By Jon Bergmann
As flipped learning continues to grow, there is a greater need for flipped learning to scale beyond individual teachers flipping, to larger roll-outs with systemic planning and leadership. This article is the first out of seven in a series.
A 2014 study indicates that 46 percent of US principals expect that new teachers to the profession should already know how to flip a class upon graduation from a teacher training program. There is also a growing body of research which demonstrates that flipped learning is showing significant growth in student achievement, satisfaction and teacher satisfaction.
As schools begin to implement the model, what kinds and type of support should school leaders provide? This past year, I worked with a group of teachers from a variety of schools who were implementing flipped learning into their classes. I was with them three to four times during the year and got to know their successes and challenges. Several of them had great results and are saying they can never go back. Others faced significant challenges which left them frustrated. They are convinced that flipped learning works, but they needed a greater level of support.
A more systemic approach to flipped learning is needed. Though flipped learning can be executed by one teacher in a class with little support from administrators, it is not ideal. It is time for schools, and especially school leaders, to set up systems which will ensure maximal success for teachers.
Three systems need to change for flipped learning to flourish on a large scale in a school or district: technological systems, pedagogical systems and evaluation methodologies. Underlying all of these is the need for simplification. The current technological systems, pedagogy and evaluation methods are too complex. This article addresses the technological systems; the pedagogical and evaluation methodologies needed to implement flipped learning at scale will be discussed in a subsequent article.
Technology infrastructure matters. If there is inadequate technology, flipped learning is difficult to implement. All of the large-scale flipped learning cases I have seen around the world have had to invest significantly in the technology infrastructure.
It is important to think through what technology is best suited for the school or district. When I consult with schools starting on this journey, I insist on spending time with their IT staff discussing their unique technology infrastructure. Integration is the key. Which tools should a school choose to integrate with existing technology infrastructure? Schools need to address questions such as:
- Is this tool compatible with our single sign-on platform?
- Does this tool integrate with our learning management system?
- Does this tool integrate with our student information system?
- Does this tool work on all of the school devices?
- Which tools are best for the hardware infrastructure of our school? The best tools for a PC are different than for a Mac and still different yet for a Chromebook.
These and many other integration questions should be answered before bringing flipped learning to scale.
There are many ways to create flipped videos. Teachers can use their smartphone, a document camera, or screen-capture software. Choosing the right suite of tools makes a big difference in the success of any flipped learning initiative.
Where will the videos be stored? Should a school host its videos on YouTube, TeacherTube, Google Drive, or in their learning management system? Each of these decisions is best made systemically. It is not efficient if teachers are hosting their videos in different locations.
Learning Management Systems (LMS)
I have seen cases where one school has one teacher using Edmodo, another Schoology, another eChalk, another Google Classroom, and yet another Moodle. Though each of these tools is good, having so many options only creates confusion amongst the students and staff. Professional development also suffers because technology trainers have to be able to work on any and all platforms. Thus, it is recommended that a school support only one LMS.
When I was Lead Technology Facilitator at a school district in Illinois, it became abundantly clear that I needed to develop simple workflows for teachers. If a teacher has to use one program to make a video, another one to add in interactivity and another to host a video, then the system complexity discourages teachers from implementing flipped learning. School leaders need to make flipped learning simple and carefully think through their workflows. Workflows should be customised to require fewer clicks and less technological expertise.
What Happens when Flipped Learning is not Supported?
One challenge heard all too often from teachers is that the school-provided devices do not work. There is nothing more frustrating than planning a lesson which requires technology and then the technology does not function. Unreliable devices need to be jettisoned and be replaced by devices that turn on quickly and function without issues. Teachers are also frustrated with a lack of access to school devices. There may be an iPad cart or Chromebook cart, but since they cannot get timely and regular access to the devices, they quickly give up.
Upgrading the technology infrastructure requires an outlay of money but, in this digitally connected world, this must be a priority in schools. So, if school leaders want to implement flipped learning with efficacy in their schools, they must think bigger. They must think systemically about workflows and infrastructure.
I would love to hear from you. What successes have you had with flipped learning? If you are a lone teacher flipping, what do you wish your school could provide? Stay tuned for the next article in the next issue of Education Technology Solutions where the pedagogical systems and the evaluation methodologies to bring flipped learning to scale will be discussed.
For those interested in learning more, you can meet me at FlipCon Adelaide 2016 (17–19 November 2016). For more information or to register, visit FlipConAus.com
Jon Bergmann is one of the pioneers of the Flipped Class Movement. Jon is leading the worldwide adoption of flipped learning by working with governments, schools, corporations and education non-profits. He is the author of seven books, including the bestselling book: Flip Your Classroom, which has been translated into 10 languages. He is the founder of the global FlipCon conferences, which are dynamic engaging events that inspire educators to transform their practice through flipped learning.