Flip that Classroom
There is no doubt about it, our school systems are under stress. There are many reasons for pessimism: Funding is tight, accountability is a major concern and the way information is accessed, stored, processed and recombined is all changing at an unprecedented speed. Teachers are expected to differentiate instruction by making appropriate adjustments for each learner in the class, classes are bigger, competition is stiffer and support systems appear to be thinner than ever before.
However, there is also cause for much optimism. Instead of revolution or reformation, substantial transformation is happening. Two of several initiatives causing a buzz in education circles are flipped classrooms and PLNs (personal learning networks).
Flipped classrooms are ones where the initial introduction to the material students will be expected to learn happens outside of the classroom. The sources of the original exposure vary greatly. They may be podcasts, fieldtrips, work and/or family experiences, sporting events, assigned readings or on-line lessons. This is followed by students physically attending class in order to collaborate, share, practice and work on developing a deep understanding and knowledge of the material that is consistent with the provincially mandated learner outcomes. The teacher assists, guides, encourages and gives feedback as needed.
Students are not expected to sit still, keep quiet and then work out any wrinkles in their learning by doing homework. They are invited to participate in their own learning, reflect on where they need assistance and share their skills and knowledge with their classmates.
With limited funds being available for professional development, and research indicating that one-off professional development sessions have limited value in the long run, more and more teachers are following Ghandi's advice to "be the change you want to see in the world". They are actively engaged in expanding their horizons by creating, culturing, and tailoring their learning to their own needs through the creation of personal learning networks. These networks centre on developing, nurturing and maintaining an interactive collaborative current community that kindles one's curiosity and feeds both the head and the heart.
Websites, webinars, blogs, blog comments, tweets, phone calls, informal gatherings, reading, discussions, YouTube tutorials – the opportunity to learn anytime, anywhere and with anyone is the reward of developing a personal learning network.
A shift is happening and it's not one that is, or can be, mandated by schools. The fundamental change is that learners, regardless of age, are becoming more involved and making more personal choices about their own learning. "What can you do?" is morphing into, "What can you and your network do?" The traditional 3Rs are being joined by 3Cs - connection, content, and collaboration.
*Photo by Kieran Oudshoorn