As I See It
By ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO
Well, in the first place, what is flipped learning all about?
Surely, educators understand what flipped learning is, but for students, parents, stakeholders, and even our FilAm Star readers, it might be a strange thing for them which needs to be explained.
According to an article by Bridget McCrea, entitled “4 ways schools are overcoming flipped learning equity challenges”, it is a way of closing the ‘Homework Gap’. Flipped learning, which is growing in popularity among K-12 teachers, includes the use of both pre-made online videos (a teacher selects one that is appropriate for his/her class) and those made by the teachers themselves that will complement the online videos. While often defined simplistically as “school work at home and home work at school,” flipped learning is an approach that allows teachers to implement a methodology (or various methodologies) in their classrooms, according to the Flipped Learning Network (FLN).
More specifically, FLN defines flipped learning as “a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”
That means, it is a teaching style or approach employed by teachers. This teaching style becomes difficult to administer when connectivity to student’s residence is not possible. According to CoSN’s 2015 Annual E-rate and Infrastructure Survey, three out of four school systems do not have any off-campus strategies for providing connectivity to students at home and after school. Also, 88 percent said affordability was the biggest barrier for families lacking Internet access at home.
So the race is on to improve digital equity off campus. Schools are becoming resourceful and creative in approaching this problem. They have found ways to work around the issue and successfully administer flipped learning in K-12.
Another barrier, as surveyed by CoSN is limited service due to lack of available broadband service. “Students who lack Internet access service outside of the traditional school day cannot maximize learning opportunities in a digital environment,” stated CoSN in the report, “the so called ‘Homework Gap.’”
To ensure digital inequity doesn’t happen blocking the way to learning, McCrea suggested the following ways.
First, use student-owned iPods or MP4 players. When Jon Bergmann, chief learning officer at FlippedClass.com, began experimenting with flipped learning 10 years ago, he quickly learned that 30 percent of his students lacked high-speed Internet access at home. To get around this challenge, Bermann started uploading videos to student-owned iPods and sending those devices home.
“I would hook them up to my computer and drag and drop my files onto them,” said Bergmann, who added he sees this as a viable solution for teachers who are struggling with the equity issue. “Students can even use them while in transit, on the bus to a sports activity, or in a home where broadband isn’t available,” he added.
Second, give students time and a place to work. Assistant Principal at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, IL Chris Geocaris said his district’s diverse student base… was brought to light during a recent Chromebook implementation. To help level up the digital equity issues that surfaced, the school extended its library hours, remodeled the space to include more tables, Wi-Fi access points and collaborative workspaces, and asked teachers to give students enough/reasonable time to get their flipped learning assignments done.
“We make it very easy for our students to get to the library 30 minutes before school starts and during lunch periods and during study halls,” said Geocaris.
Third, train students and teachers on efficient usage. “You can’t always influence a family’s willingness or ability to purchase high-speed Internet access for the home, but you can educate students on the fine points of working with the bandwidth that they do have,” said Dan Blevins, instructional technology specialist for Killough Middle School/Alief Independent School District in Houston. “You can also train teachers on how to create content that can be accessed and viewed in a very efficient manner”.
Blevins said this two-pronged strategy works particularly well at the middle school level because students at this level are gaining independence but still lack the maturity to responsibly manage bandwidth usage. “We teach them the techniques, discipline and responsibility needed to operate under low-bandwidth conditions,” said Blevins.
Blevins explained that, “To a middle school student, an hour is forever — particular if the Internet isn’t fast enough… In some cases a teacher might feel great that he/she just created a 15-minute video without realizing how much time it’s going to take for a student to view it in a low-bandwidth environment. We help them work through these issues to come up with a plan that reaches a broader group of students, whether they have high-speed access or not.”
And fourth, put flipped learning materials in a central repository. Used by most Warren Township High School’s math teachers and some of its foreign language classes, flipped learning has become an important teaching tool for many of its instructors. So, to ensure students have a central repository to work from for their flipped learning lessons, the school asks all teachers to use its Canvas Learning Management System (LMS).
“We started seeing accessibility issues with teachers posting videos in different locations and on different platforms,” Geocaris explained. “Students weren’t finding what they needed and couldn’t do their homework.”
Once we ensure teacher’s creativity in approaching digital inequality and implementing the four ways suggested by McCrea, flipped learning will surely be a success in the classroom helping students learn!
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