Monday, September 30, 2013

My "flipping" classroom

I've been seeing a lot of talk lately (twitter) about "flipping" the classroom. What it boils down to is increasing teacher/student working interaction by using classroom time as "homework" time and home for the instruction time. The teacher provides instructional material through the use of video, audio, or other for the students to take in on their own time outside of school. The result is class time used for more direct, teacher guided practice and projects done during the school day. This drives away the possibility of students struggling to pass a class because of homework since it's done under the supervision and support of the teacher. Sounds pretty good, huh?

Well, I have to be honest, I've been doing my own version of this for several years now. I created a blog that I post mini-lessons to. These lessons are a quick 5-6 minute re-teach of the day's lesson. I use my document camera to take a single take of the lesson. I then upload it to YouTube, and pop it on my blog. (take a look here). The kids and the parents (especially the parents) love it. It's a great way to keep up with the class, and to see how I'm teaching the material.

The trouble I'm finding is that up here in Fairbanks, there are sill quite a few families that don't have internet. That may be simply because they live so far out of town there isn't service available, or maybe they can't afford it, or maybe they think the internet is The Government's way of keeping track of you (a more real fear up here than you might think). In the end, there is still a strong percentage of kiddos that don't have the internet for me to expect them to watch my lessons at home.

Truth be told, I have a tough time expecting my students to have any homework done whether that is watching one of my videos from my blog or the traditional homework assignment. What that means is that I have to use my class time for observable practice. I make it my goal to see as many problems each of my students does in my class each day. I need to see with my own eyes how all 120+ of my kiddos are doing when they are right in front of me. I can't expect parents to be helping, or for them to be doing the work diligently at home. I have to instead anticipate the fact that I have no idea what home life is like for my crew of students, so it's on me to teach them while they're right there in front of me. And if I can see them do the examples on their own, or with the help of a neighbor, then I know that for the "now" they get it.

Now, do I still assign homework? Sure. Math is a skill that needs to be practiced, and a strong majority of my kids find the time to do that work for a little bit of credit (5pts/assignment). But I find ways to still help the kiddos that simply can't get any type of homework done. I do this because I believe my job is about assessing what the kids know, and not on whether they can do homework. So for example, I can take the performance shown on a quiz and extend that documented knowledge toward a homework score. And then when/if that assignment does get finished, I can replace it with a new score, because I will take any assignment late as long as it's turned in before the end of the quarter it was assigned.

In the end, I do provide my lessons to the students out on the www, but what I've learned about "flipping" my classroom has more to do with me striving to effectively teach, and assess my students while they are right there in front of me, and less about expecting them to accomplish anything at home... even if that thing is watching their favorite math teacher teach! :)