Friday, October 24, 2014

Beyond Flipclass - a Post Back to School Night Reflection

A couple of weeks ago, I presented the curriculum to parents at Back to School Night (presentation, here.) While many of the components of my presentation were similar to last year, one major difference stood out: I rarely mentioned the term "flipped class." I still operate a flipped class but it has become a footnote amongst all of the other things I do in my class. Flipped learning, while still a structural element in my course, is no longer the focus- it is merely a tool or means to an end. 

I recall Ramsey Musallam (@ramusallam) explaining that flipped learning is not a pedagogy and Jon Bergmann (@jonbergmann) saying that flipped learning is not all about the videos. While these statements were intuitive, I am only learning their true meaning now. Using flipped videos should not be something to boost about because it really is just a way to present content. While using flipped videos is an improvement above synchronous lectures, they are still basically lectures. However, using flipped videos does make class time available to do the things a teacher may want to do. For me, flipped learning is a way to differentiate the pace of the course. Students can learn concepts at their own pace, revisit and redo work, get help from peers and/or the teacher - all during class time. Students can now provide evidence of their learning in a standards based format. Students have more time to design and redesign experiments, collect and re-collect data, as well as analyze data while I'm present to help troubleshoot. Students can choose how to demonstrate mastery of content, "white board" explanations and decide when and how often to take quizzes. They can decide to what extent to complete specific activities and assignments. In short, I've found my way to move along the teacher vs student centered continuum.

The videos that students watch are merely a resource - they present content and explain lab instructions. They are just a vehicle to move toward a more student centered classroom. Just as a person wouldn't spend too much time explaining the type of airplane used to go on a honeymoon to Hawaii, I didn't feel the need to explain the specifics of the flipped videos used to open class time for more student engagement and ownership of learning.