When I wrote, “Classroom Trends: Flipping for Flipped Learning,” I felt that of all the current educational trends spurred on by technology, this was one that was most likely to have “sticking” power. And a recent article has shown that my prognostication had some veracity (Sorry, I haven’t had a moment to blog for weeks, my obsession with bandying SAT words about is at near migraine-status by now.)
This article from eClassroom News lists Flipped Learning as the trend “surpassing all other digital trends in K-12 schools.”
So what’s the big deal?
The core idea of flipped learning is actually pretty simple: information is readily available and precious class time need not be spent imparting it to students when they can get it on their own. Therefore, students can use out-of-class time to access information, and then, following a student’s dive into materials required by the teacher, the class can be guided to higher levels of application of the topic during class time.
If you simplify Bloom’s Taxonomy of higher-order thinking, the “lowest” or “earliest” levels are remembering and understanding. Do you remember the information? Do you “get” it at a basic level? Can you describe or define it? This is the part that is “flipped” by having students engage with the information on their own time outside of class.
Then the teacher can take them to “higher” levels of thinking such as application, analysis, and evaluation during class time. These higher-order levels of thinking are well-suited for the classroom experience, benefiting from opportunities for discussion, collaboration, experimentation, and building.
(Obviously for younger students there needs to be much more guidance in the imparting of information, but even they can be guided to good sources or instructional videos created by the teacher.)
Though I’d like to think otherwise, I’m no genius with my “call” that the flipped learning trend would have legs. Let’s face it, “Flipped Learning” is not that revolutionary a formula after all. For centuries teachers have asked students to go home and read from textbooks and maybe answer a few questions before returning to class. What is this if not “flipped learning?” So if there’s nothing new under the sun and flipped learning is not so revolutionary, what difference does technology make? Why are we talking about this so much now?
What is different is the internet. In the past teachers would tell students to read from a prescribed text, a document that they knew well. And while teachers can suggest that students visit a specific website, or view a specific video, the reality provided by the internet is that INFORMATION is a wide-open floodgate with no signs of getting smaller or more defined any time soon. When we send our students “out” into the world to get information on a topic, we have to realize that they could have 10, 50, 100, or 1000 “sources” on a topic! How will you help your students to sort fact from fiction, supposition from supported fact? How do you help them to evaluate the author or owner of a website or to have their “antennae” up for sources that sound more like propaganda or misinformation?
THAT, my fellow educators and those supporting educators, is the ESSENTIAL QUESTION of today’s flipped learning. While teachers can direct students to specific sources, they are INVARIABLY going to seek some on their own. In fact, many of today’s educators may already have been tied up in knots by students (within school policy or not) who have questioned them mid-lecture based on Google results.
Rather than be frustrated by this, our challenge as educators and guides to our young people is to see challenges to presented information, to perspectives given, as opportunities…as “teachable moments.” And so this model of “find information yourself and I will help you to evaluate and use that information” is one that may, in fact, give teachers greater responsibility as our world opens up into the vast…beyond…that is the internet.
If you’ve ever felt like the internet was racing away from you into the distance like our universe’s first vestiges of gas and dust, remember, you are NOT alone! It is a challenge each and every day to prepare students for a future that seems to change with the wind.
What we need to remember as educators…and I, as an ed-tech enthusiast?
We need to remember those who are being left behind. Like flipped learning itself, students who are left behind are nothing new. We have been leaving those with greater obstacles and burdens than the “core” behind since the public school promise began. Some we pass along to the next grade or topic because we cannot hold them back any longer. Some we relegate to the edges, where they drift and sift their way out of the mainstream, passing into the same low-paying jobs or worse that they’d always assumed were their fate anyway.
I worked with at-risk youth every summer for four years and believe me, their obstacles are no joke, no trick of the media, or whisk of the “magic wand” of technology away from success. As much as I believe in technology’s ability help level the playing field, I cannot ignore it’s capacity to tip it ingloriously in the direction of the privileged.
So when we flip our learning and leave it on students to access information and come in prepared to zoom to the next gear during class time, what do we have to remember? Those who don’t have help at home. Some of your students have no guardians (I know that the state thinks they have every kid covered, but they don’t. Trust me.) Some of your students are homeless. Some of your students have guardians who are abusive or absent. Some of your students work full time after school, or take care of younger siblings.
And so I begin this post with the ebullience and joy of a tech enthusiast and end it with the pragmatic realities of a classroom teacher. Reaching out to each and every child is still the great challenge that it always was…let’s hope that through technology we may finally do a better job of meeting them where they are. (Yes, I ended the sentence that way. Tear me apart grammar whizzes. Sometimes you just say what you mean.)
– Rachel Fisher