Flip what?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the first annual Michigan Flipteaching Conference. Mind. Blown. Brain. Mush. I was so impressed with the level of quality interactions and presentations that this experience afforded me. I would like to share a few things that I’ve learned and will be using in my classroom in the future.

First of all, I would like to say that I have never been a “traditional” history teacher. You know, the kind that has an immense wealth of knowledge and can get into a conversation about any president that (if you let them continue) could last the better part of a day. That’s not me. I’ve always enjoyed studying history and have taken many history classes throughout my educational career, but my reading in my “free time” (who has any?) usually consists of ed tech articles, other professional development, leadership, spiritual development, finances, or the occasional fiction. Not that I wouldn’t like to read more history. I guess I just don’t gravitate to it. If I want to know more about something that I am teaching, I Google.

So, not being the traditional history teacher, I have struggled with what my day-to-day classroom should look like. At my core, I believe that the lecture’s role in education is diminishing. Not that I don’t believe that teachers should relay knowledge, model processes, and “teach”, because I do. I am just wresting with what this looks like in today’s classroom.

Enter 21st Century Learning. 1:1 laptops. Flipped Classroom. Blended Learning.

I can’t remember when I first heard of the concept of a “flipped classroom”. It was probably from one of the wonderful teachers I follow on Twitter (if you are a teacher and not on Twitter you need to be, it’s like 24/7 PD). I also attended a couple sessions on flipping at the 2012 MACUL Conference in Grand Rapids, MI. Since then, the idea has been in my head, but my biggest obstacle was what it would look like in a history classroom (most examples are in Math and Science). I also heard an inspiring presentation during a summer class for my Master’s program (go MAET) by a teacher who had great success flipping her classroom.

But I still had so many questions. If history is so content-based, what will we be doing in class if the content delivery takes place at home? How much time will I have to spend creating videos? What learning management system should I use to keep everything organized?

After the conference this weekend, I finally feel like I have some answers. A few sessions really solidified things for me. First, I attended a session on Edmodo. Although I have been resistant to Edmodo (why can’t I just use Facebook if it looks like Facebook and my students are already on Facebook, whine, whine whine..) I now think that it will be the best choice for me. I am especially excited for the opportunities to have more online discussions and post pictures and videos of my class happenings as it will be a closed group, whereas my current Facebook page is open and therefore one-sided as far as communication. Edmodo is also easier to manage as compared to other lms’s.

Second, I truly enjoyed the Flipping in Social Studies session. It was a very small group of teachers, which allowed me to ask all of my burning questions. Also, the presenters, @davidfouch and @kls4711 did a great job of relaying what flipping looks like in their classroom. One thing that stood out was how different each of their classrooms are, yet how much the same. The overall theme was that these two teachers were teaching their students to take ownership of their own learning and to go deeper in their learning. They also had more time to work with students in class in small groups and on a one-to-one basis. They had more debates. More primary source annotation. More learning! As I listened to them and talked to them, I was inspired. This was what I wanted for my classroom!

Lastly, what I really appreciated about the conference was seeing the “evolution” of the flipped classroom. As the t-shirt said, “It’s not about the video”. More and more, I am seeing that this method is about creating more space for learning. Isn’t that what all teachers want? In a world with high-stakes testing and curriculum out the wazoo, don’t we all want more time. I see now that even though I don’t spend much time lecturing, I am spending too much time in my classroom having my students learn the surface-level facts in different ways. I want more depth. I want more ownership. I want more learning. If I “flip”, I can give my students the surface facts and push them to dig deeper. We can spend class time asking questions, researching, creating, discussing, sharing, and exploring. In the end, I hope my students have learned more than I (or anyone else) could ever teach them about history. I hope they learn how to be better learners.


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