Thursday, June 20, 2013

Flipping - The Bad (Part 1)

So like anything in life, flipping has its pros and cons. I obviously see that the positives far outweigh the negatives and that's why I'm choosing to stay on this crazy, but rewarding path. In the last two posts I discussed how flipping helped with differentiation, motivation, and excitement and how it positively changed both the individual (home) and shared (school) learning environments. Now I will frankly discuss the frustrations that I faced as a teacher in a flipped classroom.

Technology Hurdle:
One of the biggest problems that most of the naysayers will bring up is the lack of technology equality for our students. If students don't have access to the internet, how will they watch the videos after school?  Won't the students get behind? It's not fair to penalize students for not having the resources at home.

I knew what I was facing but like I've said before, experience is the best teacher. I surveyed my students' parents the day before I flipped and found out that 9-10 students didn't have internet on a regular basis. I teach 52 students so I thought 20% of the class was a manageable amount.

I remember being SO excited to start class on the first day I officially flipped.After doing a brief survey of the class, I found out that I had exactly 10 students who still needed to watch the Sophia tutorial. I didn't think it would be too hard to get students on the computer but between my classroom and my teaching partner's classroom we only have a total of 4 computers. Like I said in my last post, my goal was for each tutorial to take under 20 minutes to complete. So, being the amazing math teacher that I am, I quickly figured that it would take at least three 20 minute time periods before EVERY student would be ready to move on. Because I didn't want to leave anyone out,  I surged forward with my original plan, and this is how it went:

(Keep reading- I'll update you on this poor runner at the end of the post!)

Yea, I totally crashed and burned. At the start of the clip, the poor young man above was trucking along and feeling confident. He even passed off the baton in time and then BAM - head first into the ill-placed hurdles. (Why were they there anyway????)  I felt like I prepared well for flipping, I created the tutorials, I was trucking along very nicely. I passed off the baton to the students so they could do their part and then BAM --- I hit a roadblock.

After trudging along, a whole hour passed before I really got started to maximize the "in class" time effectively. I was losing my mind because I ended up LOSING time, instead of gaining time! I held all the other students back, because I wanted to talk as a whole group about the video or answer any of the students questions.

I'm a really positive person and I remember saying to myself "THIS IS SUCH A DISASTER!" But when I took a breath or two and evaluated the situation it was easy to see. I really was only facing one problem: Equal access to technology. So the first day flipping was a disaster, but I would not be defeated by silly hurdles that stood in my way. I realized that I had to find my way around or over the hurdles to make flipping a success and luckily there are many different solutions that teachers and schools can try. Below are just a few of these solutions:

Technology Solution:
Some teachers burn the videos to CD's or put the videos on flash drives and loan them out to the students. Some schools keep the computer labs open before and after school so the students can complete their online assignments. Some teachers allow students to access the videos during their lunch/recess or study hall periods or encourage them to go to the local library after school.

I did a combinations of the above after that fateful day in March. I let students come into my room before school started to watch the videos; some students would opt to watch during their 30 minute lunch/recess time (although I didn't require this); one student brought in a flash drive that I would put the videos on.

Many students were VERY responsible and made it their goal to find a way to watch the videos before math class. However, I did frequently have a few students not watch the videos and they would watch the videos while the other students discussed the tutorial in small group or asked questions. Most days the students who were ready to move on did so without the other students, and I thought this was fine. The students who still needed to watch the videos never really missed MUCH because after they watched the video during class I met with them in a small group to discuss the videos and answer any questions.  It wasn't a perfect science, but I found a way to make it work.

Another thing that I did was that I played the video(s) for the students on my laptop while they all watched together. (Luckily my school installed wireless a few weeks before I started flipping!) Also, I'm lucky enough to have a space set aside from the rest of the class (the middle room) and there's enough space to fit up to 9 students comfortably. So if I had a large amount of students who didn't watch the video, they would watch it together and we would discuss the quiz questions and discussion questions. Again, not ideal, but I didn't feel like I was crashing head first into a stack of hurdles.

This year, however, the technology hurdle will most likely be decreased because my students will have access to 11 Learnpads. (Learnpads are tablets that are 'purpose built for education.' Here's the link to their website if you're interested: I hope to make it my students' morning routine to complete the tutorial before math class using the Learnpads if they didn't complete the tutorial the night before. This will be a lot easier than having to use the four desktop computers that students had to log in and out of. So, this year I'm much more optimistic about flipping and I hope that I have enough options to get past this hurdle.

So in the end, if you think about it, we make accommodations for every lesson we teach. No lesson is fit for every student in every class. To me, figuring out how every student could have access to the online tutorial didn't become a hassle but it was just another hurdle that I had to figure my way around!  I hope that you too will figure your way around the hurdles that pop up in the flipped classroom.

Oh yea, about that poor runner. In the description of the youtube video it says: "I wasn't disqualified and we won the race!" :)   To him, winning the race seems to be all that matters, I just hope his face was ok!

Lesson #7:  Look at providing technology access as just another accommodation. Don't view it as a hassle, but as a hurdle that you will find your way around! 

I will continue discussing some of the cons of flipping in my next post. So, if you've flipped, how do you get around the technology hurdle? Do you jump over it, duck under it or slither to the side of it? Or, do you do what this runner decides to do? I'm sure many analogies can come from this video:

Thanks for reading,
Arin Kress (@ArinKress)

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