Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Work at home

Was reading #edchat on twitter tonight where they were discussing the value and place of homework, as well as reading some other stuff on the equity of schools. homework and all of that.

First off, I gave up on homework for most of my classes (outside of AP) a couple of years ago, largely just from the POV that kids at my school weren't by and large doing the work.  One might think this was acquiescing in a bad way, but I prefer just to consider the realities.  I am as happy as anyone to get on a soapbox and rail about the way that things should be, I'm sure a lot of that will come out in the blog.  But ultimately I am responsible for getting my young ones to learn the material.  Yes, I said learn the material which is blasphemy in most educational circles today.  What I should really worry about is inspiring students, instilling a love of chemistry and all of that.  Don't get me wrong, that stuff would be nice...but my actual job responsibility is to try to ensure they know the 74 or so course level expectations that I have around 80 or so days to instill in them.  I try to be inspirational, I really do, but cold facts sometimes get in the way.

So how does this relate to flip class.  An article I read tonight was telling people to say no to the flip class because it just highlights the same inequities that lead a lot of kids to not do their homework either, and that time outside of school is their time.  The argument often made is that the kids give us their all during school, why should we expect more outside of school.  That by the way is a highly debatable topic, whether kids give all, but a topic for another day.

I worry about the inequity, I really do.  When I tell kids that they can watch the videos on their phone, I assure you, I hurt for the ones that can't.  I have read and internalized the arguments against BYOD and all of that and consider a lot of their points really valid.  But then I think...so I'm not going to use technology because some of my kids may not have 24 hour access to it?  That is somewhat similar to saying I shouldn't do a lab because I have a homebound student who will miss out on it.  I don't stop doing something because it is hard for a student to do, I try to help them do it.

That's why I mentioned that I copy dvds for all of my students.  I'm at school almost an hour early every day to help those kids who get there early (who are not the mythical rich kids by the way, not at my school).  I generally have not only my departmental ipad, but bring in my personal one and my personal laptop as well.  Today I had just explained to a visitor to my room all the ways that the kids can watch the videos, then as soon as we started, 6 of them came up, got the devices and watched them.

Ira Socol has a good blog where he poses some really tough questions, particularly in this article.  I think that a lot of it is based in a political philosophy that I'm probably not all that supportive of in general, so take anything I say about it with the obligatory grain of NaCl, but I think that the idea that equity has to be everywhere, right now, or you are a hater who is not doing it right is a little off.  I don't think that's really the point of his article, but as a new flipper, it sort of felt that way.

So again, back to the flip.  I don't "require" that any student watch the videos outside of class.  Contrary to what is said, I don't "reward" the students that have smartphones.  Should I hamstring them and not let them use them in the interests of equity?  I work with every student individually as much as I can, I try to figure out how they can get the information, how I can facilitate that, and what we can do to work everything out.  So far it seems to be working, but then again, I'm all of 17 days in at this point in the term.  Maybe it won't work and will go the way of my old HW policies.

I hope not though...the value so far has been awesome.  We've had great activities, labs, discussions, and problem solving in class, about half of which would have had to go before the flip for me.  Sure, that may just have been inefficiencies in my old way of teaching.  I'll agree that I am not the best teacher out there.  But I would like to get better, to be able to try out new things that I actually have researched and carefully considered.

And I'd really like to do that feeling that other teachers are supportive of trying out new things, not for the sake of being new, but for the sake of the students.  Again, the data will show what it shows at the end of the term, but as for anecdotal evidence, I'm overworked and stressed, but happier every day in class since I've made the change, and I have yet to have a kid be upset about the way it has gone so far.

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