Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Why I am flipping my classroom

Ok so here it begins! A new teaching method I have been reading about over the past couple of years - Flipped Learning. There is a lot of information out there (out there being "the internet") about what Flipped Learning is an isn't, so I won't try and re-explain it all here. There are some particularly insightful (in my opinion) articles on flipped learning here, here and here

The focus of this post isn't WHAT is flipped learning, it's WHY I've decided to try flipped learning in my classroom. Here the 3 main driving forces behind my decision to FLIP:

1. Differentiation 

I teach in a mixed ability classroom. Some of the students love maths, some hate it. Some find it easy, some don't. Some understand what I teach immediately, others need more time to process the information. I am very pro mixed ability teaching (love Jo Boaler's book), and having taught in the English system for so long where students are set in almost every school from a young age, and where most maths teachers would rather die than teach mixed ability, I am happy to have this type of classroom. But giving a traditional lecture style lesson just doesn't work in a mixed ability class. When I'm explaining a concept or modelling an example, some of the students are bored because they already understand, and for some I'm moving too quickly through the explanation, which leads to frustration and giving up. There are some for who I'm probably explaining things at a perfect pace, but I'm pretty sure this is the minority! Flipping means that students can listen to video tutorials at their own pace. They can rewind, pause and even fast-forward through the videos as they need to. It's means learning can become more personalised and also that students can avoid the distractions they normally have in lessons during the lecture (the main distractions being each other!) and watch it in a more focussed way at home. 

2. Lesson Time

I want to make the time we have in lessons more efficient. In a 55 minute lesson I don't always get everything done I'd like, and I don't have enough time to spend with students one-on-one or in small groups. Mainly because I spend about half the lesson with a starter activity, introducing the concept and examples, and then the students have time to work on an activity or practice questions. Usually this leaves them with about 15-20 minutes if we're lucky, before we do a quick recap and then pack up, ready to move on to the next lesson. By removing the lecture to a video students watch at home, I am hoping to free up class time in order to accomplish the following: 

  • give students lots of practice time, where they can work with each other to solve problems 
  • spend more time with students, questioning them to really assess their understanding of concepts, and giving them extra help when they need it 
  • introduce more problem solving and open-ended tasks in lesson, rather than just sticking to the textbook  introduce more technology, such as iPads and apps like "Explain Everything" and "Ask 3", or using Twitter or Facebook to generate online discussions 

Those are just a few ideas so far... I am really excited about all the different possibilities that freeing up class time might allow me. 

3. Teacher as Facilitator

I want to change my role in the classroom from the "Sage on the Stage" to the "Guide on the Side". In the 21st century, teachers no longer need to be the person who holds all this knowledge and passes it on to their students. Students don't need us (teachers) to give them information. They can get it anywhere, on the internet! What we need to do is teach them how to find and process information, and how to take what they know and apply it to new learning situations. (We also need to tell them which information they will need in order to pass exams, but that is hopefully a by-product of their learning anyway!)

So, here we go. I will begin my pilot with my Year 7, 8 and 9 classes once the Easter holiday is over. Until then I will be busy recording video lectures for the first few weeks, and putting on the finishing touches to the structures I've come up with to use so far. I am hoping to use this blog to record my reflections on teaching in a flipped classroom so that I can improve on what I'm doing, and maybe one day be of help to someone else deciding to flip their classroom!

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