Instructional Tools, Technology

What the Flip(ped Classroom)?!

Ever meet one of those people who’s a soulfriend? You’ve got the same energy and pace, and you can chatter on and on about nothing/everything? And, one of those people you can emphatically disagree with till you’re blue in the face? I was lucky enough to study with one of these fine people- Marc Bliss– and we still engage in lovingly heated arguments that encapsulate everything from emoji use to echinoderms to pedagogy.
Both Marc and I are science teachers (I’ll still identify as that- sure!), and we both identify as innovative instructors… or at least we strive to be! Marc flipped his classroom last year as an experiment, and we had a great time discussing it this summer in Madrid. Marc is patient and sarcastic, which are 2 qualities I deeply appreciate, and are excellent for any colleague of mine to hold, as I’m often persistent, curious, critical, and have a wry ‘n dry sense of humor. So when I say we spent hours discussing every possible asset, circumstance, and case study on flipping one’s classroom, I’m not exaggerating.
I have to admit that unless prompted, I rarely take the time to peruse primary literature and keep tabs on instructional strategies from a research point of view, so any excuse to do this (in this case– trying to somehow find a counter argument for Marc’s flipped classroom advocacy!). I find overall beneficial to my professional practice as an educator. So off I went, trying to prove Marc wrong (ugh, it’s painful to say that!), digging through tens of research articles on flipped classrooms in the bowels of EBSCO.
And, long story short, Marc’s right (GAH!), and flipped classrooms are, too.
Despite the critical motivation for my search, I really did appreciate seeing studies published from 201x that continued to validate flipping the classroom as an effective and high-impact strategy. I was most encouraged by some of the case studies we read about on medical and pharmacy schools employing flipped classroom strategies in order to create more time in class to practice bedside manner, collaboration, problem-solving, and innovation– skills I typically do not associate with the mind-numbing grind medical school seems to be (based on my completely informal research in what I hear from my med school friends at happy hour, Facebook, etc.).
Using time at home to study potential symptoms associated with illness or disease and class time to engage with others as part of these professional programs is an excellent way to model educational and instructional practices from the top. It seems that many innovative strategies begin at the bottom (primary or middle school and some high schools) and tend not to transfer to “the top” (college/graduate school), which are still quite traditional by and large in their professional practices.
Many times my colleagues and I (high school and middle school teachers) bemoan our school’s title as a college prep school because so many of our graduates struggle their first two years in college. While many students from many different backgrounds may take a bit longer to adjust to college, our progressive school that relies primarily on group work, discussions, and PBL does not prepare students for Scantron exams or long didactic powerpoint lectures, or extremely particular tests that come directly from textbook readings, which are quite commonplace in the introductory classes in the first two years of introductory college courses.
So, I remain convinced curious on flipped classrooms. Where else can flipped learning be employed? Where does it work best? When should it not be used? When will it become obsolete? Or essential?

[Photo by Ben White on Unsplash]

Instructional Tools, Technology

Let’s Make Webinars Great Again!


“I can’t wait to get home and watch a webinar!” -said no one ever.

But, come on. Webinars have SUCH POTENTIAL! Why, oh, why are they so notoriously awful?

Webinars are something I’ve been optimistically toying with creating in tandem with an ongoing teacher training project at my work. I may have mentioned the work I do with teachers in previous entries, so I’ll keep the background curt.

I coordinate curriculum for a wide range of global education programs in schools across the country (and in Canada). Schools’ global education coordinators work with my company in order to go off the grid a bit more and work with some of the communities away from tourist centers to ensure high quality, meaningful intercultural exchange between students and community members. The program requires a fair degree of rugged travel traveling as locals do (trekking to rural villages; taking non air-conditioned trains or local busses) in addition to “austere” lodging (usually home-stays or 1- to 2-star guest houses). The students do fine and may struggle here and there, but are for the most part, readily adaptable and invested. Teachers, however, seem to be the least prepared, particularly where rugged travel and accommodations are involved, as well as in facilitating students in a more experiential/less didactic manner. After each course, the instructors at my company usually give the feedback that teachers could me more prepared, which naturally yields the question: how can we better prepare teachers for these courses? And, upon further thinking, the questions distills into:

  • How might we more efficiently prepare teachers for these courses? (ie: without providing too much more work or materials?
  • How might we speak candidly about the experience more so than curriculum?
  • How will teachers be most empowered to prepare themselves for a rugged travel course?
  • Who is the best mentor to help prepare teachers for immersive student travel abroad?
  • What might the safest audience be for teachers to ask candid questions?

I recently read an Endicott classmate’s discussion post about webinars and thinking about it in the context of professional development. Having been a teacher myself (I’ll be back in the classroom again one day!), I more readily trust another teacher’s recommendation or advice at face value versus that of a third party provider. In looking at these questions, I’m inspired/curious to start a “Teacher Ambassador Program” through my company, which might take the form of a variety of webinars. Essentially, it would involve expert, veteran teachers with global programming experience imparting wisdom, best practices, and lessons learned in the field. The webinar series may take place 3 times over the course of the year and could involve a few different topics (such as: facilitation or chaperone vs. mentor, or something like “How to Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable 101,” etc.).

While but a start, I’m intrigued to expand my (somewhat informal) research and reach out to a few veteran teachers with respect to their initial thoughts and ideas as it relates to an ambassadorship.

Come on, people! Let’s make webinars great again for the first time ever.

[Photo by Julien-Pier Belanger on Unsplash]