10 Reasons Why Flipped Educators Are Totally Inspiring

(Speaking of inspiration, check out all of Erik Johannson’s Amazing Work here)

Teachers That Embrace Flipped Learning Often Exhibit Many of the Habits We’d Like to see More of. 

In my work with the Flipped Learning Network I have had the distinct pleasure of conducting a few of our Flipped Educator Spotlights, and I have done the production work on all of them. Listening to these teachers (and to respected flipped learning advocates Crystal Kirch and Kate Baker who have also conducted interviews), I can’t help but find so much inspiration, and hope that education can evolve into the kind of experience many of us wish it was for all students.

Students need good teachers to help them dream, care, learn, explore, become lifelong learners, find the motivation, feel cared about, and … well, I could go on and on. You get it: good teachers can make a huge difference. So many of the teachers who have learned how to flip have bought their passion and professionalism to the role, and in doing so, they’ve made a real difference in many student’s lives and how they feel about school. 

We’ve published six of these interviews so far, and there are more on their way. 

These conversations are about solving problems, working every day to learn, improve, and grow, and most of all, doing what’s right for our students. 

Here are some of the many ways in which these passionate, driven educators can inspire teachers everywhere!

1. They are not afraid to try something new

In a short period after first hearing about the flipped classroom, Mickie Gibbs moved from thinking “that will never work for me” to jumping in and giving it a go, recording videos for her Algebra class using Explain Everything. 

Andrew Swan and Jean Singers dove in and started working together, figuring out how to connect their classes and subjects. For example, reading Animal Farm in English and connecting it with lessons in Social Studies. Later, as Jean was struggling with finding the time to try Project Based Learning, she took a workshop on the flipped classroom and discussed it with Andrew. He agreed that this might enable them to deliver the learning content and free up time to try new things like PBL in the classroom. Now they couldn’t imagine not using the flipped approach.

Matthew Moore was wondering what the world of education was going to spring on him next, and trying to stay ahead of the curve, when he heard Jon Bergmann speak. He soon realized that flipped learning was something exciting that could reinvigorate his perspective on education. He was on board, and has kept reinventing what he is doing with the technique and technology over years.

2. They are all about student-centered learning

Over and over in these interviews, we hear about how moving the lectures outside of the classroom frees up time to work more directly with the students. Natalee Stotz found herself thinking that her lectures were wasting valuable time she could be spending working more closely with her students. This was a key thought that made the idea of the flipped classroom appeal to her. 

Mickie Gibbs explains that, “the best thing for my students is that I’m there for the hard part, they like that I’m there with them when they are doing their work”. Jean Singers explains how they can check in with students in the classroom and understand and address what they might be struggling with. 

Marc Seigel explains how after trying this the first time with a lecture, then turning back to direction instruction, “the kids, after one day [of returning to direct instruction], were like, ‘we need to go back to … that other way, this is not working for us.’ The flexibility allowed in the classroom was the first time they had ever seen that and they loved it. They loved the idea that they were able to do something over two days instead of only doing it for one because they needed that extra time to learn and practice it.” This model met their needs better than direction instruction. 

3. They want to build relationships with their students and personalize their learning experience

Early in her interview, in response to Crystal Kirch’s question, “What do you love about working with your students”, Mickie Gibbs says, “I like the ‘light bulb’ moments. .. I like being able to build relationships with them”. Says Gibbs, “I know my students better and they know me better. They know I really have their best interests at heart.”

Stacey Roshan talks about how sometimes students will leave notes in an open-response question that may not have a lot to do with that specific question – they’re using the opportunity to reach out and share a frustration or a question. She makes a point of taking the time to respond to those questions and let them know they are being heard. 

We see through these clips that flipped learning makes it possible to actually have the time in the classroom to go to know students and try to meet their individual needs. 

4. They embrace change and continuous improvement

Marc Seigel explains,

For all of you out there just starting, think of it as an iceberg … you’ve got to chip a little bit each day, a little bit each year, you get one more person here and one more person there to jump on, saying, “you’re right, homework has to change, worksheets need to change …, something needs to change.” You get two people and they get three people [on board], and all of a sudden that vocal majority which was saying, “no, no, no” is now the very silent minority because there are so many people going, “yes, yes, yes, we can make this happen”.

Crystal Kirch: No matter how well planned you are, you always find time to make it fresh and new, to make it better. 

Matthew Moore explains how he has cycled through numerous approaches to the technology, continuously reducing the complexity of the process. 

