Why has the Flipped Classroom evaded English Classrooms? or Why has English instruction avoided the Flipped Classroom model?
I attended the NCTE convention in Chicago the last few days and these two questions, virtually the same, have been bouncing around in my head.
What led me to really begin asking these questions?
Up until 2 years ago, I had been gradually introducing more technology to my classroom. One piece this year, another piece the next. However, I decided one of my strengths as a teacher was my ability to infuse the curriculum with technology. I worked formerly as a Television Writer/Producer and was required to continually learn and be on the cutting edge of technology. I was stupefied to come into the classroom and see such an aversion to technology in a lot of areas. I decided to take the leap to more technology by cannon balling in and stop the piecemeal disorganized way I had done it in the past.
I already used the Writing Workshop model. Then I read "The Digital Writing Workshop" by Troy Hicks and got inspired to forge forward. Last school year, I also attended the NCTE Convention in Orlando. One of the biggest highlights happened on day 1 when I saw Troy Hicks, Bud Hunt, and Sarah Kajder present in a session titled "Creating Opportunities for Learning with Newer Literacies and Technologies: Three Reports from Cyberspace". Hearing these speakers not only gave me great ideas and inspiration to bring into my classroom, they also validated my decisions on the uses of technology.
After that, the convention sessions where informative but not mind-blowing until day 3 (Saturday) morning when I lucked into a session called "Using Google in Ways That Haven't Even Been Invented Yet: Visionary Reports From Cyberspace." In this session, I watched Andrea Zellner, Sara Beauchamp-Hicks, and again Troy Hicks talk about their uses of Google Apps. I sat in that session seeing small snippets of what they could do and said to myself, "I want to do that." Their presentation inspired me to become a Google Certified Teacher, which I accomplished this past summer in Seattle.
One of my biggest take-aways from the convention was there were people doing what I was trying to do. And, these people were getting respect and adulation for that work. There was hope!
As my teaching and technology infusion progressed, I came across the Flipped Classroom. As I researched this, I saw it as a way to effectively implement the Writing Workshop model. I previously blogged on my decision to move to a Flipped Classroom, so I won't rehash all that here. However, up until this point, the most support I've found in building my Flipped Classroom PLN has been from science and math teachers.
A few weeks back, in a twitter #edchat, the topic of the Flipped Class was discussed. As I have done some presenting on the Flipped Class and had been researching it extensively, I followed the chat and contributed when I felt I could. Brian Bennett was going a great job of answering many questions. Then one of my responses drew criticism from Bud Hunt. Yes, the same Bud Hunt that I had admired just 11 months ago (and still do). It seemed to me that Bud didn't agree with the Flipped Classroom model. I felt he was oversimplifying the issue, but in his defense, in 140 characters, everything is oversimplified. I don't think I swayed his leaning much, if any. I told a colleague the next day that it was difficult for me to have someone whose work I admired be against something I had so embraced. I hoped maybe I mis-interpreted Bud's argument because of the concise nature of twitter.
When the online program was released for NCTE11 in Chicago, I immediately began searching for sessions that I would like to attend. I typed "Flipped", "Flip", "Flipping", and any other variation into the search box and came up with zero results. There were still many other good sessions I planned to attend.
On Thursday evening, I participated in a Google Plus Hangout with a handful of Flipped Class gurus (Aaron Sams, Brian Bennett, Dan Spencer, Jerry Overmyer, Ramsey Musallam, and Karl Fisch) discussing a project. I was the lone English teacher in the discussion. All the others are math and science. I was the "red-headed step-child" of the group. Here I sat in a hotel with 6000+ English teachers and I was spending my time talking with math and science teachers. It didn't quite seem right (no offense, guys).
I sat in 8 hours of sessions on Friday and got some good information. Almost every session, I noticed, brought up Google in some way. I saw presentations by fellow Google Certified Teachers, and learned small tidbits of useful knowledge here and there. But, nothing was said about the Flipped Classroom anywhere.
Things changed in my second session on Saturday. I have been considering implementing a NaNoWriMo project with my students. For those that don't know, NaNoWriMo refers to the National Novel Writing Month and helps writers gain the skills to write a novel in one month. I attended a session that included Tracy Becker. She seemed very knowledgeable and well-read as she quoted John Jazwiec, John Steinbeck, and others. Her work was clearly researched based. Then it happened....she mentioned the Flipped Classroom. My ears perked up and my tail started wagging like a dog hearing its name. Tracy was looking for ways to get more in-class work time and had decided to try the Flipped Classroom model later this school year. There was no reaction from the audience. None. Almost as though they hadn't heard her. And, like that, she was on to her next point.
I listened to the rest of her presentation and the two presenters following her. After the session, I introduced myself to Tracy and told her about my experience with the Flipped Class. (Jon and Aaron, since she is from Michigan, I also told her about the Flipped Class Conference coming to Chicago in June!) We only had a few minutes to talk, but listening to her verbalize her decision to move to the Flipped Class, I saw she was where I was about 7 months ago. I was thrilled to meet another English teacher, a respectable, intelligent one at that, come to the same conclusion about the Flipped Classroom that I had. Coincidentally, she got the idea from some math teachers at her school.
This leads me back to my original questions: Why has the Flipped Classroom evaded English Classrooms? or Why has English instruction avoided the Flipped Classroom model?
I'm not saying the flipped class is right for every teacher. But, I'm surprised more English teachers haven't embraced or even tested the Flipped Class in a small way. I was discussing with a parent early in the school year the amount of English teachers that have flipped. I said, "I realize that if I am one of the few people doing something, I am either 1) extremely progressive or 2) terribly misguided."
The Writing Workshop, while a great method that I am still implement, wasn't fully meeting the needs of my class. So, I toil forward, either being extremely progressive or terribly misguided, hoping to find more English teachers willing to try Flipped Instruction. Thank you, Tracy, for giving me hope. Thank you, Bud, for challenging me to really assess what I am doing. I am still committed to the Flipped Classroom because I am seeing great learning happening in my classroom and wonderful work coming from my students.
I've proposed a session for ISTE in June titled "Flipped Instruction in the Language Arts Classroom". I am considering a similar proposal for next year's NCTE. I know it's a gamble (that's a joke for the NCTE folk as they know the conference is being held in Las Vegas). But maybe it will put the Flipped Classroom on more English radars.
So, in answer to my initial questions, I have no idea. Do you? I'd love to discuss this with any English teachers either for or against the Flipped Classroom. Comment here, tweet me @tcockrum, or accost me at an upcoming conference.