15 March 2015


N.B. I wrote this as a reflection after a learning day at school.    

Friday was a professional development day at my school, and to my delight, we got some choice. I began the day with iBook Author, since I am planning to create my own British Literature textbook to take advantage of the 1-1 iPad initiative. I enjoyed my hour of screencasting, since the earlier tools I had used were outdated and limited in features. Screencast-o-matic is going to be great. So next I chose a webinar discussing student engagement and flipped learning. The presenters are well-known practitioners, having penned several “how tos” over the past 10 years, so it seemed like a good follow up to my screencasting workshop. I like the idea of flipped learning, because it gives students control by definition, but could never see how it would be much different than my traditional English classroom. Kids read at home, and then come to school and we discuss or make projects or write. What could be different about flipped learning for me? I knew that Khan Academy was not flipped learning, though videos were involved. So my plan was to listen to the webinar to discover more about flipping.

   Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams began by noting that flipped learning depended on relationships, and relationships meant engagement. The discussion was organized around the principles of engagement, the techniques to implement, the hurdles to success and training the teacher AND the children. They noted that fewer children arrive at school from “educationally privileged” households in 2015, so schools must work differently to capture those students and “meet them where they are.” This is not true at St. Mark’s, but even at our school, I have noticed less support of the academic mission at home over the past 5-6 years—no time? 

  My most important takeaway might have been their point about the Bloom’s taxonomy and how teachers approach it: if a teacher sends a child home to do the hard stuff alone (analyze, evaluate, create) then the teacher has relinquished her strongest learning tool. We should be doing the hard stuff together, in school. That is why students need me! I am feeling good about reading “A Modest Proposal” aloud in class together last week and then having students work on questions independently. What I modeled as we read was how to pick out particular strategies and how they complemented purpose. My independent practice questions required the rehearsal of that skill.

   The second point that rang true came when they discussed curated versus created content. This is where the screencasting will come in: the learning that happens at home must be tailored by the teacher for her particular students. This is not a tough point for me. Once I decided to eschew textbooks for anthologies a few years ago, I was forced to create my own ancillary materials. Even now, my students are always more successful when I tweak the curriculum and projects to fit the students I have, instead of the students I have had. If I am going to flip a class, the videos for independent learning must be mine. I am always surprised when teachers use boilerplate lessons or materials and then are irritated that students do not succeed. The only downside to created content? It takes time.

   Overall, this was a good introduction to flipped learning delivered by two experts. It was an overview of the purpose and process. Both speakers noted at the conclusion that they were planning more subject and grade level specific books in the future. I will check in on their website. To date, no one has done anything really good for secondary reading and writing in a flipped manner.

Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement
with Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams

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