Myth # 6 – “Flipped Learning Results in Overuse of Technology”

Myth number 5 was “no tech is needed for flipping”. Like most teaching and learning myths, this myth has a flip side of the coin as well. Myth number 6 is “flipped learning results in overuse of technology”.

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Mea culpa

At this point we must pause for a moment and admit that, like many myths, there is more than a grain of truth to this one.  Many flip practitioners, myself included, must admit at least a modicum of guilt in this regard. Once the joys, flexibility, and effectiveness of technology enhanced learning is experienced personally, it does become easy to overuse the technology.  So much so that I would venture to guess that almost all of us flippers have done that at some point or other. So does that mean that this is not a myth, but a flip truism?

Mea kinda-not-a culpa

While it might be true that every flip practitioner has used the “whiz-bang” tech on occasion when a non-tech method would have worked, or even been better, it is the pattern of behavior that needs to be examined. Teachers make dozens of educational decisions daily from broad planning to individual conversations and tutoring. What establishes the reputation of the teacher and the expectations of the students is cumulative sum of these decisions.  While flip teachers will inevitably use more technology than a traditional style classroom, I have also found that since becoming flipped educator that I am far more reflective about nearly all of those dozens of daily decisions than I was when I approached my classroom from traditional perspective.

My personal story

On a personal note it was this lack of reflection and “teaching by autopilot” that brought me to flipped learning.  I experienced a year of family upheaval and exhaustion precipitated by the early arrival of my daughter’s birth. At the end of that first year, as life settled into a new normal, I had trouble remembering much of the school year.  My students did about the same as they always had while I put in even less effort. It finally struck me that if my students did not suffer in my absence, was my presence truly required? Additionally, were the expectations of my students as elevated or rigorous as I believed? My new normal would still require my absence more than I would prefer, but I was determined to ensure that my expectations and rigor were adjusted to the point that an educator was necessary in my classroom.  Flipped learning was initially a means for me to be present when I wasn’t, but the unanticipated result was the in-depth process of reflection and intentional design required to provide students access and resources while raising the expectations and rigor in my classroom. What I gained from the process of implementing flipped learning was that with greater reflection comes more opportunity for adjustment and readjustment. The moral of the story is that over using technology is not a mortal sin, having done it in the past, or even doing it presently, is not a terminal situation.  With reflection and evaluation, the needle of technology integration can be moved to greater, or lesser, levels based on teacher decision and student need.

No defense

The defense above is in no way meant as a justification for one of the absolutely most infuriating things in flipped learning: using video and technology as a babysitter. Watching a teacher overuse video equates to a parent that overuses television and computer,  it becomes a babysitter or a time-waster in order for the teacher, much like the the harried parent, to get something else accomplished (or nothing accomplished). It should be painfully clear that this type of technology use is in no way good teaching, regardless of what model a person chooses to use in the classroom.  Within the group space, moving a student to the independent space needs to be a conscious decision to make the best use of that individual students time. Use of technology as a blanket solution to busyness, or a replacement for interaction, collaboration, and relationship-building is simply not acceptable.

A matter of perspective

We can argue over the semantics of the term “overuse”.  Additionally, coming to consensus on an “appropriate level of use” with regard to technology may heavily depend on the perspective and experience of those involved in the conversation.  What is critical to understanding and debunking this myth of flipped learning is flipped teachers that develop a strong process of reflection. A process of reflection that honestly examines the effectiveness of an activity, technology, and learning framework. This process must be used on a regular basis, with a willingness to make changes based on that reflection.

The primary question is not whether “flipped learning results in overuse of technology”. The real question is where, when, and which technologies will be used intentionally and with reflection.  By moderating, mixing, and carefully tending as good teaching requires in every other aspect of education, technology can remain a positive and contributing component of the classroom rather than a source of resentment or excuse.

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