Training Screenagers to Flip

One of the little obstacles that I have dealt with whilst flipping my classroom is the ‘mystery of the forgotten quiz’… all too often, otherwise conscientious students were just forgetting to complete the quizzes that accompany my videos.  You can see the platform that I use at www.sophia.org .  These have an important role in the teaching and learning process, and the results help me to tailor my teaching and respond to learning needs from the class.  The question is, why was this forgetfulness happening?  The students were watching the videos, and taking notes but they were somehow overlooking the quiz?!  As you can see, it’s not hard to miss…Spot the Quiz?!

I had no answer for this conundrum until I considered some personal reading on the power of habit and ritual (‘Daily Rituals’ by Mason Currey-check a review out here)…sounds a little prehistoric and gory, but stay with me…young people today only seem to consume media/look at screens in a passive context.  Therefore are they habitually hardwired, when their laptop or tablet is in front of them, to disengage their learning brains?

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Active Learning in the Flipped Classroom

What is ‘Active Learning’?  Well, for me it is a little more than getting the young people out of their seats!  There is something magical in seeing a group of pupils really get their hands on their learning…and for me the flipped classroom approach has allowed me the time to do this more often, and with greater impact than before.Whilst discussing Pythagoras’ theorem and specifically Pythagorean Triples , the question came up “where is this used in real life?”  Some hasty research later came the answer…the builders of the Pyramids used a variation of the Pythagorean theorem, and a class project was born!

A 22 metre climbing rope was issued, with some instructions on how exactly these historic builders used triangles to help them in their efforts.  The class were then able to use the concepts learned in class to create a giant (I didn’t anticipate the size to be honest!) right angled triangle using equally spaced knots to measure side length.

Using the climbing rope to create a '3,4,5' triangle in the school hall!

Using the climbing rope to create a ‘3,4,5’ triangle in the school hall!

As I watch my flipped classroom evolve, and the young people become more and more acquainted with the new ideas and approaches we are discovering together, it becomes easier to let go somewhat in their learning process.  However, I feel that a level of proficiency in certain skills is required before you can become confident enough to tackle a practical problem.  So we worked for a little while on traditional problems until we achieved a level of mastery (more on this another day!) that we were all happy with as a class before tackling the practical activity.

Pre-activity working with Pythagorean Triples

The impact on the learners in the classroom, well maybe not quite in the classroom, was striking in terms of their enjoyment and their engagement with the task.  Even a week later(an eternity if you are 14!) they still remember Pythagoras’ theorem accurately and show a level of understanding that I have not experienced before as a teacher.  Maybe this ‘deep learning’ stuff does work after all…

Watching yourself teach?! Cringe?

One of the guidelines that I have given myself when producing the videos for the Flipped Classroom project is that they are ‘one take’.  If I screw up, then I do it live, just like I would in class, recover from the ‘deliberate’ mistake and move on.  We have all thought from time to time, no matter our level of experience “I wish that I’d explained that better” and it is this kind of reflection that makes you a better teacher.

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Reflections on the flip so far…

Well, I did it! I am one topic into my flipped learning experience, and despite being a Maths teacher of 8 years experience, feel like I’m starting all over again.  Guess what though…that’s a good thing!

What is ‘flipped learning and the flipped classroom I hear you ask?  Well if you click ‘Flipping Info’ above I have posted (or will do very shortly, I promise!) a host of videos and lectures that explain both the concept and methodology of ‘flipping’.

Safe to say, it is much more than ‘the kids watching videos instead of homework’.  To me, this project so far has represented a shift in my practice that is much more focussed on the learning of young people than my teaching and exposition.  Rather, it is a shift in my pedagogical approach that allows me to be available for the young people in the class to teach them more on a one to one or small group basis.  It is the best use of my limited face to face time with the young people in front of me, to paraphrase Bergmann and Sams in their seminal book Flip Your Classroom.

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