So Where’s the Catch? Fishing & Flipped Learning

--Originally published at FLN – matthewtmoore

So where’s the catch?

In fishing there’s two kinds of “catches” one is the goal, that of a large fish.  The other is the type that I tend to pull up, a.k.a. getting my line caught on something underwater, be it a tree, getting caught in the long grass, or often as not on my own boat.  I didn’t say I was a good fisherman.  In fact most of the time when we go fishing I play the role of Jesus and go to the back of the boat and sleep while my friends enjoy the pleasures of watching a nearly invisible line attempt to catch fish that they can’t possibly see and when they are successful all they get is a stinky fish. 

Education, more often than not, gets caught in the unseen hazards and snags that prevent teachers from really hauling in the successful catch that they were going for. This can be particularly true with flipped learning.

The “gear”

My buddy has a fishing boat and can tell you every detail of its performance. He also has multiple tackle boxes full of all types of lures and an entire rack full of fishing poles, of which I see him use one primarily. Likewise, when people look at flipped learning they see equipment whether that be document cameras, screencasters, responder programs, webcams in the like. How many other flippers, or yourself have you seen with headsets and microphones that look like they are hosting the morning drive radio show? Like fishermen we are “gear” experts and can tell you the optimum focal distance for the webcam, what video filter to use for student retention in a digital medium, and when more bait… I mean learning questions should be inserted into various videos to ensure optimum attention and learning. All of the “gear”and the learning curve associated with it can be very intimidating to a new flipper.

The Ol’ Fishin’ Hole

My fisherman buddy also has special spots that are his go-to; over by the fallen tree, just outside Cove 5, etc. As flipped learning teachers we also have our go-to moves whether they be board work,  reflection questions, or mastery checks. What do we do in our class if a student has not watched a video. Where do we send students that have access issues. We speak in Bloom-ese and Flip 1.0, 2.0, 3.0.  While many of the3 methods flipped teachers use are not original, they are concepts that many teachers may have never seen worked out live in a classroom. For those looking at the flipped classroom the format the nomenclature the in-class aspects look very foreign and honestly a bit intimidating.  

The Educators-Pro Bass Tournament

My buddy is also an educator and is the coach of his schools bass fishing team, yes that is a sanctioned thing in Illinois. As a know-it-all biology teacher and know-it-all fisherman I am thankful he is more generous with his teaching colleagues than with his fishing competitors. However, educators and fishermen have one more similarity that I can think of, sometimes when a fisherman has a great secret to successfully catching fish or a great location they will make sure that anyone that looks is sure not to find it by being elusive, pretentious, or downright lying. Likewise, educators fall into this trap as well. When others attempt to look in on what we’re doing we’re either insecure and don’t want to share our secrets and tricks for fear that someone might find a flaw in our method, or will use of vocabulary set that clearly tells whoever is inquiring that we’re not interested in honestly sharing with them. In the worst-case of all scenarios we simply don’t value our colleagues enough to let them in on the secret. This may be the result of poor team environment, personal insecurity, fear of critique as we experiment in our classrooms, or any number of reasons.  In all cases, when others hear our successes in flipped learning and want to learn, I have seen others (and had the internal conversation myself) hesitate to be truly open and invested in helping those interested be successful.

Is it a keeper?

In the end the snags to flipped learning can be the gear, it can be the vocabulary, it can be the lack of a skilled guide. As flipped teachers who have seen the impact of the method, we should be the biggest promoters not the biggest obstacle to educators interested in flipping.  Our goal should be to catch as many “keepers” as possible. In the end the biggest barrier to successful flipped learning is not having someone willing to take the time to teach you how to fish.

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