5. Many are willing to recognize and address the fact that homework practices are all too often unproductive

Mickie Gibbs: The kids thought it was the coolest thing ever to have 15 minute homework! While it might actually take a little longer with rewinding and reviewing, it is much more manageable than worksheets that might take hours to try and struggle through. 

Marc Seigel: “Any time I assign a ‘work to be done at home assignment’ (as opposed to ‘homework’), it’s about finding chemistry in the world around them. In the second half of the year, the chemistry is very real world. We’re doing solution making, we’re doing gas laws, reactions involving heat. So their assignment for Thanksgiving weekend is: find an example of a chemical reaction occurring in the world around you. That may be in the kitchen, in a restaurant, wherever it’s going to be.” The homework is meaningful, not just rote and repetitive.

Jean Singers and Andrews Swan explain that in the flipped classroom, the overwhelming feedback from parents and kids has been positive … there is less homework, but it is essential that the homework that is assigned (the videos) is completed effectively and on time.  

6. They are flexible 

These videos really make it obvious that not only should and does the flip work differently for different teachers, it often works differently for different classes that the same teacher is teaching. This is just one example of the flexibility that is essential to flipped learning. 

There are also quite a few other ways in which we see the theme of flexibility emerge.

Marc Seigel: “What I’ve done is adjust different policies and practices to support both sets of learners. I’m process driven, not content driven. I have four versions of every quiz, homework, and test available for my students, so they can do up to four versions of any one assignment. The quizzes are 1 question, they’re worth 5 points. Why does the quiz need to ask the same thing four different ways? All of the quizzes use the same process. Even though it’s one question, they can do up to four versions of the quiz, so they get that extra reinforcement. I have some students who do 4 of everything, and I’ve got other kids who say, “I’m going to do the bare minimum” and they do one for each of the required assignments.”

Matthew Moore has students working on boards in his classroom, and to enable this, he has created board space everywhere he could, including small personal boards. He works with his students individually, circling the room while students work at their own pace. He also acknowledges that not every student needs to watch every video. Additionally, in some inclusion classes, he utilizes the “in-flip” to met the needs of some students. 

7. They’re all about solving problems and overcoming obstacles

Stacey Roshan explains how she and her students constantly running out of time in their AP Calculus class, so she decided to put her lessons on videos … she wasn’t consciously flipping her class, but it worked well. It was only later that she heard about the “flipped classroom”. She was just trying to solve a problem.

In another example, Roshan says, “When I flipped Honors Algebra 2, I wasn’t prepared for students not being fully on board, and it was a struggle. Parents didn’t know what I was talking about, and the students were confused. It took a good month and a half to build those relationships and get students and parents on board. Now I have a video that I share with parents to help them understand what we are doing and that has been a big help.” 

Andrew Swan and Jean Singers flipped their classrooms because they didn’t have the time to try new things like Project Based Learning and more collaborative learning. Now they do.

Often the fundamental motivation for flipping is to solve the problems like limited time, busy students who have to miss class, students learning at different rates, and so on.

8. They are driven to succeed and grow

Even though flipping the classroom has meant a lot of change, these teachers always have “next steps” in mind. They are excited by the improvements they see in their students and their learning, and they want to build on that success. For example: 

  • Mickie Gibbs is building on using the in-class flip for her inclusion students, and flipping her math club. She is thinking about how to further embrace self-paced learning.
  • Dave Walsh is bringing techniques he has succeeded with in the college courses he’s been teaching and bringing them into the high school classroom. He also wants to move towards more of a flipped mastery model.
  • Matthew Moore is running a conference this summer, introducing others to the flipped classroom and helping them learn more and grow and improve.
  • Stacey Roshan has started using Slack in her classroom to enable out-of-class communication and provide students opportunities to help each other.

9. They build their own Personal Learning Networks

All of these teachers make a point of reaching out through social media, attending conferences, and taking other measures to connect with other passionate, engaged teachers. Too often, “flippers” are alone in their schools, so being able to connect in person and digitally is a great way to find like minded educators and share experiences, tools, tips, etc.  

Dave Walsh explains that when teachers are getting started, connecting with other flipped educators can be a huge plus. Having colleagues to bounce ideas off of and learn from can be a powerful tool … you don’t need to be alone.

10. They like to share!

All of the educators in this videos have made themselves available on line, and quite a few of them are blogging and sharing in other ways:

Stop by and check out what they’ve got going on. My sincere thanks to all of these great educators for taking the time to share their work and for all they do to make school a better experience for their students.

So, what inspires you as a teacher? Drop a comment and share the motivation!

 

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