The Flipped Classroom: A Genre of Teaching

@MrBrettClark 4 Comments

I am always surprised by the variety of reactions I hear when I tell people I'm a believe in the flipped classroom.

"I want to try that with my students."

"I've been doing something similar for years."

"I'm not a fan."

"I don't like lectures and homework. Isn't that what flipped classrooms are all about?"

It's this last one that tends to stick with me the most.  I'm ok with you not being a fan.  The flipped classroom isn't for everyone and everybody knows there are no silver bullets in education.  What bothers me is when people make assumptions about what the flipped classroom is and what it's not.  It also bothers me when people lump all flipped classrooms together.

I have been wondering lately if the way mainstream media has portrayed the flipped classroom incorrectly and the negative connotation that some associate with the flipped classroom should cause us to move away from the term all together.

However, let me explain why I don't think that is necessary.  The flipped classroom is simply a genre of teaching.  Think of your favorite genre of movies.  You can certainly think of good and bad movies that you've seen but that doesn't stop you from watching that genre of movies.  From a personal example, I love comic book movies.  Batman & Robin was terrible, but it's not going to stop me from watching The Dark Knight Rises or discredit comic book movies all together.

The same should be said for the flipped classroom, or any teaching style for that matter.  The flipped classroom is a genre of teaching, and just because there are bad examples out there, doesn't mean you should throw out the genre all together.

For every Brett Ratner (bad) there are J.J. Abrams, Zach Snyder, and Peter Jackson (great).  The thing is, if you look around the internet and follow #flipclass on twitter, you are going to find there are some amazing teachers doing amazing things with the flipped classroom.  Check out the flipped classroom section of this website for more and I certainly haven't captured them all.

This genre is constantly evolving.  Check out Brian Bennett's post about "Redesigning Learning in the Flipped Classroom" for more information about the evolution of the flipped classroom.  All I'm asking is please don't instantly discredit what we are doing simply based on perception.


The Road Ahead

@MrBrettClark 3 Comments

It's hard to believe that this year is coming to a close.  As I'm writing the blog I have 9 days left in the year.  This has been an amazing school year with its usual highs and lows.  Although, the highs this year have been a lot higher and the lows have been few and far between.  After spending 9 years in the classroom, I took on the role of an elearning coach in my school district.

As I look forward to the summer, I am excited about the opportunities I have to share the work I do with others.  I will be speaking at The Flipped Classroom Conference in Chicago in June.  The conference is full but you can still attend virtually.  Then in July I will be speaking at The EVSC eRevolution.  This is a free elearning conference with a tremendous schedule.  Both conferences are going to be exciting and I can't wait to meet so many people I've only talked to through twitter!

Even though the two conferences and a family of five certainly gives me plenty to do this summer, I would love to add more to my schedule.  If you are looking for somebody to speak, in person or virtually, on technology integration, building a PLN, twitter, professional development, leadership in a 1:1 environment, or the flipped classroom, please feel free to contact me.

Summer Schedule
June 18-20 The Flipped Conference
July 11&12 EVSC eRevolution 

As the year to comes to a close don't forget to take time to reflect on this past year's greatest moments of success and it's greatest learning experiences.  For me, one of the greatest moments of success was delivering professional development on the flipped classroom and the student centered classroom.  It is fun to discuss the work we do and to help push each other to be better educators.  

The greatest learning experience I have had this year has been the struggle to make sure it is about the learning and not about the tools.  I think it is very easy to get caught up in the latest cool tool and to try to find a way to make it fit what we teach.  I am thankful I have some amazing people in my life who have helped me to learn to always look at the goal before looking at the tools.

The Road Ahead
There are many changes, as always, in store.  Next year the team I'm a part of has been reduced due to budget cuts.  Instead of helping one school I will be working with several.  Although I was deeply saddened to see our team reduced, I am looking forward to this challenge and the opportunity to work with more teachers.  Next year I hope to continue to encourage teachers to make sure every choice we make in our classrooms are centered around our students' needs.  I will continue to improve my ability to deliver professional development by flipping my PD. I want to make sure to tell as many people as I can #YouMatter.

