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It’s About Time: An Introduction to the Flipped Classroom – Part I

By CUE Member and Guest Blogger John Stevens

This Post Will Focus on Introducing Flipped Learning- Post 1 in Our 6-Part Series

Glass of EduSlushy CC Sakanami

Glass of EduSlushy
CC Sakanami

So you’re ready to try the flipped classroom, eh?  You’ve heard all the buzz, seen its positive side effects, and poured yourself a glass of the EduSlushy?  Good.  While you have your drink in hand, let’s get a few things straight about “The Flipped Classroom.”

First, anyone who is hard set on giving a definitive definition of the flipped classroom model is probably feeding you a line that you shouldn’t be buying. There are many definitions, including the one that you will mold out of your own experiences. This doesn’t mean to box yourself in; on the contrary, it would be great to listen to many different versions of your PLN’s flipped models. However, as with any great teaching strategy, you have to own it.  If it isn’t your definition, you don’t own it.

With all of that being said, I’ll toss out the way that I have defined the flipped classroom for my students. To me, a teacher who uses my version of the flipped classroom creates short, meaningful, and direct instructional lessons for students to view outside the 51 minutes that we call “class time.” Whether this learning takes place before school, after school, during lunch, or sometimes during class if it is necessary, it opens up class time.

From there, the time that was spent instructing the class is now handed back to the students in the form of extended practice time, collaboration, discussions, and more.  The bottom line is that this Flipped Classroom experience, for my students, gives them a voice. They have time to meet with me, meet with each other, and meet with the content in a way that they couldn’t have done in a traditional classroom.

Second, this is not something that you can “sample” or “dabble in.” The flipped classroom takes a commitment from you and your students; you dedicate yourselves to making a shift in the way education in your room is being handled.  This shift doesn’t mean students don’t learn the content. It means that we, as teachers, must continue to evolve our own styles in a constant effort to provide our students with the most relevant and beneficial means of instruction we possibly can.

Realistically, we will look back years from now and think that the way we “used to” flip our classes wasn’t all that revolutionary at all. In the last year alone, I’ve gone from screencasting using ShowMe, then to Educreations, back to ShowMe, a little of Explain Everything, then videotaping myself live at the whiteboard. Now, at the start of the 2013-14 school year, I’ve found Touchcast for interactive lessons. By the time you’ve read this, it’ll probably be something newer, better, shinier, and more efficient/effective.

 The time breakdown of a class period is complicated, but mine went along the lines of this:

 Old-Way: (Pre-Flip)

10-12 minutes for the warm-up

20 minutes for the introduction of the new concept

7 minutes for a sample problem

9 minutes for students to practice

5 minutes for a ticket out the door

To be fair, this wasn’t every day in my math classroom. There were plenty of days when I was able to give students far more time to engage in, and practice with, the content. However, when push-came-to-shove and 21 standards needed to be taught, the student practice time dwindled down to a minimum. It wasn’t fair to the kids, so I had to find a better way.

Well hellooooo, flipped classroom.

New Way: (The Flipped Classroom)

3 minutes of Peer-to-Peer sharing of the flip

10 minutes for a quick overview and to address any issues as a class

28 minutes of class time to practice/engage with the content

5 minutes to summarize what has happened in class

5 minutes for a ticket out the door

Go ahead, read it again. With the flipped classroom model, I have given my students about 36 minutes of time during class to talk, practice, work with their classmates, ask me individual questions, seek feedback, and more. THIRTY SIX MINUTES!!! That’s, you know, enough time to watch the Taylor Swift Screaming Goat video 60 times (or, well, something more productive).

It's About Time CC Duncan Hull

It’s About Time
CC Duncan Hull

We have longed for the days when we get to avoid the “sage on the stage” cliche. The hard part is finding a way to deliver the content any other way. Well, here’s our chance as educators.  During the flipped classroom, teachers can’t be sages because students are given more of the control over their own learning than they ever have in the past. You now have an opportunity to give your students back the microphone as you step aside, still on the stage, but away from the action. You’re ready to help, willing to support, but not the center of attention.  It’s about time.

Finally, going through this journey alone, especially in today’s landscape of resources and support, is pure bonkers. You got here. You’re reading this. You’re at least a little bit intrigued by the flipped classroom. Sure, you can buy a book that is written by 19 actual classroom teachers on how to flip your classroom, but it’s more than just the static ideas that will help transform your pedagogy. Here are your steps for a successful year of flipping your classroom:

  1. Sign up for Twitter (yeah, that little blue bird isn’t just for the Biebs).

  2. Follow the hashtag #flipclass.

  3. When you start seeing ideas from people you like, follow them.

  4. Talk to them. They’re real people, I promise (just not the ones in inappropriate outfits sending you to links… That’s spam. Avoid them).

  5. Continue the conversations until you feel fully supported. Speaking of a great conversation, read David Theriault’s article about PLN SuperHeroes.

  6. Repeat steps 3-5 as necessary to the point where your cup spilleth over.

You deserve to be connected, supported, and appreciated.  It’s about time to flip your class.

John Stevens

John Stevens

John Stevens is a high school Geometry teacher who has also taught middle school Math, Service Learning, and Robotics, Engineering, and Design since 2006. He has served as the go-to guy for trying new, crazy, and often untested ideas to see how well they will work.  

He co-founded and moderates #CAedchat, the weekly teacher Twitter chat for the state of California. He also is the co-founder and organizer of EdCamp Palm Springs, the first in the area. On his free time that doesn’t exist, he runs a site called Would You Rather? which is dedicated to getting students talking about math. During the summer of 2013, John had the honor of presenting at two CUE Rockstars, one in Lake Tahoe and the other aboard the USS Hornet. John blogs at fishing4tech.com. Follow him @jstevens009 or email him at stevens009@gmail.com

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