Reflections on Unit 3: Flipping, Loading, and EdPuzzling

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Note: This post is an extended reflection from the EdTech Team’s Teacher Leader Certification Program. I am participating in the initial cohort.

Redefining Flipped Learning

I remember first hearing about two science teachers from Colorado (Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams) doing some interesting things with video in the classroom really early on, almost ten years ago. I had come across some story on television, I think, or perhaps just Internet travels. At the time, it was kind of a novel idea. Use video to present lectures and make the classroom a laboratory was the gist of how it most understood it.

That was before the term “flipped” became part of educational parlance and its own kind of niche cottage industry. Of course, I am not sure that the above oversimplification was ever entirely accurate. Still, it was an interesting idea.

Almost more interesting is recalling just how challenging creating videos were when this idea began to truly get legs. At the time, Bergmann and Sams were garnering attention for their work, creating instructional video was no easy task. Now almost everyone is walking around with a mobile video studio in their pocket with more than enough free tools to enable flipping almost everything about a class. In fact, it is easier than ever to synchronously facilitate a class from a remote location even.

Precursor to Flipped: Traditional English Instruction

As a former English teacher, I would even suggest that English teachers had been flipping their classes long before there was even a term for it. In nearly every English course I can ever remember taking the remit was pretty flipped, read the book at home and work on it with related activities during class.

A good English class might replace the laboratory aspect of a science class with a workshop model but the essential shift and effect remain similar.

Articulating that essence, however, is where a more nuanced understanding and redefinition occurs.

Creating and Loading Experiences

If I carry the workshop model a little further, class time is about students doing things, actively engaged in some work that invites learning. At the core, this is what Jackie Gerstein is getting at when she references Dewey and writes in blogpost The Flipped Classroom Model: A full Picture, “It is the teacher’s responsibility to structure and organize a series of experiences .” In my mind, class time should be primarily devoted to structured and organized experiences. This is not exclusive to flipped classrooms but is an essential component of one.

There is another wrinkle in the flipped notion that I think is more subtle and often ignored. As typically explained, it is easy to fall into the belief that flipping is a patterned sequence of video based introductions that students view prior to class, be they lectures or some other presentational format. It is essentially a front-loading model. Yet, that is entirely misguided. Back-loading can be just as effective if not more so.

Again, Gerstein’s Flipped Classroom Model encourages this back-loaded sequence. The Experience phase is most likely constructed as an in-class activity. Of course, it doesn’t need to be but the interactive, engagement aspect suggests that it happens in real-time. The What phase is where the flipping most likely occurs, which students can complete outside of class.

Recognizing that flipping can both front or back load class sessions is a far more liberating idea. Not only does it open up greater possible applications of flipping, it broadens the possible resources and strategies that sensibly qualify as flipping. Instead of using video to exclusively introduce a concept, video can serve to summarize, review, consolidate, or raise entirely new questions.

Forgotten Power of Audio

I would even push further to advance the idea that video is not necessary for a flipped lesson. Audio is an often overlooked resource but can serve just as well as video, in some case it may even be preferable.

I would even push further to advance the idea that video is not necessary for a successful flipped lesson. Audio is an often overlooked resource but can serve just as well as video, in some case it may even be preferable. Students can listen to media even easier than they can watch it. Plus, audio travels better than video, making it easier to engage while on the bus, in the car, or walking.

With the long and steady rise of podcasts and other archived radio production, there is a nearly untapped trove of resources available. There may not be quite the same search functionalities as video already has, but video search is not exactly fantastic either, to be fair.

Personal Impact of Flipped Learning

Honestly, I am not entirely sure that I completely buy the notion of flipped learning. On one level, there is a part of me that thinks it is a great idea, although not terribly new. However, on another level, I fell like it is just one more phrase that has been consumed by the edtech Tower of Babbel, where terms go to become so muddy they cease to really have any value or mean anything.

I must admit that the things that I have done that resemble a flipped model, I have rarely ever thought of that lesson as being flipped. Oddly, almost anytime I have made a deliberate effort to conceive of a lesson as being flipped it has gone terribly. So, I continue to remain not entirely sure about it all.

Yet, I have begun playing with EdPuzzle for the first time. I had heard of it, but never really investigated it until the last week. This session’s Hangout with Quim Sabria was one of the more interesting to me for that fact. The mere fact that this one of the newest elements to me that we have covered in the course so far seized my attention.

After playing around with it a little, I am more intrigued and want to actually explore it further. There are definitely some things that interest me, like the layering of the content development. Where the found video only becomes a foundation for a more customized experience. I believe there might be some real power in adding EdPuzzle to a constellation of other tools for a richer student experience but I am going to reserve judgment for awhile.

Perhaps most striking about this investigation into flipped learning is that it reminded me of the power of students making their own instructional videos. This is something that my colleague Lorelle Govoni really embraced recently to exceptional effect, in my opinion.



So what do you think?

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