Monday, September 10, 2012

Confessions for the newbies

Hopefully no one takes offense at the title, if so, I apologize, I am only slightly past the newbie stage in this process of flipping myself and am happy to journey with a lot of more experienced people.

I'm going to summarize a few thoughts that were brought up by the panelists at tonight's 25th #flipclass chat, particularly with reference to advice for first time flippers.  None of these thoughts are mine alone, but are from the panel and the twitter community, I just can't remember enough specifics to attribute properly right now.  Almost every single week on #flipclass chat, someone asks for help on how to get started, or is interested but not sure where to go or is just plum afraid to give it a go.

Karl brought up the point that there needs to be a lot of research that goes into the idea behind flipping your classroom.  I'll be perfectly honest, I did some of this, but not nearly enough.  The summer before last I had been toying around with ideas of Whole Class Inquiry, POGIL, PBL, etc, just knowing that I wasn't very satisfied with being a straight up lecture teacher.  I think I was fairly effective at that, but I knew I wasn't reaching enough of the kids and definitely not all of them!

I poked around online and saw the videos from Sams and Bergmann that I had run across a year or so before and it really intrigued me.  After watching their explanations at learning4mastery and their other sites, I mentally jumped right in.  I started asking my tech buddies and the tech coordinator at our school about screencapture, tested many out and bought the bullet for Camtasia.  I bought a bamboo pen and tablet, a webcam, etc, and started recording.

Note that I didn't say much about my intense research into the pedagogy of flipped classrooms.  I knew two basic things.  My old way wasn't working and that Sams and Bergmann had more time in their rooms each day to help students.

Yeah, as Danny Glover and Mel Gibson would say, "pretty thin"...

You know what though, that was enough at the beginning.  A month or two later as I was up to my ears in producing videos, I looked at my class every day and was like, wow, I'm sitting down with each student, and  whoa, we have a lot of time for activities that I always wanted to do.  It was awesome.

As my principal and a couple of others asked me about it and I explained it, I felt more and more passionate about the every kid every day part of it.  I knew for a fact that I had a lot more time each day.  And I knew that my kids were not nearly as frustrated working chemistry problems because when they stumbled, I picked them up...right then.

So I'm going to sound like a hypocrite because I said in the panel tonight to be sure you know why you are doing the flip before you do it.  I still believe that, I think that as we enumerated tonight, if you just think it is about videos, it will fail, if you just link to Khan and then keep giving out your old worksheets, it will fail.

But I will say that if you know you need a change, that as Aaron Sams said in the flipped classroom podcast a couple of months ago, the flip is a great bridge.  Flipping is something I'm passionate about, but it didn't stop there for me, it was a gateway drug into a variety of new and I think better teaching strategies: standards based grading, mastery, self paced, more inquiry, incorporating a whole range of cool technologies.

And I think that is also part of good teaching, being willing to change not because you were terrible before, but because you could be better, because the kids deserve better.

Don't let good enough be the enemy of the great, especially not in your classroom!

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