A 2014 study indicates that 46% of U.S. principals expect that new teachers to the profession should already know how to flip a class upon graduation from a teacher training program. There is also a growing body of research which demonstrates that flipped learning is showing significant growth in student achievement, satisfaction, and teacher satisfaction.
As schools begin to implement the model, what kinds and type of support should school leaders provide? This past year I worked with a group of teachers from a variety of schools which was implementing flipped learning into their classes. I was with them three to four times during the year and got to know their successes and challenges. Several of them had great results and are saying they can never go back. Others faced significant challenges which left them frustrated. They are convinced that flipped learning works, but they needed a greater level of support.
I have pondered their situation and have come to the conclusion that we need a more systemic approach to flipped learning. Though flipped learning can be executed by one teacher in a class with little support from administrators, it is not ideal. It is time for schools, and especially school leaders, to set up systems which will ensure maximal success for teachers.
I believe three systems need to change for flipped learning to flourish on a large scale in a school or district: technological systems, pedagogical systems, and evaluation methodologies. Underlying all of these is the need for simplification. Our technological systems, pedagogy, and evaluation methods are too complex. In this post, I will address the technological systems, and in my next two posts, I will discuss the pedagogical and the evaluation methodologies needed to implement flipped learning at scale.
Technology infrastructure matters. If there is inadequate technology, flipped learning is difficult to implement. All of the large-scale flipped learning cases I have seen around the world have had to invest significantly in the technology infrastructure.
It is important to think through what technology is best suited for your school or district. When I consult with schools starting on this journey, I insist on spending time with their IT staff discussing their unique technology infrastructure. Integration is the key. Which tools a school chooses should integrate with existing each school’s technology infrastructure? They need to address questions such as:
- Does this tool compatible with our single sign-on platform?
- Does this tool integrate with our learning management system?
- Does this tool integrate with our student information system?
- Does this tool work on all of the school devices?
- Which tools are best for the-the hardware infrastructure of our school? The best tools for a PC are different than for a Mac and still different yet for a Chromebook.
These and many other integration questions should be answered before bringing flipped learning to scale.
There are many ways to create flipped videos. Teachers can use their smartphone, a document camera, or screen capture software. Choosing the right suite of tools makes a big difference in the success of any flipped learning initiative.
Where will the videos be stored? Should a school host their videos on YouTube, TeacherTube, Google Drive, or in their learning management system? Each of these decisions is best made systemically. It is not efficient if teachers are hosting their videos in different locations.
Learning Management Systems (LMS)
I have seen cases where one school has one teacher using Edmodo, another Schoology, another eChalk, another Google Classroom, and yet another Moodle. Though each of these tools is good, by having so many options you only create confusion amongst the students and staff. Professional Development also suffers because technology trainers have to be able to work on any and all platforms. Thus, I recommend that a school support one LMS.
When I was Lead Technology Facilitator at a school district in Illinois, it became abundantly clear to me that I needed to develop simple workflows for teachers. If a teacher has to use one program to make a video, another one to add in interactivity, and another to host a video, then the syste
m complexity discouraged teachers from implementing flipped learning. I constantly thought about workflows that required fewer clicks and less technological expertise. When I work with schools and districts, I customize the flipped workflows with simplicity in mind. So keep it simple! Fewer clicks! Make flipped learning simple and carefully think through your workflows.
What Happens when Flipped Learning is Not Supported?
One challenge I hear over and over from teachers is that too often school-provided devices don’t work. There is nothing more frustrating than planning a lesson which requires technology, and then the technology does not function. Unreliable devices need to be jettisoned and be replaced by devices which turn on quickly and function without issues. Teachers are also frustrated with a lack of access to school devices. There may be an iPad cart or Chromebook cart, but since they can’t get timely and regular access to the devices, they quickly give up.
I realize that upgrading the technology infrastructure requires an outlay of money, but in this digitally connected world, this must be a priority in schools. So if you want to implement flipped learning with efficacy in your school or district, you must think bigger. You must think systemically about workflows and infrastructure.
I would love to hear from you. What successes have you had with flipped learning? If you are a lone teacher flipping, what do you wish your school could provide? Stay tuned for my next posts where I will discuss the pedagogical systems and the evaluation methodologies to bring flipped learning to scale.