Sunday, June 19, 2011

Am I Flipping Out?

This story begins about five years ago in the dojang where my 2 DDs began to study Tae Kwon Do.  I would periodically hang around through the lesson to observe.  In a single class were white belt students (absolute beginners), black belt students, and every level in between.  During a one hour class, I would see the class working as a whole unit led by an adult instructor (this is typically how class would begin and end).  The middle of the class had students divided into small groups based on belt color, led by "senior belt" students -- students working at a higher level than the group they led. There does exist a TKD "textbook" containing all the material students need to have mastered before they take their "benchmark" test (the test to move to a higher colored belt).  The text is not "covered" by instructors, rather students learn the material on their own with help from instructors and student leaders. Testing is offered on a monthly basis, and when students are deemed ready to test (by the adult instructors) they are permitted to sign up to test.  To my knowledge, there are no unsuccessful students after testing, because the "formative assessment" has already indicated readiness.

At that time, I was intrigued, and tried to imagine a way to make something similar work in my own classroom -- facilitating student leaders to work with struggling students, all students gaining mastery in their own time.  I unfortunately was unable at that time to conceive of something I was comfortable enough with to try on a large scale.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.  I am a newcomer (about 2 months) to Twitter, and began hearing buzz about "flipped classrooms".  From what I could figure, the basic concept was for students to watch lecture video at home, and do homework in the classroom where there is teacher guidance.  I was initially quite skeptical.  Let's face it, a fair number of students just plain won't do homework, however it is packaged, so if the actual LESSON, the presentation of information is left in the hands of the students, and they drop the ball, where does the blame truly lie?  Wouldn't it be shirking professional responsibility to allow this to happen?  Don't get me wrong.  Philosophically, I certainly think that students should be taking responsibility for their own learning.  I believe that should always be the ultimate goal.  But philosophy and reality don't always coincide.

On a Twitter #edchat I connected with John Bernia (@mrbernia), a Middle School Assistant Principal in Michigan.  He challenged my skepticism, and encouraged me to continue looking further into the flipped classroom concept.  And so began the research.  Initially, I didn't find much to alleviate my concerns, and most of what I was reading barely scratched the surface.  Then I attended a 1 hour webinar hosted by Scott McLeod from Iowa State University.  The webinar featured a Who's Who of flipped classroom experts:  Jonathan Bergmann, Karl Fisch, Jerrid Kruse, Jonathan Martin, Sylvia Martinez, Pam Moran, Frank Noschese, and David Truss.  Given the fact that not all of these speakers were pro-flipping, I left the session just about as confused as I was before it started.  I did, however, find that I agreed most with what Jonathan Bergmann had to say, so that gave me some focus for my research.

That led me to Bergmann's video on Flipped Mastery


from here, I really started to get excited.  I started to find some answers to my first burning question -- what if they don't watch the vodcasts?  There are some teachers who use note guides that students must fill out to get "homework credit".  Others use random notebook checks.  Others use a warmup/bellringer activity that must be completed first thing, that will show that students have viewed the necessary material.  I also found Brian Bennett's post dealing with how he calculated his students' grades.  It all started to become very much more concrete to me. 

Perhaps the most important and recurring piece of advice I found, was to ease into the flip slowly, rather than to try a complete overnight transformation.  No one anywhere has said that this is less work for a teacher, in fact, creating quality vodcasts will surely be a time sucker that I am glad to have a long summer ahead of me to begin.  I do, however, look forward to making some positive changes in the way I "do business" both in and out of my classroom.  Look for future posts on this topic as I start to get my feet wet.

1 comment:

  1. I love your post! Thanks for mentioning me. I've been inspired by your creativity and dediction to finding a way to make this happen! Here's to many more exchanges about this topic.