We got back this evening from a full day at the New England League of Middle Schools conference at the Convention Center in Providence RI. For the second year, my colleague and I presented to fellow educators about our flipped classroom -- it was quite well-attended, and we got some great questions and feedback from the audience. That included some requests for examples of our video lessons....
Yikes! It has been far too long since my last fresh blog post. I have been thinking and writing, but not so much online lately. During the February Vacation week, I changed my early-morning routine to avoid computer time during breakfast. Instead, I started journaling while slurping my cereal on pages like the scrawling you see on the right. ----->
I have been teaching nearly half my life (!) and flipping for almost 3 years. However, I still feel insecurity and uncertainty from time to time. Can't imagine what this is like for newbies! In this journal page you can see my struggle to establish routines and patterns for my Social Studies class. Basically, that's the model I have adopted this month and I plan to write more about it in here soon.
Anyway, the main inspiration for today's post was a recent piece by Jon Bergmann about "Why Student Centered Learning is Only Half Right." It reminded me why my colleague and I started this method in the first place. We tried for years to encourage independence with creative projects like research and simulations. We had a fervent desire for our 8th-graders to lead their own learning, while we operated as coaches and guides. However, there's some information that you just gotta know in every subject. When our students produced glossy, fancy, unique pieces of crap that showed serious misunderstandings, these self-directed experiences seemed like educational malpractice. At best we were the ignorant bystanders to a crime; at worst, we were accomplices or perpetrators. What's the point of an illustrated "travel brochure" to an imaginary island if the student can't identify the direction of north?!*
* inspired by a very true and very sad story
I hope Jon Bergmann doesn't mind me borrowing the image above. It's such a terrific illustration of our efforts to find balance between didactic "traditional" instruction & libertarian "free-range" schooling. The teacher DOES know things the students do not know. The student can first show understanding (provided as many times as necessary in a video or audio recording) and then the student can apply/analyze/evaluate those basics in various ways.
As Jon Bergmann concluded, "Flipped Learning is a way to foster greater student ownership of learning while at the same time valuing and encouraging curriculum." I can liberate class time from nearly all direct instruction, and I can avoid the pitfalls of textbook reading assignments (valuing and encouraging the curriculum); my students can gain ownership of learning with meaningful activities under my supervision like role-playing, document analysis, individual research tasks, etc.
The school year is far from over: it is still the middle of March, and I might get a snow day on Monday. I'm also far from the end of my curriculum, but I will say more about that in another post. Nevertheless, yesterday was the end of Trimester 2, so the final grading term has begun: 60 more school days* for me. My colleague and I spent some time on Friday to map out the week-by-week of topics on the big desk calendar. It feels weird to plan for June, but also quite satisfying!
It is too soon for a year-in-review retrospective blog post, but I already acknowledge this as a year of experimentation, trial & error, frustration & doubt, with a fair amount of failure.
Most recently I tried flipping in an unfamiliar way, the plan for which I described in a February post. I understand why I did this, and it might have gone more smoothly without 2 snow days and a 1-week vacation, but I do not plan to try again:
* minus about 12 due to several days of standardized testing in May, Step-Up Day and a 3-day trip to NYC in June, and 3 days of closure/rehearsal/graduation at the very end....
Who is this flipping guy?!
Andrew Swan is in year 20 of teaching middle school (currently grade 8 US Civics/Government in a Boston suburb). Previously he taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade English, US History, geography, and ancient history in Massachusetts and Maine.