Flipped and blended instruction have never been far from my mind this year. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this mode of instruction is neither new nor transformative. That said, thinking about and around blended instruction can help teachers reasses their role, their practices and their use of technology. This is where we find ourselves as a school community and, in my first year in a newly created position of Instructional Technologist, I find myself in the fray of the flip, so to speak.
Coming into this academic year, my co-Instructional Technologist and I identified eight skills for teachers to explore. Flipped/Blended instruction was one of the eight. We pulled together resources, produced our own meta screencasting demos via screencast and led faculty meetings on the topic. Some polling places are still reporting, but I am happy to say we have made some progress.
Now comes the interesting part.
I have said repeatedly this year that the best part of this model is using it to not only win back class time and reach learners where they are, but also to empower these learners to demonstrate their own understanding. I believe that flipping the flipped script is a way to extend the reach of all the potential teachers in the room. Students need to answer questions about their own understanding and the tools they choose in order to demonstrate it in this manner.
The seed for this thinking is a project I did in Spanish 3 about four year ago. This was just about the time Khan Academy hit the mainstream. I called the project Khan-onnolly Academy. (Genius, I know. Thanks for saying so.) I challenged my students to present on a grammar topic from the semester. This meant they had to go back and master the topic, conceive of a script and rehearse the presentation. They also had to assess the tools at their disposal and make a decision based on the needs of their project and their own comfort level. Some used Screencast-o-matic, some used Educreations and others used Explain Everything. I was happy with the results and we pulled them all together so that every student walked away with access to the whole archive. They also walked away with experience with a new tool and a framework for how to evaluate the tools for future use.
This class-sourced archive of videos and knowledge had life. It represented their understanding, their choices and their voices. Students could carry these files with them as a representation of what they had done and a resource to review later. I could also share these tutorials horizontally (i.e. other Spanish 3s) and vertically (i.e. Spanish 1s, 2s & 4s). We could also archive them to share with next year’s Spanish 3s to use as both a review of the material and a seed for future projects. This is what really supercharged my thinking.
As I said, we presented on flipped instruction throughout the year and as recently as a few weeks ago to the full Upper School faculty. We used Screencastify specifically because a) it’s a solid platform and b) it was easy enough to push out to our faculty via Chrome. The presentation went mostly according to plan and the feedback was robust. We looked at the tool in a number of different applications: direct instruction, review and even potential uses in athletics. We had teachers produce their own short clips as a way to familiarize themselves with Screencastify and walk away with something–however short and choppy–that they could reference.
Now two weeks later, we have our first real content. Two Statistics teachers put together a project in which students had to produce a video on confidence intervals. Aided by a detailed rubric that covered the write-up and the video, students put together videos that were sound in their math and strong in their presentation. (We are working on best practices to make the videos shorter but linked to related and/or sequential content internally.) I debriefed with the math department chair and we identified some future areas of exploration: rubrics, best practices, ways to streamline the process and share the content. The latter area took my mind to previously-unexplored places. It helped enormously that the math department chair is one of the directors of the community service program. Using the flipped model in service of an individual student’s understanding? Check. Using the flipped model in service of a while classes’ growth? Check. Using the flipped model in service of younger students, for instance those in the K-8 division at our own school? Check. Using this model as a way for our students to connect with students in schools and at sites we serve, both in a normalizing and challenging way? Check! Related to the last point, we envisioned working with classroom teachers to produce and share two kinds of tutorials: those directed at students having difficulty meeting minimum expectations and those directed at students who needed “challenge problems” to stretch their thinking.
I believe that taking ownership of the content and the tools has enormous benefits to students. They need to consider questions like “What are the key concepts? What is the best ‘hook’? How can I best use time and transitions? How can I evaluate tools in order to find the best one for the task?” I also feel that connecting students through their work benefits student on both side of the equation. I also have seen that hearing older students’ voices can be both inviting and engaging to younger students. Another benefit? If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then a well produced video is worth many more. Whereas in the past I might spend time in class laying out the expectations and requirements, now I can share a sample and say “Here is what I’m looking for. Now go do it better!” With almost every opportunity, they have.
Now, we are not all there yet, but we will be. Along the way, we will be thinking about other tools, other applications and other audiences. Stay tuned.