Before this summer vacation began, I personally pledged to avoid all curriculum planning in July. Without knowing yet what I might gain from attending FTEC18, I decided to give myself these weeks for reconsidering my class routines and even my overall flipping approach. (Later this month, I will attend a statewide workshop about the new Mass. standards for 8th grade, and that should give me some curriculum guidance for units, lessons, videos for September and beyond. Why make plans now that could get replaced or outmoded very soon? In August, it's game on!)
This week I've had a feeling that makes me empathize with teachers who resist or avoid the flipped-classroom pedagogy. Shields up! I feel myself circling the wagons and pulling into my shell. It seems almost instinctual ... which is weird because I'm not usually like this. What is going on inside my brain?! I dunno, so let's blog about it and see where this goes.
I respect the hell out of Dave Walsh, Matt Moore, Kevin Hogendorp, and all the other folks who entered this story last night during an ad hoc moderator-free #flipclasschat. The main topic was nonlinear / asynchronous teaching:
My brain swiftly jumps to excuses/reasons/obstacles:
- It seems complicated to set this up!
- What are the students doing during class, if many of them are working at different paces on different topics?
- How would this work for my students with special needs?
- I don't see how this fits for history, because students need to know some things in a chronological sequence.
- Maybe it's good for high-school kids, but my 8th-graders would probably struggle.
To some degree this response is healthy, right? Right?!? I mean, if we all just latch onto every new teaching idea that we hear, then we would be constantly revising and replacing our systems. We would never get really good at anything. We would never make it our own. We might exhaust ourselves (and our students, and maybe our families!) with neverending changes.
I like a lot of what I already do. I have ample student-survey data to support those systems, and over the years I have refined and tweaked them for improvement. It's not like I never make changes (even last year when I promised myself to hold the line!). From the very beginning, I have adopted this method because flipping solves & prevents problems which my students and I suffered in the traditional homework/classwork structure.
So even though I could make some significant systemic changes to satisfy my curiosity, I'm not at all yet convinced that I should. The wise words of Ian Malcolm have been popping into my head lately (paraphrased below).
At this moment I still don't think so.... but my mind reminds open. Perhaps my upcoming curriculum shift (more civics, less history) will cause problems that this approach could resolve. Maybe I will get a brainstorm that makes everything click into place. Certainly I will continue this conversation with Dave, Matt, Kevin, Kate, Joy, Carolina, and all the other curious & supportive #flipclass folks.