I remember when I first started teaching, a venerable and veteran teacher bemoaning the professional development and having to do curriculm mapping AGAIN. I was taken aback by her jaded position, but now I understand that she has seen the trends come and go with a lack of follow-through and longevity. I get it, because I've been on the educational merry-go-round too. Why spend all that time on training for something that will not be around in 2-3 years? Teachers need positive reinforcement and structure just as students. Likening it to athletics (and mixing some more metaphors), why train for a race that one will never run? But, shouldn't entering the race be up to the athlete? Does the coach have to be the one to tell the athlete when to run? Maybe it is the fault of the administration for not following through with the implementation of a trend, but shouldn't it be the teacher's job to determine the longevity and use of a trend?
This same teacher got irritated when administrators would dictate how/what to teach, but yet, she was bemoaning the fact that the administration was not following-through and making sure the teachers stuck with the trend. Her complaint is contradictory: she was irritated with being told what to do, but was equally irritated when she was not being told what to do. The longevity and follow-through of trends should be on the shoulders of the teachers. There will always be trends in education and progressive supervisors/teachers will want to explore the trends and see how they can enhance one's teaching. Education/teaching cannot be stagnate-- I have been teaching the same texts for the majority of my career, but I can state that how teach those texts is not the same year after year. Educational trends should not be dressing up concepts in "new" clothes, regurgitating the old and making it seem new. The trends cannot be about false appearances. The trends should be tools in a teacher's toolbox. Not every job requires a hammer, so change tools as needed, but make sure the right tools are in the toolbox --invest in a solid, well-built hammer the first time instead of buying a new one every time the handle breaks. Educational trends need to be more than trends; they need to be solid, well-built tools for longevity in education.
Is the flipped classroom model one such tool? I like the concept for revitalizing classes and encouraging student responsibility. Especially for traditional teacher-centered classes flipping can enhance the classroom experience. "Well, duh, that's an obvious statement," I'm saying to myself as I type this. Flipping seems akin to independent study and just another version of student-centered learning. Am I dressing my class up in new clothes that aren't really new? Is flipping a sheep in wolf's clothes? Will it amount to nothing, cool in appearance but lacking in substance? Will flipping have longevity? Or is it just a cool trend that will fade only to be recycled and repackaged again in 7-10 years? Is this a hammer that I will actually use or will I just drop it on my foot?
I need to wrap my brain around the logistics of flipping. Without daily access to computers in class, this won't be easy. BYOD will help, but without the computers or a consistent use of technology as a base for allowing all students to be more independent, I'm afraid to totally flip. But are daily computers absolutely necessary to flip? I do want the students interacting with each other, not just being absorbed by the computer. And do I need to flip? Aren't I flipped enough already with all the cooperative learning, teacher-as-facilitator that goes on in my class? Some of the more traditional & mundane units can be enhanced through flipping-- grammar instruction definitely needs to get jazzed up-- talk about dressing up a sheep in wolf's clothing!
My spring drama unit seems to already to be flipped. Students studied Pygmalion outside of class, completing assignments through Edmodo, while in class we watched/read/analyzed West Side Story and Romeo & Juliet. Most of the concepts in Pygmalion were reinforced and connected to WSS and R&J. Assessments were personal, varied, formative, and summative. Students really enjoyed learning about appearances, dreams, ambiguities, the use of language and connecting it to their lives. If you ask nicely, I could give you the group code to see this past year's class on Edmodo and you can poke around and see what I do. I'm still stuck though: is this really flipping or is it just independent study? And does it really matter what it is as long as my students are engaged and accountable in their learning?
Some quotes to consider when thinking about appearances and reality:
"The world more often rewards the appearance of merit than merit itself." -FranÁois de la Rochefoucauld
“If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a horse have? Four, calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg” - Abraham Lincoln
And, those of you who are flipped, may be thinking that I'm being as negative and contradictory as the venerable and veteran teacher I mention above. I'll admit, I'm wearing my skeptical black hat ( http://www.debonogroup.com/six_thinking_hats.php/ ), but in order to make an informed decision about how I teach, I need to deconstruct in order to reconstruct. First I question, then I create.
Quoting Albert Einstein, "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." I will learn from previous trends/educational models; I will use/apply what I can as I teach today; I will do more than hope for the education of my students: I will continue to question to make myself a better teacher. Through questioning, I will always find answers.