What Corona is teaching us about Flipped Learning (Part 1)

Flipped learning has been around for quite some time now. Flipped learning is widely credited to being pioneered by chemistry teachers Jon Bergman and Aaron Sams and further popularized by Salman Khan’s 2011 TED Talk on the practice. At the time of its inception, Bergman and Sams were dealing with the issue of making learning accessible in schools with highly-transient populations and high levels of tardiness and absenteeism. As a young educator in 2013, I found myself experiencing the same issues at my own Title-I middle school. I needed a way to keep learners ENGAGED and CONNECTED to our content, even when they weren’t physically in the classroom. As I researched solutions, I happened upon Sam’s now-infamous YouTube video (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHYm7U0ePWY), and was hooked on the concept! After researching practical implementation suggestions, I went about bringing the practice to my own classroom. With the luxury of time on my side, I was able to be strategic about the transition, and successfully made blended/flipped learning a mainstay within my classroom culture. Here are the basic steps that I took to ensure success in transitioning from TRADITIONAL to BLENDED/FLIPPED learning:

  1. Surveyed my learners on tech/internet access at home: As I have coached educators on the POWER of blended/flipped learning environments over the past 5 years, I have found that many avoid the transition because they assume ACCESS will be the biggest barrier. However, once learners are actually surveyed, the constant trend has been about 5-10% needing accommodations due to lack of technology and/or internet access at home. For example, when I surveyed my first class in 2013, I found that 16/20 learners had the access needed- whether that was a laptop, desktop, or smartphone- to be successful in a blended/flipped learning environment. As a result, my classrooms have been highly efficient with minimal paper use; it’s soo much easier and efficient to make 4 copies, instead of 20!
  2. Let learners lead: This step took a lot of the burden of prep off of me. Student leadership within a blended/flipped learning environment can include student leaders ensuring that copies are available for absent students, or designating a “start-up” leader that is responsible for running new students through the blended/flipped learning system. My students also took leadership in ensuring that our virtual learning management system (we transitioned from Edmodo to Canvas and now Google Classroom; will share more about LMS later) syllabus/agenda page remained up-to-date daily on a daily basis.
  3. Instructions were written with student questions in mind: One thing that sets a novice educator apart from an experienced one is how well the seasoned teacher anticipates student learning needs. Any time that I am developing a blended/flipped learning course, I am keeping this student knowledge at the forefront. In a blended/flipped learning environment, instructions must be crystal clear and include examples to help guide student learning.

With this winning formula, each class that I taught from 2014-2018 (my last year full-time in the classroom) has been delivered in either a FLIPPED or BLENDED learning environment. The delivery platform has helped personalized student learning in ways that I could only imagine. Contrary to the popular belief that blended/flipped learning removes the need for the teacher, I have found that the need is actually increased (will discuss in future blog entries). As a result of increased student growth & success, I quickly became a staunch advocate for blended/flipped learning. As I moved into coaching/leadership roles, it became one of the top practices that I suggested to most educators, particularly those looking for the easiest route to differentiation. However, no matter how I presented it- through presentations or invitations to observe it in-action in my own classroom, teachers still were hesitant about moving from the “sage-on-the-stage” delivery to one that is more conducive to the learning habits of 21st century students.

Fast-forward to March 2020, when COVID-19 has forced most of United States schools to close their brick-and-mortar buildings. But how do we now ensure the continued learning for millions of students? The natural solution has been to abruptly turn to flipped learning. Teachers have been asked to transform their learning environments literally overnight. For some, like myself, it’s business as usual. But for the masses, it has been an exhausting, complicated task that has been accompanied with little-to-no support. Some district’s strategic plan has allowed for more success than others. (Shout-out to Durham Public Schools who is leading by example with the transition!) But what support is out there for those in need?

Over the next few weeks, I am planning to share my tips and tricks for blended/flipped learning on this platform to support educators who are currently in need. Please feel free to share your tips and strategies in comments as well.

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