In the beginning …
there was a student. An ill student who couldn’t get to class very often and was thus sucking at Science. It was a real shame, not just because she was a very bright student who could do well in Science but mostly because she was a student who loved Science. She didn’t enjoy many of her classes but ours was one that she always felt happy in – it was a positive place that really focused on curiosity and not so much the assessments (they was there but in the background). And it was right and it was good. This is how a student should feel when they walk in that room. Safe, curious and cared about.
Unfortunately, this student got sick. Like, really sick. The sort of sick that you’ll be alright from eventually but you might have to miss months of school at a time. She loved the class and kept asking for work but this was difficult for her without a teacher to explain it. So I started sending her home videos. This was late 2012. I setup a class blog for her to follow and found videos that explained what we were doing in class. Simple as.
This was the first video I shared with students:
Then something happened. I started explaining things in class over the next few weeks. Kids were bored some of them started asking if they could just start the assignment in class. They’d already had the direct instruction because some of the students were watching the videos at home. Not everyone but a few. Then others saw that those early adopters weren’t having to wait through my lecture to do work and they started watching the videos. In a short time, I had my whole class flipped. Accidentally, but effectively. I felt like Alexander Flemming.
It took longer than I would like to admit before I got the balance of class work right and even longer until I was making my own videos that I was happy with but we got there in the end. Sort of. Our classes are still definitely a work in progress.
For us, the book below by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams (buy it here – I get no commission it’s just a great book for those starting out) was where we first codified what we were doing. Gave it a name so to speak. A friend from work threw it at my desk one day with the gruff: “This looks like the S*%$ you do in your class.” I read it in a few days and all of a sudden it came together. I found an online community and a real world one. I learned ways to maximise the effectiveness of the face to face time. When I eventually met Jon Bergmann and Aaron Samms at FlipCon Australia 2015 I was star struck in a way that I wasn’t when I met Eddie Vedder or Angie Hart. This book changed the way I taught. It was our roadmap to a journey we hadn’t been aware that we’d started.
The real upshot here is that I didn’t even realise there was a problem in my classroom. Flipped Learning made my classroom a better place in a way that I wasn’t sure that it needed. It’s like that crack in the corner of your windscreen. You might not notice it at first but once you do it catches the eye every time you get in the car. Every time I entered the classroom before I transitioned from part to full Flipped Learning I could see that I was missing an opportunity. Worse, I could see that my students were missing an opportunity. The students in my early Flipped Classrooms were engaged, full of questions and (mostly) excited. In my non-Flipped Classrooms, they were compliant and fine but not as excited. Hell, I can hold a crowd. I’m an excellent story teller (in person anyway). But this was different and better.
There is nothing unusual in my tale. In fact, I think you’ll find that for those early adopters this is the most common story there is. We care so we get creative in trying to help those students who struggle. It just happens in this case that I found something that helped all of the students. We weren’t trying to invent something or become part of an “educational revolution”. We just saw that the technology had finally given a solution to a problem that had been there for so long.
This post was written as my contribution to the #FlipBlogs Twitter chat that happens on a Thursday Morning in the Eastern states of Australia.