I was a gymnast for 10 years while I was growing up, so flipping was a natural part of my life. Maybe that’s why I was a little confused when researching this topic. I immediately started to evaluate my own classroom. Do I have a flipped classroom already? Even though I’ve never podcasted any of my lectures, how does my teaching style already work into this model? And then I realized it had nothing to do with my gymnastics coaches and everything to do with my supervising teacher, Doug Grant, at French Prairie Middle School in Woodburn, OR. I learned how to teach middle school math and science under Doug’s supervision. His classroom was set up in groups of 4 desks. There was never a time with the students weren’t collaborating. Whether it was a science experiment or math manipulatives, much of our time as teachers was spent roaming the room and “putting out fires” or “stoking the fires of learning” going on between peers. Sometimes we’d stop and refocus attention to the front of the room, but not so that we could teach; it was so that a fellow student could show their work on the document camera and explain it to the class. I remember making the comment to Doug: “This is not how I learned math”, and I realize now, he flipped my idea of a classroom then and there.
Even though I don’t teach math or science today, I used that model for all of my religion classes. My students sit in groups. I do lecture, but often it’s of the Socratic method, a much more question-based, interactive type of lecture. In fact, I’m not sure I could even podcast my lectures. Often the direction of what I teach is determined by the students’ questions, or their answers to questions posed. Without the students, my “lectures” are far less stimulating.
Even if my lecture style may not work with podcasting, I have been thinking about the other side of the flipped classroom. How can I make the time during class much more interactive, collaborative while using technology to achieve this? I have the unique teaching position to really allow students to create in class, and therefore, use those higher level skills we teachers so desperately want to see developed.
I need to search out ways to bring the current worldwide events and situations into the class, and then ask the students to create solutions together. I believe we might even have some ideas generated from my young, tech-savvy, and idealistic students that “experts” in the field have not considered. Additionally, I could have those “experts” from around the world Skyped into my class to talk about the issues with greater authority. For instance, during our Economic Ethics unit, the classtime could be spent collaboratively researching with Googledocs the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. They would need to understand the issues, the demands, and then decide if they agree or disagree. Finally, they would need to work with people in the class to come up with a creative solution for at least one of the group’s demands that fits their ethical framework. In this situation, I would not be the best expert to help guide these students. We might be able to get, Haywood Carey, OWS’ accounting organizer, to Skype with us and answer student questions.
This is exciting and inspiring for me as a teacher, but it is also VERY different skill sets than what I thought I’d be doing when I got my masters. I can see how this idea of a flipped classroom intimidates my peers. How much time might one spend creating podcasts, or in my case, setting up peer and expert collaboration opportunities? The learning objectives might be the same, but the products would be vastly changed. Does this mean I have to recreate all of my units all over again? I understand the need, and I even agree that we need to change to “ride the wave or be subsumed”. But when am I going to do this? I still have to teach on Monday morning.