13 February 2013

Flipping Heck - the difference a flip makes

Flipping the classroom is something I have been thinking about since I read Flip Your Classroom last summer. However, despite the book being really informative in both clearly explaining how Bergman and Sams' journey evolved as well as in consolidating my belief that flipping is a great method to differentiate, personalise and manage the diverse learners we find in our classrooms today, there were a distinct lack of good English class examples out there. I can clearly see the advantages for science and maths, but English has often already been flipped to some degree, in that we often ask for reading to be done preparation for a lesson, where discussions and writing are then supported.

My explorations led me to Sophia.org, who offer a great free course on planning and thinking through rigorous and authentic flipped lessons. However I became stumped after the theory part and at the point where I had to actually start planning a flipped lesson that went beyond the 'normal' for my subject.

Then I stumbled over the Flipped Learning Network - where I have now become a moderator for the Secondary English Group. It's a great place of contribution and discussion, where plenty of sharing goes on and where I had the fortune to come across Flipped Learning expert Cheryl Morris (@guster4lovers) - who is also an English teacher!  Her Blog post 'How to Start the Flip' helped me realise there is more than one way to flip a classroom and that many of us, including me, are already actually doing it. In her post she recognises four main 'flips' - 'Flip 101', 'Asynchronous Flip', 'Flipped Mastery' and 'Co-Flip'.
  • Flip 101: this is what immediately comes to mind when thinking of flipping; an instructional video that learners watch at home in readiness for class, where they can be supported in further more detailed exploration in real time
  • Asynchronous Flip: this involves using a video in class; recording reading or instruction allows learners to work at their own pace and re-watch as needed - as Cheryl Morris says, 'they can work ahead but they can't get behind'.
  • Flipped Mastery: this involves taking one or both of the above methods and integrating into it mastery levels that must be reached before progression - essentially grading or testing against curriculum standards to assess the learning
  • Co-Flip: the most important elements of this style are that it is:-
    • learner-centred; 
    • uses higher-order thinking skills (HOTS)
    • highly values collaboration - between educator and learner, learner and learner or educator and educator 
    • instruction takes place according to demand - on video or in real time; synchronously or asynchronously; self-paced or everyone together; mastery or not
From Cheryl's Tweets and Blogs (morrisflipsenglish.com), I have learned a great deal and, in conjunction with the Sophia.org Flipped Classroom teaching course, have made headway into flipping my classroom. Here are some short examples of what has been effective in my brief foray into the flipped world.

FLIP 101: Recount Writing
I have found this SO beneficial for my learners and was amazed at how much it allowed us to be ready to progress in class. Learners watched a video about Recount Writing that I prepared by creating a Google Presentation, recording a screencast using Quicktime and editing it in YouTube Video Editor - some of this was because I also needed to know HOW to do the recording and editing to teach my learners (see CO-FLIP below).

I created an assignment on Edmodo that asked learners to watch the video as many times as needed to understand and when ready, click on TURN IN and write 
a) what they understood by recount writing using their own words, and 
b) a question about something they were still unclear about, which became a 'Need to Know' list for us to address together to ensure clarity and understanding. 

Reviewing the learning in the lesson the next day with the success criteria from the video showed me just how much they had learned from the video and were totally ready to go to work on planning the actual writing. Even the ESL learners were able to contribute their understading meaning they were in a better position to keep up with the first language learners.

Asynchronous Flip: Reflections
At the start of the year we created an awesome project out of the sliver of an idea intended to fill the chaotic first week. It developed into a full blown fully differentiated Unit that we taught grade 6-11 about the importance of thinking about how you present yourself to the world.  Part of it involved writing a poem about themselves and presenting it, in the medium of their choice, to the class. We got sculpture, painting, collage and puppet shows as well as the websites, videos and songs. You can see some of them on the Showcase page of the website. To try to tackle the different learners and abilities, I created two sets of lessons with videos, to instruct how to write reflections - one for a written reflection; one for a audio version. Learners were able to work through the lessons individually at their own pace whilst I was able to support them. Having a Google Site means I can group learners and send them to different pages where instructions are differentiated, so their is no 'stigma' or obvious groupings that can often cause upset in classes when it is more explicit that the work is being differentiated.

Co-Flip: How to create screencasts
As part of our huge Octopus's Garden Project, learners have had to master many different skills. Part of the phase the recount writing, outlined in the Flip 101: Recount Writing section above, involved creating a collaborative video. I have never done this before but had heard about YouTube Video Editor. I created a Film Making Workshop page and found two great little videos about a) uploading to YouTube and b) editing in YouTube. A lesson or so later, learners were struggling with the screencasting element of the process so, there and then, in the lesson, I demonstrated how to create videos from presentations, and created and added the video tutorial to the page for review.

I took part in some PD lately that taught exactly the above same thing about YouTube Editor, but instead of a few little quick videos, the presenter stood and talked and demonstrated and it was less effective, less clear and we were not able to go back and review at a later date. And this is an important lesson - we don't always have to make the videos ourselves. There are tons out there already; as educators we are stretched to the max as it is; we know our leaners well enough to know that if they need instruction personalised for them, we can tailor make a video for them. However, we should also be able to take advantage of all the other experts out there already doing this (like Cheryl!)

As mentioned above, I came across Sophia.org in my search. Today, I completed the Flipped Teacher Certification Course using my Recount Writing Workshop lesson. The course is short but in-depth and covers the whole process from writing clear, meaningful objectives that are backwards by design, to differentiating assessments. It is a great course and learning site that allows you to host flipped lessons and offers eight different file paths, from text to video, to upload to create your tutorials - you can even create screencasts directly on to their site. The only issue I have, as a Google Apps for Education Certified Teacher, is that you cannot easily add links to Google Docs, although the inbuilt iFrame embed codes in Google Forms mean they can be added easily.

Flipping is something I am definitely going to explore more as I feel it makes an awful lot of difference; the readiness of the learners to go ahead and write was brilliant for the Recount Writing lesson; the fact that they can review the learning whenever they need to and watch it as many times as they need to is also beneficial in establishing a mindset that takes learning beyond the confines of the lesson. Flipping the classroom empowers learners to take control of their learning and make it part of their habits of mind. Flipping heck :)