by Cheryl Morris, Andrew Thomasson, Karl Lindgren-Streicher, Crystal Kirch, and Kate Baker
So there have been a lot of tweets sent to me and others in the #flipclass circles asking for information about how to flip their class. Some of the most common questions:
1. What if I don't have the technology to use in class?
2. What if my students don't do homework?
3. What if the students haven't watched the video?
4. How can I flip if I can't make videos?
5. Am I already flipped? I do everything you describe except the video?
6. How can I make this work for me in x context or y situation?
I can't answer all of those.
And these ideas are not mine. They were developed in conjunction with several other teachers...the usual suspects really: Andrew Thomasson, Karl Lindgren-Streicher, Crystal Kirch, and Kate Baker. Between the five of us, and based on conversations with and presentations from hundreds of other educators on Twitter, Edmodo, and in person or in Google+ hangout, we have developed a definition of what it means to flip your class.
So I can tell you what we've discussed, and what I've told people on Twitter:
There is no one right way to flip your class.
There is no How-To binder for sale.
There is no panel of experts to tell you what to do.
However, there is the Flipped Mindset.
We chose to use the term Flipped Mindset intentionally - we don't want to define Flipped Class as a pedagogy or an instructional method or a theory.
We want to define it not as something you do, but something you have.
Within this framework, you can have thousands of different iterations that are all flipped, but are equally different. In fact, I would argue that no two flipped classes should look the same; if we are differentiating for the kids in the room, then every classroom, and even every period, HAS to be different.
So what makes up the Flipped Mindset?
There are three pillars:
1. Teachers make the best use of their face-to-face time with students.
2. The classroom uses student-centred pedagogy.
3. There is an intentional focus on higher-level thinking, rather than rote memorisation.
What do those pillars mean?
For the first pillar, what you're really talking about is being a reflective educator who uses the tools they have available to reach their students in the most effective possible way. For me, that means using social media and video (both collaborative with Andrew Thomasson and on ShowMe, my iPad app) because technology is the language my students speak, and I think it's important to A) teach them how to use it responsibly, and B) show them that learning can happen regardless of what tools are used. Additionally, I think there are some really cool things that can only be done through use of technology (see: collaborative videos with someone from across the country).
However, if the use of video is what is holding you back from flipping, then hear this: IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT THE VIDEO! What it IS all about is your students, and how you can best serve them in the time you get face-to-face in the classroom. If something is less important, you can off-load it to out of class time. If your students won't do homework, then make your class asynchronous or set up stations for different learning tasks. I should clarify: this doesn't mean that there is never time given in class to students acquiring knowledge. If that's the best use of your class time, then that's fine. The key here is reflection and understanding of your students.
The other thing to consider is the tasks in your discipline that would be most difficult in terms of cognitive load. Those are the tasks that would be most productive to have students engaged in while the teacher is present. In English, those tasks are reading and writing. Having students read in class and write in class, while they have access to their peers, who are working on the same thing, and access to their teacher, who can help when they get stuck, gives them the opportunities they need to build those skills, make mistakes, and catch those mistakes without becoming overwhelming. Students learn to collaborate, but they also learn that even "experts" make mistakes and have to work through them. And using the face-to-face time you have with students appropriately lets you guide them through those processes which they will find most challenging.
For the second pillar, the teacher is no longer the centre of the classroom. The entire environment is geared towards the student not only being an active participant in the learning, but also helping to drive the learning. While it's not possible for students to always create content or allow student choice determine what is taught, including students in the process is key. Rather than the teacher being the one driving learning and dragging the students along, the students are collaborative. Rather than being competitive with each other, students share their understanding, which leads to a deeper comprehension and increased ability to make meaning from it.
When Andrew and I started making our collaborative videos, we began at the same point that most other Flipped Class educators do: with content videos. We wanted to make videos that would allow our students to learn the information they needed to write a research paper. However, we quickly found that what we were teaching was not content, but rather process. We were showing students the steps and content of what goes into an essay, but we were also showing them what it looked like to compose that essay, with all the mess and all the problems, and all the real things that happened.
We went from being teachers with all the answers to students who were actually learning from each other, collaborating with each other, and composing an essay that was far better as a result than one we could have written alone. That element is key in the shift we made to a more student-centred approach to video in our flipped classes. It also pushed us to go even farther than that, and develop something we're calling the MetaFlip, or making the process we go through when we read, talk, write or think visible and transparent to students. It takes us one more step off the stage, and shows students that we make mistakes, that we have to work to understand material, and that collaboration is the key to all the good ideas we ever have. We'll talk more about MetaFlip later.
The third pillar, engaging in higher-order thinking, is based on Bloom's Taxonomy. At the top of the pyramid are the higher-order thinking tasks: application, synthesis, analysis, and evaluation. At the bottom are the rote tasks of comprehension and knowledge. A class using the Flipped Mindset does deal with facts and basic information, but the priority is taking those facts and working with them, transforming them, and making meaning out of them.
Those three pillars are the three things you need to flip your class. And guess what: YOU DON'T NEED VIDEO! And guess what: YOU DON'T NEED TO HAVE STUDENTS DO HOMEWORK!
If you really want to know whether your class is flipped, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I intentionally plan my face-to-face time in order to allow for the tasks that require the highest cognitive load? Do I use that information to guide my students as they learn the content and processes?
2. Are students at the centre of my classroom? Am I in a "guide" role, rather than a "sage on the stage" role? Am I emphasising collaboration over competition? Can students see me as a learner, including when I make mistakes?
3. In the assignments I create and assessments I give, is the emphasis on knowledge that is not "google-able"? Am I asking students to analyse, apply, synthesise, evaluate, and create, rather than just know and understand?
If those questions can be answered yes, you have the Flipped Mindset. You HAVE flipped your class!
That being said, while I believe that using technology is essential for ANY modern educator, the three things that define what it means to flip your class do not have to include technology. There is no reason that equity, technology access (or lack thereof), or teacher familiarity and skill with technology have to be barriers to flipping your class.
I know that most of the ideas that build the three pillars returns to the constructivist pedagogy of the past. And that's why I believe that using technology is important for all teachers. Students "live" in the world of technology, and if we speak their language, we can help them transfer all the skills they use every day and make them work for their education as well.
When you have the Flipped Mindset AND you embrace the technology you have available to you, your students will only benefit. But flipping isn't and shouldn't be synonymous with video.
Wow. That's a lot.
You can read Andrew's post on this subject here. We will be making a video about this soon, because I think talking about it on screen, with multiple educators, using real examples of how it looks in their class, makes this subject much more clear and comprehensible. We also will be covering the tools in the toolkit for each discipline and how those apply to our flipped classes.
I know that there is a lot of work to be done before the start of school in a month. But it's exciting work - and it has helped me become a far better teacher than I was before I flipped my class. I flipped in the middle of the year. I wish I had started over the summer, preparing and getting things ready so that those first few months weren't so chaotic. So if you're looking at this and wondering where to start, find us on Twitter! Leave a comment! Get in touch in some way. There are loads of us willing to help you get started, because there were people before us who helped us get started, and you will in turn help others when you've on your way. The collaboration I've found through the #flipclass community is amazing, and I am blessed to count my co-authors/originators on this post not only as collaborators, but as friends.
Thanks to Jon Bergmann for the shout out/Friday Follow in this tweet a few days ago: