Monday, July 23, 2012

The Man in the Mirror

Recently, I have been approached by several people (2 people can legally be considered several –correct?) to write about my experiences “flipping” my classroom.  After a rather active #sschat tonight that I attempted to moderate regarding this model; I felt the need to get some thoughts down on paper.  What follows are those disjointed thoughts.

Prior to those thoughts a few disclaimers:
1)   It is the middle of my summer so be gentle.
2)   I am not an expert on this model so be gentle.

With that said, I am going to concede some high ground to people who have issues with the model or the term in general.  Here are my concessions:
1)   Yes, this is still hw.   I understand all the issues and opinions around hw in general but I work in a district that strongly encourages hw. Y
2)   Yes, some kids will “never” complete their hw.  I would argue there are numerous initiatives you could attempt to get those children to engage in any sort of class.

Here are a few more thoughts before I really start:
1)   I did not coin the term “flipping” but like any blanket term  - it can be manipulated in any number of ways.  Think of the numerous images your neighbors would think of when you say the term “teacher”.
2)   Like a great pitcher in MLB (none of which can be find in the NY Mets bull pen), “flipping” is one more pitch in my repertoire.
3)   Often, I hear about kids not having the tech at home; I am sure there are a few cases where I would be forced to concede this to you.   I would like to submit this to you; how many of your kids can sit in their room and watch a 5-9 minute video on their phone.  My kids don’t need a desk/pen or anything that they don’t normally have with them.

Step 1 – Back story.
After attending #educon and longer pattern of research, I decided to “flip” my Freshman World History Class.  We stayed “flipped” from basically February through June.  I have been blessed to steal some ideas from great educators that I have worked with in brick and mortar colleagues and my PLN that I lovingly refer to as my Twawgs (Twitter = Dawgs).  Ultimately, I flirted with becoming an old school “Sage on the Stage” teacher too much early in my career.  Moving towards this model would ensure I never ended up hating teaching or my career.

Step 2 – How It Worked.

After a few missteps, here is how it looked in my class by June.  Students were asked to watch videos as HW.  They were not asked to take notes or do anything besides watch the video and think about what they watched.  I moved towards having videos “due” on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday and Thursdays. 

Class would begin with some form of discussion or practice quiz on the videos.  Less and less, I would grade these quizzes.   More I used this to clear up confusion.  We had some great discussions after the videos.  Several of the discussions started with simple prompts like – “This video reminded me of….” – “The thing I did not get was…”.

Each unit had a list of objectives and students were allowed to select from a list of ways to demonstrate understandings of these objectives.  Most units included DBQs – where kids used primary source documents to answer questions.

 Why I will continue to “flip”
  1. I believe 25 1:1 conversations are so much better than 1 25:1 conversation.  “Flipping” took my handcuffs off.  The videos allowed me to cover content in a valid professional way.  It allowed me to use class time to speak with students individually regarding their understandings, their misconceptions, or their concerns.
  2. The trade off is so worth it.  These videos and the model allowed me to do more activities in class.  The best in-class discussion I have ever been a part of happened this year.  I was able to step out of their way and they discussed serious issues regarding peace and justice.  Being able to attempt lessons that looked like chaos (some kids working in a writing lab, others completing a reflection on a primary document, others structuring a debate) made it all worthwhile.  This created opportunities for students to create content or articulate their beliefs.  The best benefit I have received from this model is the amount of time – we got to spend working on reading or writing skills.
  3.   Answer this questions – when do the kids need you?  I feel like moving to this model, I was able to present for my kids when they truly needed me.  I feel like when I was a kid, we sat and got the info and then were sent home to do the important/difficult stuff at home- alone!  I would rather be in the room when the kids are doing work that is moving them up Blooms Taxonomy.  In a way, I look at the typical pyramid structure of Blooms as an indicator of how much; I want to be in the room with the kids.

Hopefully, this year I will continue to improve as an educator.  Slowly but surely I am getting better out of the kids way.  Thanks to tonight’s conversation, I have numerous ideas on how to better implement this development in my instruction.    Please feel free to reach out to me here or on twitter to ask questions or (better yet) give me advice.