I first learned about the Flipped Classroom when I was at a TEDx event a few years ago. Similar to many other teachers, upon learning about the Flipped Classroom, I realized I was already doing some of this with my students. I used a class blog to house and share lessons and resources, making most of the curriculum accessible to students at home and offering transparency to parents. I occasionally posted assignments for homework that asked students to watch a video in preparation for the next day’s lesson. But I knew I could do better. Last year, I began experimenting with Google Classroom to post my assignments, instructions, and resources. Thought I felt the interface was too ‘high-schooly’ looking. You cannot really change the font style or size, but I decided to try it with my fourth graders anyway. They didn’t seem at all affected by the ‘high-schooly’ nature of the site, in fact, many of them really liked it.
This year, the rest of my team joined in. We each created a classroom and added each other as teachers. We also created one shared Grade 4 Homework site. Doing this allowed us to take collaboration and differentiation to a new level and gain insight into each other’s classrooms. We took turns creating lessons and anything you posted another teacher could use and revise for their own class. We began using Khan Acadamy to pre-teach and reinforce math concepts and in doing so, flipped our classrooms, creating a digital learning environment for our students.
What does this mean for student learning?
- It puts students at the center of their own learning. Many of my students are using their technology skills to investigate topics they are interested in and are creating their own Personal Learning Networks.
- Students are able to shine! EAL, learning support, gifted, and everyone in between!
- Students and parents have a one-stop-shop to the lessons and resources. They can access them at any time, from anywhere.
- It differentiates instruction for everyone. Students who struggle with a mathematical concept can review lessons and slow things down as needed. Highly able students can investigate deeper into concepts and extend their learning.
- Students don’t have to miss school when they miss school. They can access the lesson and materials and work on assignments outside of school when necessary.
- Parents are able to see what we are teaching and how we are teaching it.
- Transforming dinner time conversation from “What did you do in school today? asked Mom. “Nothing,” replied Little Johnny. To, “I see you learned about Carbon Footprinting today, can you explain what it means?” Parents can engage their children in conversations about what we are doing in school because they have a portal into the classroom.
- In math, this is exceptionally helpful because we teach math conceptually, where many parents were taught math procedurally. (i.e. teaching students the concept of multiplication through diagrams, models, and grouping strategies before teaching the algorithm, rather than just the process of the standard algorithm.
- Parents can also engage their children in conversations about what we are doing in school.)
- Change takes time.
- This has been a big transitional year technologically speaking for us. It’s hard to believe we are coming to the end of the first year of our 1:1 iPad program. I honestly struggle to think how I would teach without them.
- Mind Shift. Parents, teachers, and administration are in different phases of understanding when it comes to understanding what technology integration means. Whether it is getting parents on board with allowing (and believing) that Little Johnny is really using the device to do homework, and that watching a video is actually homework, or getting administrators to see the benefits of Tweeting and purchasing product licenses when the free version has reached its limitations, you have to allow people in your community time to wrap their heads around this concept. It will take time, it can be frustrating, but in the end, it is worth it!
My Next Steps:
I have been wanting to use Minecraft with my students for ages. After exploring the site, I have found numerous lessons that link directly to our curriculum. Here are a few that I found:
- PIXEL SELFIES – Building class community & culture
- Medieval Minecraft – Middle Ages Unit
- Fraction Stories– Fractions Unit
The biggest lesson I have learned is that when we flip the classroom and use games to engage students, we put students at the center of their learning and teach them how to use these tools to meet their needs and develop their interests. The possibilities are endless!