My principal gave me Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams to read. We’d been discussing blended and flipped classrooms for a lot of second semester and the book obviously relates. This is a great book. It’s simple. It’s straightforward. It’s short (which makes it easy to start and commit to). And (and do not overuse this term) it is inspiring. I said it. Inspiring. But it made me want to flip my classroom. So I might try next year (more on that later).

The book focuses on both how they flipped their classrooms and why they flipped their classroom, more the latter than the former which I appreciated. The hows, I suspect, will differ from teacher to teacher and school to school; each will have to find her own way to flipping. But the whys (both the causes and the results) were important to me and, well, they convinced me.

Part of the convincing was that we share similar philosophies about the role of teachers, what education is and should be, and of course how students fit into that. And that these philosophies are either not so popular among teachers or are quietly popular.

I can’t go into all of them here but I did flag some pages / quotes that I will share here:

“Aaron had a student who is heavily involved in student council. This year, when homecoming was approaching, she worked ahead. She got one week ahead in his class, and when homecoming week happened, she used Aaron’s class time to work on homecoming activities.” (22)

  • I like this because it recognizes the reality of student life (that our class can’t always be their priority at all, much less their first priority), a reality that teachers at best tend to ignore and at worst grow bitter and resentful over, and achieves a solution that is mutually beneficial, i.e. the teacher’s goals are met (the work was completed) and the student’s goals are met (classwork and out-of-classwork was completed).

“For our students who quickly understand the content, we have found that if they can prove to us their understanding of a particular objective, we will cut down on the number of problems they need to do.” (28)

  • A number of years back we had a school-mandated discussion with our classes about cheating. It was a frank and illuminating discussion. The one takeaway from it that has remained with me is what one student said about cheating on homework: that they are more likely to copy homework if they don’t view it as necessary, i.e. if they already understand something, why should they have to do a worksheet with 20 problems about it. And I can’t argue with that. This quote gets at that same idea, that school should be about understanding and not work for work’s sake, which I certainly am guilty of (though trying to minimize).

“One size does not fit all, and we no longer require students to view the videos if they choose not.” (67)

  • I’ve reached this point with a lot of my assessments; many of my projects have multiple formats to choose from, and if students have an alternative format in mind they are welcome to do it as long as they run it by me first. I’ve never been a hand-down-a-topic teacher, but I’m becoming even less of one as I go on, so that whenever I can I leave topic-choice up to students, so that, it is hoped, they can choose something interesting to them and produce better work. But I had never thought to apply this to delivery / instruction.

“We have expanded the [note-taking] format slightly, letting students take paper notes, but also allowing them to post comments on a blog or to email their teacher. One element that began in Jonathan’s earth science / astronomy class has completely changed the way we interact with out students. We ask all of these students to to both show their notes and individually ask their teacher an interesting question that they thought of while viewing the video. This individual question-and-answer time is very powerful because it requires all students to interact with their teacher on an almost daily basis. In this model, it isn’t just the bright, curious students who ask questions – it’s also the shy or disengaged students who would never dare to raise their hands in a typical classroom.” (98)

  • I like the idea of the interesting-question model but I wonder how it looks on a daily basis. Does it put undue pressure on students? Do they feel the need to be interesting, so to speak, as they watch, and do they worry if no interesting question comes to mind? I’d be concerned about implementing such a system on a daily basis; perhaps one a week or a total for the quarter. I’d be interested to hear more about this in a practical, every day sense.

What struck me most about the book was how much the pre-flipped students and their teachers’ perception of them resonated with me. The idea of ‘doing school’ seemed especially relevant because on of my biggest concerns is that my students, and especially my honors students, are successful because they understand how school works and how to work the system more than they understand whatever material they’re being taught. The goal of the flipped classroom to address this bottom-line approach to school is one of those things that makes it most interesting to me. I would / will be interested to see how students react to it.

So I will continue thinking about this idea and how or if I can implement it. But it is exciting. Difficult, I imagine, but exciting. Any experience with it (the book, flipped, or anything else) is welcome.

 

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