My Flipped Learning Adventure has Been a Different Trip Than Many Take …
The path that led me to become a flipped learning practitioner and advocate was certainly not the same as what many other teachers have experienced. You see, when I first started researching, writing about, and advocating for this technique, I was not a teacher. I am now, and have been for years, but when I started down this road in 2011, I was not.
Allow me to explain. In 2008, I joined The College of Westchester, where I am privileged to serve as Chief Information Officer. From the day I started, I was very interested in the relationship between teaching and technology. While I did not come from the world of education, I have always had a great respect for teaching – my Dad was a teacher, and when I was young I thought I might become one some day. My fascination with teaching and tech led me to start blogging, and in April on 2009 I launched EmergingEdTech.com, where I shared my interests, questions, tools, research, etc.
EmergingEdTech became my first “side gig” and my passion, consuming many hours of my time outside of my demanding primary job. I wanted to know how technology could truly make a difference in student success. In the first couple of years, I wasn’t seeing a lot of tech use that really seemed meaningful. Sure, there were lots of fun new things students could do thanks to the web, but these weren’t fundamentally altering teaching or learning, and they didn’t seem likely to make a difference in outcomes for many.
Eyes Wide Open
Then one day that changed. I am pretty sure that the very first mention of the flipped classroom I encountered was in this TED Talk by Salman Khan. This made a big impression on me (I wrote about it here). Khan, now widely known as the founder of the Khan Academy, explained the idea of “reverse instruction”, and it just made so much sense to me.
Here was a way to leverage the powerful, inexpensive technology at our disposal in a way that could truly make a difference for students, and simply but radically alter our basic approach to teaching. Make the learning content a re-usable resource, make it the “homework”, and free up class time to be used in a much richer way. Let teachers use their skills to help students understand and apply their learning, not just to regurgitate information.
I immediately started searching out content from teachers who were doing this and sharing it online, and there were quite a few (here’s one set I shared later that year)! Indeed, by 2012, the flipped classroom started to show up in the news on a regular basis.
Naturally, I came across the work of pioneers Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann, but there were many others writing about their use of the technique. In retrospect, it appears that there was a rather organic evolution happening starting in the latter part of the first decade of the new century. Thanks to the amazing new technologies at our fingertips, many teachers across the world realized that they could now record lectures and make them readily available online. This in turn allowed them to step away from the centuries-old “sage on the stage” model and use their valuable, limited face-to-face time with students to be the “guide on the side” that could help students apply this knowledge, clarify misunderstandings, and push them higher up the Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid.
Walking the Walk
My first opportunity to apply some of these techniques myself came as I started developing and delivering online “flipclass” workshops for instructors. This soon evolved into a 4-week online workshop, which I ran 10 or 12 times over the course of 2012 – 2016, and it was a wonderful experience. I got to work with a hundred+ teachers from all across the world. The workshop leveraged some aspects of flipped instruction, as teachers had to read and watch a variety of content I created or curated before they could then apply the tools and techniques in assignments. I provided feedback on all assignments, using the opportunity to clear up misperceptions, make suggestions, provide additional resources, etc. Students also discussed their work, observations, questions, concerns, etc., online in discussion forums.
My first opportunity to apply flipped learning in a more traditional setting came in 2014 when I was offered the opportunity to teach an introductory level information technology course to incoming freshman at The College of Westchester. The first technique I tried and applied was Crystal Kirch’s “WSQ”, which stands for Watch, Summarize, Question. I shared 5 reasons why I love this technique here. This course is a very active, hands-on course and when taught in the 15 week ground format, it doesn’t require me to push a lot of content outside of class, but when it is taught in the evenings as an 8 week, hybrid format course, flipped techniques go a long way towards making it possible to get through the material.
Flipped teaching and learning continues to lead me down new roads year after year, and I am so glad I embarked on this journey!