Let's continue this conversation in the comments.  What was your greatest moment of success this year? What was your greatest learning moment this year? What are you looking forward to being a part of next year?


What's Killing Education

@MrBrettClark 1 Comments

*Disclaimer* This is kind of a rant that began to form in my head after this week's #edchat

We have a major problem in our society and our country and I think it is killing education.  No, it is not standardized testing.  I am not a fan of standardized test, and they certainly do more harm than good.  However, standardized test are simply a tool.  With any tool, we must ask ourselves what is the purpose of the tool?  The purpose of the tool is to determine the "success" of the school and to rank schools and individual teachers.

This is what is killing education: our obsession with rankings.  It's true, we are obsessed with rankings.  They are everywhere!  Everything and everyone is constantly being ranked!  It's in our advertisements. "Choose the number 1 toothpaste in America".  It's in our sports (BCS, AP/Coach's poll).  It is everywhere.

And I must admit, I get pulled into this obsession with rankings all the time!  I'm a huge Indiana basketball fan.  All we can talk about right now is how IU is ranked #1 in the nation next year and they are 5+ months away from playing their next game!  I love movies and if I'm on a website and I see some kind of "Best 10 (fill in the blank) movies ever" I have to read it!  I can't help myself.  It could be "The Top 25 Best Alien Cat Movies" and I would read it!!  I've never even seen a movie about alien cats.  I'm the worse at the end of the year and everyone has their "best of 2012" post.  Just lock me up and take away my Macbook.

I can think of very little good that comes out of ever ranking anything.  However, I can think of several reasons why we should be against rankings, especially in education.

1.  It Starts Arguments

I don't care what you are ranking, you will never find a perfect way to rank things.  Just play along with me.  Name the top 10 Worse Kevin Constner Movies of All Time.  I know what you're thinking, "Only 10, I can name 20." However, that's my point (It's The Postman by the way).  All of you reading this would have your own separate opinion based on your likes and background.  I remember when Rolling Stones came out with the best 100 guitar players ever and hearing people debate it.  Even on ESPN radio, they debated it because that is the purpose of rankings!

Rankings are designed to start arguments and divide people!

Do we really want this in education?  Do we want "The Top 25 Middle Schools in America"? All it will lead to is arguments and divisiveness among people who felt like their school should have been on the list.

I know I've heard multiple times when a school or a teacher is being advertised as "one of the best in America" is, "yeah, but let them try that with my kids".  Instead of wanting to learn from them, teachers resent them because of their rankings.  Now, that is obviously the wrong attitude to have, but those are the facts.

2.  It incites a sense of competition over collaboration.

I worked this year with a team of technology integration coaches.  There were fifteen of us at the beginning of the year but towards the end of the year there was the sense that budget cuts were going to have to force us to cut our team down.  My boss was given the terrible task of making us go through this little "re-interview" process and rank us.  All year long we had worked together as a team.  All year long we had each other's backs and helped each other.  However, I'll be honest with you, as I was with the people I work with, as soon as we were told we were going to be ranked 1-15, I immediately started looking around the room to size up my competition.

This is what rankings do to people.  They encourage competitiveness over collaboration.  Again, is this what we want in our schools?

If we continue to try to find ways to rank teachers, and go a step further and pay teachers based on their rankings, then we will push education in a direction that, I'm afraid, will ultimately be its undoing.

The test isn't the problem.

At the close of this post I want to reiterate that standardized test are not the problem any more than a cell phone is the problem in the classroom.  Both our tools are the problems come from how they are being used.  If standardized test were just a tool to use as one data point for our students, and they were not tied to our school performance or pay, then I wouldn't have nowhere near as a big of problem with them as I do now.

I speak as both a parent and an educator when I say that we have got to stop all of this use of standardized test (or any tool) for the purpose of deciding the success of a school or the effectiveness of a teacher.  I am all for being accountable and being evaluated but there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to education.

Rankings build up the few and defeat the multitude.

I'm interested in seeing our schools become a community of learners, a place of collaboration, and personal/professional growth.  In education lets focus on building each other up, and leave the rankings to the sports, music, and entertainment industries.