Monday, July 27, 2020

What is Flipped Education in a Remote Learning Environment?

So much can be said about the incredible creativity that has come out of the time students and faculty spent engaging in education online. While there was a lot of experimentation and some of it was less than ideal, these few months of online learning forced all of us to look at what we need most out of an educational experience for children of different ages. For all students, the need to engage in learning that was live, authentic, and relationship-based became paramount. For younger students, stamina had to be taken into consideration when designing videos, zoom sessions, and activities (both online and offline), and for older students, accountability, and empathy needed to be simultaneously taken into consideration when crafting each lesson.  It became a balancing act. 

Regardless, one thing became apparent.  Zoom lecturing reminded a lot of us of the "chalk and talk" days of old.  Zoom began to feel formulaic and teacher-centered.  We began to see the progress revolution that took place in education, the child-centered values we have embraced, and replaced by a lot of lectures.  The question becomes, how do we prevent this while still making sure students gain the information they need without having to "teach themselves"?

While there should not be one recipe for running a class, I have thought a lot about ways we can use Zoom to re-create in-school environments.  In school, thankfully, students are not lectured to all day.  They are not a recipient of information. Instead, students are active in the learning process.  Hence, it's essential that at any grade level, online education embrace our student-centered educational values. 

This past year, our first grade implemented Singapore Math.  After extensively training the year before, our five teachers threw themselves into learning this new style of teaching mathematics.  We found that the best way to teach online math to first graders was to create short videos providing quick how-to's.  Then, Zoom became time to work on a difficult problem together, discuss a core strategy (or many, alternative strategies to solving the same equation), or practice questions.  This model empowered the first graders to "own" their learning and created a forum for students to have much of the same rapport and critical thinking that existed when in the classroom at school. 

Imagine following this up with students submitting assignments on SeeSaw videotaping themselves explaining why they are doing a problem a certain way using a particular strategy?  Imagine kids making how-to videos showing others how to solve a problem differently. 

Now in older grades, imagine students posting comments on each other's strategies complementing them and offering alternative methods or solutions?   We just took something that could have been very passive and made it an active, engaging lesson in math and critical thinking.  We just created a classroom community, not just an assignment.

While we live in a somewhat unpredictable time, we can never abandon our passion and dedication to making education not just about embedding knowledge, but also and more importantly developing minds.