1: At my middle school, we don't have 1:1 (one device per student). Many of my students don't have consistent tech access. Their wifi works slow on their device. They don't have a personal device. Their laptop at home doesn't work. They don't have a laptop. The things I hear from kids go on and on and on. So how on earth can I expect kids to access lessons outside of the room, if they don't have access outside of the classroom? As a teacher. this offends my sense of fairness and equity. I can't flip if I can't level the playing field.
Roadblock 2: Some kids don't do homework. Once they walk out of my class, that's it. Maybe they aren't motivated to work outside of class. Or just maybe they don't have time, between sports, clubs, and even watching younger siblings. Perhaps they don't have a home environment that provides a quiet space where they can focus. Our school district recognized this and greatly diminishes the role that homework factors in to an overall grade. So if a classroom is flipped, suddenly the content learning is supposed to happen outside of the classroom. That seems like a recipe to lose a great number of my students. I can't flip, if it means some kids won't get the quality instruction they need.
Roadblock 3: I don't do slide show lectures (at least not regularly -- it's February and I think in my honors classes I have done three slide show lectures all year - each about five minutes long). My teaching style is more active -- I share content mini-lessons and then allow kids to work with the information they have learned. I actually think I do a really good job of interacting with students (as does my co-teacher), explaining difficult concepts, and responding to their questions; I believe that student questions help clarify learning for other students. If I am teaching the lesson to them via technology (even in dynamic ways with video, voiced-over slide shows, selected readings, or recordings) what happens to the interaction that leads to deeper understanding? I feel like if the teachable moments are outside of the classroom, I will lose opportunities to teach my students in a deep, meaningful, active way.
Roadblock 4: I have to give Gretchen credit for pointing out this one. If everything is flipped, it isn't special anymore and special matters. I try to appeal to different learning styles constantly, because i know what works for one student doesn't work for every student. I also know that novel things can peak interest and buy in. Simulations work, but not if we do them every day. Project Based Learning is powerful but even that would grow tired if it was day in and day out. The same is true for everything we try in a classroom. We've all had teachers in life that do the same, tired thing ALL year long. It isn't effective or fun. I worry the same is true for flipping. Flip a day, or a few lessons - possibly. Flip everything and you are back to a one-size fits all approach.
I can't stand it when teachers say no, without finding a pathway to yes. There are so many positive things about flipping a classroom that I don't want to reject it without finding a way to get at the same positives that flipping provides. There is value to letting time together in the classroom be focused on creating rather than content. I recently had an ah-ha moment in a Twitter chat with other educators. I was tweeting away about the upsides and downsides of flipping, when I answered my own question, tweeting: just like we have flexible seating; we need "flexible flipping."
Blended Learning is a popular educational strategy and my search for a better way to flip brought me to Blended Learning.org. What I was imagining in my head, already exists -- it's called the Flex Model.
As BlendedLearning.org describes:
"The Flex Model lets students move on fluid schedules among learning activities according to their needs. Online learning is the backbone of student learning in a Flex model. Teachers provide support and instruction on a flexible, as-needed basis while students work through course curriculum and content. This model can give students a high degree of control over their learning."
Here's what I envision -- and I will use specific content as an example. I am preparing to teach our World War I Unit. Why not come up with a lesson roadmap for kids? For example, students: you need to complete these five content lessons and then create a product of your choice that delves into one of the five topics explored. I can give students a variety of product options and explain that this will be shared with their classmates in a Share Day.
Students will be given a total of ten class days to complete the guided lessons and create their product. They will have access to tech in class, so no one is shut out, but they also CAN access it outside of the classroom if they wish (but it isn't required pr expected) . Students who want to work ahead can spend time creating their projects in class; while other students might choose to do the lessons in class and create their projects outside of class. I will be there to coach and answer questions about both product and content. Students who work quickly can delve into greater detail with their products. It's flexible, student centered -- and offers kids freedom to learn in more dynamic ways. Also, I feel like flexing a unit is a place to start. I can get feedback from students, before decided whether flexing is for us.
I know flipping has benefits and may work well for some students in some settings. I just don't think it's for me or my students. Have you tried flipping or flexing? What's worked? What hasn't? Am I wrong to reject flipping for flexible learning? We would love to hear from you and your experience with these learning models.
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