During my visit to Saint Stephen’s College, I had the opportunity to work with small and large groups of teachers to think about how to leverage technology to personalize learning, enhance teaching, and differentiate instruction. I first talked to department heads to get a sense of their needs. I gave them a bit of my background and then was able to hear their questions, needs, and concerns. After that, I did a variety of classroom visits to get a sense of the school culture and to experience their incredible learning spaces.
On the fourth day of my visit, I led an all-staff professional development workshop. I focused on how I got started with flipped learning, the evolution of my flipped classroom, and where I am going now. I not only shared some flipped lessons, but I also took teachers through the student experience of watching one of my flipped lessons (including filling out a handout and answering embedded questions). From there, I brought it back to the teacher view and showed them how to make a lesson and use the analytics generated.
We focused on using Office Mix to create the flipped lesson. Since all teachers have PCs at Saint Stephen’s, this was the ideal and easy solution. During the workshop, I was again reminded the power of Office Mix. I work so frequently with teachers using Macs, and I am not able to embrace the power of Office Mix in those settings. One day over the rainbow, Office Mix will be available for Mac also! In the workshop, teachers brought a PowerPoint they already had created for an instructional lesson. Using Mix, we could easily transform those into a flipped lesson. We focused on best practices, though, not the technical parts. We focused on elements such as: how to keep students engaged while watching the lesson, how to create guided notes sheets to keep students actively watching, what type of elements to embed and why.
Equipped with this background, I spent the next week working individually with teachers and in small groups to hash out the details and take things from concept to practice. By working with individual teachers and departments, I could really analyze what they were doing that was already working well and then discuss things they wished they had more time to do. I believe that having these conversations helps us unravel and reveal practices that will make great teaching even better. By talking to teachers in this small and one-on one-setting, I could customize my suggestions for them in their classroom. If you have read things I’ve written or heard me talk at a conference, you know that I always say there is no prescriptive way to do “the flipped classroom.” Of course there are best practices I can suggest and things I would caution against, but no two classrooms look identical. The small conversations allowed me to individualize my recommendations and for us to brainstorm ways the flipped model might enhance what a teacher is already doing. One such example was meeting with a science teacher. As we were talking, I discovered he was doing a lot of practical labs with his classes and that teaching them the setup and what each piece of equipment was used for was taking up a lot of time and very repetitive in nature. So I simply suggested he flip this by creating a video of him going through the introduction. This simple suggestion really clicked with him; we were solving a direct problem that he had. I did suggest that he also have students take notes and that he embed some quiz questions to draw attention to key elements that students would need to know. I find this extra step important to ensure students are actively watching and comprehending. As simple as this solution sounds, bringing it into practice will allow for so much more time for the students to do their hands-on work in a day. Especially in classes like science, where setting up and cleaning up takes so much time, it can be key to look for these small pockets of time that can be rescued and given back to the student.
Quite obviously, I am a firm believer that much of the time we can leverage technology to make our ideas and wishes a reality; we can truly turn the ownership of learning back over to the student while still having the teacher there to guide and facilitate the learning process. That’s what my flipped classroom model is all about. I also truly believe that technology can help us get to know our students and their needs on an individual level in ways that were either not possible before or were simply too time consuming to keep up with. Technology can simplify if we use it the right way and find the right tools, and that’s what I’m all about. These were all messages that I tried to get across during my stay and hopefully I did, for some, and hopefully it will stick!