Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Starting Fresh

The stores are abuzz with "back-to-school" sales; the CNE is alive with glowing lights, carnival toys, and food poisoning; and every teacher is counting down the number of patio/cottage/camping days they have remaining. Yes, it's that time of year again.

Epic Burger at the CNE (Epic illness?)

However, for myself and 600 other Peel educators, summer ended a bit early; as the first ever 'Teaching & Learning in a Digital World' conference was held for those who were looking to get a head start on #peel21st education. I had the opportunity to share my flipped classroom experience with an amazing amount of peers, and learn from them as well. However, I always find myself short on time in conversing & discussing with fellow educators about the flipped classroom and everything edtech. The questions, the comments, and stories of other teachers own experiences always rejuvenates me to continue sharing and offering any help I can. 

I found, and this is probably mainly due to the time of year, that the number one question on everyone's mind was "How do you start the semester in a flipped classroom?" The answer, unfortunately, is not so simple. It all depends on the depth you are taking with the flip, and what you hope to get out of it. There are a hundred different ways to flip your classroom, no singular right way, probably plenty of wrong ways, and lots of in-between. Each subject demands a different approach, each set of students have different requirements/needs, and each teacher their own personality.  Therefore, I can only really speak from my own experience and the approach I took of flipping my business courses, every day, for the entire semester. When you put that context on it, and step back for a second to think, you begin to realize you need to really lay a solid foundation. You also begin to realize that you are taking an entire student's school/classroom experience and throwing it out the window (and in a way saying that how they've been taught previously is not effective). Therefore, the first week of school, in my mind, is very important. So here's my approach:

(you'll notice the links below directing to many of the resources I talk about - check them out!)

Day 1 - Informing
As mentioned, you are taking all your students know regarding a classroom and flipping it on its head, throwing it out the window, or whatever else; and you are expecting them to buy in to this new methodology. Well guess what comes with change? Resistance! Therefore, I feel it is vitally important to be as transparent as possible with what I'm doing and really show them what a flipped classroom is. I show them great videos explaining the flipped classroom, both from a teacher's and student's perspective, inform them of my own objectives of the flip, indicate the benefits of the flip, share previous students comments, and lastly, run through what a typical class looks like. I also realize that I'm asking them to take pretty good notes while watching the videos, and therefore, teach them how to effectively watch the lecture videos (remember these are NOT LOLcats, or Fail videos, but videos containing important course information). Not only am I asking the students to buy in, but the parents have to as well. They are going to see their children come home  every night and instead of traditionally do homework, they will sit in front of a computer (or whatever else) and watch videos. Therefore, it is also vitally important to inform the parents in the same way, and send a letter home to do just that. (***Correction: Crystal Kirch is a MUST for #flipclass and source for my letter to parents -  Erin Klein is definitely a great source for #edtech and was mentioned incorrectly previously as flipclass source, probably because I was just reading her blog)

Day 2 - Connecting
Connecting with your students in a flipped class is probably no different then what you do now. The only difference is, that because you are flipping, you are probably using a variety of online tools to connect with your students and distribute your information. I use YouTube to share my videos, ANGEL (a LMS specifically designed for the Peel DSB) to convey course information, due dates, worksheets, links, etc., Twitter to post announcements & reminders, Wikispaces to collaborate & share, Blogger to blog, and so on. Therefore, I need to make sure that my students can connect to all these tools in order to effectively connect with them; and guess what, that takes time. Many students already have accounts on these platforms, and so you want to get them to 'follow' you so that they don't miss any announcements, etc. For those students who don't, this is where you can try to convince them of using such platforms, and the benefits they bring. As for the negatives, well that's why there is...

Day 3 - Citizen-ing (Digital Citizenship)
As you can see from the previous day's overview, there is plenty of 'connecting' and accessing of the Internet. The students already have quite the presence online, but what they don't necessarily have is the knowledge, respect, and appropriate attitude on how to conduct themselves online. Therefore, I believe it is very important to spend at least one whole day instructing them on what it means to be a digital citizen (a great overview is provided here by Jim Cash) Plus, now that you've instructed them on the flipped classroom, you can show them any number of videos on digital citizenship, and use the entire class to really 'do' and discuss. Since I come from a marketing background, I feel students connect really well to the idea that they are their own brands, and therefore illustrating the failures of many company brands when they have tweeted, texted, or promoted themselves inappropriately. Learning from failure is a great way to learn!

Day 4 - Dialogue & Discussing
As part of the flipped classroom, and one of the main reasons why I flip, is that it provides students with plenty of opportunity to summarize, ask questions, dialogue, and discuss course material. All of this boils down to the fact that I want my students to think critically. I begin every class with structured discussions for those who watched the video prior to class, so that self-, peer-, and teacher-assessment can take place. Therefore, if I expect them to effectively handle such a task, I need to make sure I teach them how to. I use the resource 'Groups at Work' because I find it offers plenty of activities for effective dialogues and discussions. Laying the foundation for effective discussions in the first week, will pay dividends down the road. 

Day 5 - Instructing
This is basically day one of the course that you may have traditionally experienced. As you can see, each of the previous day's lessons has not even touched on curriculum yet! In the traditional classroom this might be the point where you begin to freak out and say "How the hell am I going to cover the curriculum now that I've lost 4 days!" However, as a flipped teacher this is the point where you begin to relax and say "Now that I've spent 4 days teaching them the basics, and laying the groundwork, I can now ensure we effectively cover the course curriculum" (or something to that extent right?). With a flipped classroom, you have plenty of time to cover the course material. You can lengthen, shorten, combine, or do whatever to your videos (if that is what you are using to distribute information) and therefore ensure you cover the course material. You have time to cover necessary skills, that previously, may have been overlooked because you need to "just get through this lecture". Time becomes your friend as you can begin to manage it in a much more reasonable way, slowing down the delivery, and ensuring understanding. This is one of the best things about the flipped classrooms!


  1. Thank you, Jason! This really helps. It was great meeting you at the TLDW event.

  2. Great first week tips! Looking forward to the co-flip this year!