These last two weeks have tested my determination to improve my pedagogy and implement a flipped classroom. Anyone who is familiar with the flipped model of teaching knows that even though videos are not a defining characteristic of flipped teaching, they play a key role in making information available to students.
I am fortunate to teach in a one-to-one environment with all of my students having laptops. Along with the benefits of technology immersion there is the reality that content filtering is necessary in order to prevent students from accessing inappropriate material. Sometimes there is a frustrating but inescapable conflict between allowing students access to what they need while at the same time blocking access to objectionable content. YouTube is a shining example of this problem.
I continue to use Edmodo daily. My physics students are beginning to use it in the way I envisioned. Every day I post a summary of the learning goals for that day. I post any assignment they have along with a link to the required document. I post notes in .pdf format and post them as well. Students are learning to ask questions and help each other through this remarkable tool. I see us forming an actual community of learners with me as a participant and catalyst rather than the complete center of activity.
With access to videos being limited, my class has not been truly flipped. I refuse however to return to the model of teaching where I talk at kids and they struggle at home on their own. The central question I ask every day as I prepare is, “What should the students DO today to help them UNDERSTAND the required content?” With that question I feel I have preserved the essence of the flipped model which is making learning a student centered activity where the students have an active role in their education.
In some ways I feel my classroom follows more of a workshop model. Students get a short mini-lesson where I answer questions and provide some instruction and then they spend the remainder of class applying what they have learned. I am trying to guide students along the ladder of abstraction, giving them activities that help them construct solid mental models of physics concepts. They still have access to a tremendous amount of material on my website in the form of text and web based animations and simulations. These resources are varied enough to allow students to chose material suited to their own learning style.
So in summary my class is not currently flipped but it leans that direction. My daily goal is to assign homework that is lower level Blooms and complete higher order thinking activities in class. I try to give students as many opportunities as possible to be self directed and work at their own pace. I try to get them out of their desks and engaged with authentic physics problems.
I believe we will solve the issue with video filtering and I will have that tool available again soon. Until then I will say I have learned that great days at school are more a result of where we place students in the process than the actual approach. When students are at the center, days are good. Almost every time I have a day that is difficult, I realize I did a lot of talking and students were not engaged.