This is the second post of five blog posts on the 5 Essential A’s of the Flipped Classroom. Following on from the first ‘A’ of Accountability, I think the second essential characteristic of flipping is the ability to Access the teacher.
A number of educators have already made very good points about how the Flipped Classroom allows teacher to spend more time with individual students. A shift to a student-centred approach to teacher, where more content acquisition takes place outside of the classroom effectively allows all students more one-on-one access to the teacher during lesson time.
This excellent Edutopia article from flipping pioneers Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann makes the point that the Flipped Classroom “gives teachers more time to interact with students one-to-one and in small groups”.
Bergmann, in this Edutopia article also discusses how flipping allows teacher to spend “lots of quality time with each child”, helping teachers to “know students better both cognitively and relationally”.
The Flipped Classroom undoubtably allows teachers to spend more time with individual students during class time. However, what I suggest is that the students benefits greatly from the ability to have access to the teacher outside of lesson times. This is the true essence of blended learning, where the learning is not limited to what happens in the classroom.
The ability to access the teacher, even only briefly, in the time between when the students access the pre-learning material and the time the students enter the lesson, can be exceedingly beneficial. The opportunity for students to clarify any issues that they are finding challenging, prior to commencing a lesson can be of great benefit. This is of particular importance when students are engaging with centralised concepts that have an impact on other content areas. If a student has a pressing need to know, based around the concepts they have been engaged in at home and they are unable to address this with their teacher, this can have a significant impact on their comprehension of other content. Often, this can lead to considerable time spent, with one or more students, at the beginning of lessons reexamining concepts and content to ensure that all have access to the learning. Often, a few quick questions, asked by our students and answered by us, can make the difference between a productive lesson and a lesson where we are playing catch up with the content.
We have experimented with a number of ways to offer access to the teacher in our context and our teachers use whatever method they feel comfortable with. Our learning platform for the Flipped Classroom is iTunes U, as we have moved to a student supplied iPad environment. The latest update to iTunes U included a discussion forum feature which has allowed our teachers and students to clarify difficult concepts that arise in the pre-learning material. An added benefit of this is that as the forum is open to the public so often, we have found that other students are happy to answer their peer’s clarifying questions. Twitter too, is another method our teachers are using to ensure students have opportunities to ask questions. Some of our teachers have created subject specific hashtags or students to tweet to, allowing the teacher and other students to respond. A few of our teachers have also distributed Google Docs to their classes via Doctopus. If they add a question as a comment, the teacher, as the owner of the document automatically receives an email notification. Opportunities for teacher access need not be a complicated as this. As my classes are quite small this year, I am in regular email contact with my classes. The opportunity this provides for students to quickly clarify their concerns has been very beneficial for my students this year.
Allowing time for our students to have access to us beyond the four wall of our classrooms is definitely a balancing act. In our context our 100 minute lessons usually mean at least a day between each lesson, allowing more time to field student questions. However, allowing a window of opportunity, prior to each lesson for students to ask questions is something that should be achievable for most lessons. Having access to the teacher beyond the classroom can only benefit our students as they learn through flipping.
The third post in this series will examine the role of assessment in the Flipped Classroom.