Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Think About It... You Have Time

When anyone ever asks me why I started flipping my classrooms, my answer is always the same - "I wanted to improve the quality of learning in the actual classroom". I don't mean to sound all 'high and mighty', but it is the truth. The traditional classroom model wasn't doing it for me; I needed to do something more. Hence, the flip.

The benefits of the flipped classroom have been covered, and covered, and covered, and covered, and... well you get the idea. Most discuss the engagement of students, the connection they have with their teachers, and the ability of teachers to assess students' learning more effectively. This is all well and good, and the data supports it; but one thing that is not discussed enough is the enhancement in critical thinking. This is the one observation that struck me the most 'post-flip'. It's not something I necessarily planned on, but upon reflection, I realize that the flip allowed me so much more time to do activities; and this gave me the opportunity (finally) to really focus on improving the thinking during those activities.

There's no singular way to improve critical thinking; and really this is no different from a traditional classroom. No matter what the classroom, critical thinking is still composed of analyzing, evaluating, reasoning, decision-making, and problem solving.

Therefore, having the students reflect on their work, and answer those 'why' and 'how' questions should be done in any classroom.  The difference is, you have much more time to really answer those questions; while still providing the students with enough time to engage in hands-on activities.

My class time now is not rushed; I have plenty of time at the end of the period to really debrief, and have the students think about what they did for the class. With the flip, the students are now provided with the opportunity to share what they have learned, to discuss, to challenge, and to provide reasoning for their actions; something that may have been rushed previously.

I also have the time now to begin every class with discussions between the students - NOT directed by me. They are able to engage and question each other, because they have that opportunity. Every class (well most) begins the same way whereby the students discuss the previous nights video through summary, their own discussion questions, and then a question I pose to them. We have learned how to properly discuss, and are working on this very important skill. The students are beginning to see how discussion of concepts matter; as compared to simply copying down lecture notes of these concepts during class.

So whether you're considering the flip because of better engagement, assessment, or in my case, improved critical thinking, either way, you have lots of time to figure it out.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Times They are a Changin'

I found myself today in the presence of a few hundred educators discussing the concept of the 'flipped classroom'. The day was filled with engagement, questions, and lots of enthusiasm for beginning the practice of flipping classrooms - both at the elementary level and secondary level.

I had the opportunity to share my own thoughts, beliefs, concerns, practices, and experiences from my time (albeit limited) flipping my own classroom. Such an opportunity to actually meet face to face has not presented itself all too often; well come to think of it, never actually. The communication that I have had up until this point has been all online; whether I'm reading articles, tweeting, emailing, or reading other peoples' blogs, I am constantly online looking to improve my professional practice with the flipped classroom. Therefore, today was a nice change to really talk to people face to face, and provide, as well as receive, instant feedback and input. From this, I came away energized and enthusiastic, just like those who attended, to get back at flipping my classroom and adding further experiences to the conversation.

Which brings me here. Friday night. Writing on my blog. The first sign of #flipclass addiction. I realize this seems ridiculous, and really it is, but here's why. The conversation that's happening regarding #flipclass is really happening online. The rare opportunities that we have to get together and share our experiences, are just that - rare. And because of this, I know now, more than ever, the importance to adding to the conversation; whatever the day, time, or place, you can add to this conversation. So here's my thoughts.

Instead of sporadically writing and reflecting - I need to write more often.
Instead of reading a lot from others - I need to add to the conversation. And more often.
Instead of long blog entries - I need to provide shorter entries. Just like my videos, short and sweet, means more meaningful learning.

My thinking is that adding something to this conversation, is something we can all do; and I hope we all do, no matter what stage you are at in this process.

Therefore, from here on in, I'm going to reflect more. Share more. And write about experiences with the flipped model. I'll try to add #edtech 'stuff' in as much as possible, but it won't be the same focus. I'll be sharing about how I start my classes; how I teach my students to take notes; the debate between long or short videos; how to ensure technology, and thus video access; how to get parents on board; how using YouTube has helped my process; the responses I've received from my students; how I use a Twitter class page in conjunction; and really any other thought I have regarding the flipped classroom.

So if you're already following along (all one of you?), or if you're new to the flipped class method, or if you're already invested in it, I hope you find this useful. I hope, if anything, I am simply able to add to the conversation. Oh, and if you have anything you'd like me to share, then let me know. Drop me a note, a tweet, a message, and hopefully I can provide some insight. I can't provide expertise, only experience.