“Only Connect” – flipped, reverse or blended learning?

External commitments and partnership work meant that I didn’t teach last year and I missed it.  But I’m back in the classroom. It’s only a tentative one period a week this year (snorts of derision from colleagues), but it’s the first time I’ve taught away from the English GCSE “Legacy” syllabus and I feel vulnerable again. I’m rusty and uncertain and I have to build new learning relationships with Year 11 and teach them poetry.

I’m also determined to approach the structures of learning by using some of the research and ideas I’ve read about and seen in schools over the last couple of years. It’s an exciting time to be a teacher. Our developing Bring Your Own Device culture and IPad pilot are statements of intent in the incorporation of technology into learning. Our students are leading the way also @iamjsanderson ‘s iDHSB app is part of the way we work and @YasinSoliman is a  lower school tech champ! As professionals we need to connect with the zeitgeist.

So I’m trying something new. “Flipped learning”, among other terms is used to describe a learning experience in which students engage with learning material outside of the classroom and then bring their understanding to the classroom. The Khan Academy is a good example of this approach. The contention is that models of learning are traditionally the other way round, with students absorbing material in class and then going home to reflect and consolidate their understanding. Not all students find this easy and can feel trapped with their uncertainties at home.

It’s not really important what the “Flipped” approach is called. Sometimes the taxonomy of learning strategies can be bewildering and rather, well, “smug”. Connecting with students in the right way at the right time is what pro-teachers are able to do.

I only see my students once a week (smirks from colleagues), and I need them to connect more often with the ideas from our classes so I’m using Twitter to post links, share ideas, set questions and the #Yr11Eng tag to chart progress. Conversations outside of school also deliver implicit skills about the appropriate use of social media and taking the initiative in your learning.

Three weeks in and it’s not happening yet. Most of the posts above are mine. There are flashes of interest but these are probably related to the novelty and my seemingly bizarre insistence on the approach.

It’s a risk but I’m sticking with it. Poetry works on an emotional plane; ideas and connections are made as images and references emerge from our subconscious. I’m not sure I can always expect the most profound responses to poems to be forthcoming in a class full of peers at a prescribed time in the week. Gentle nudges to think and reflect outside of the lessons doesn’t feel like “flipping”, it’s the way I would love to have been taught.

It’s the way I learn now.

13 thoughts on ““Only Connect” – flipped, reverse or blended learning?

  1. Gfutcher

    We have My Big Campus, a social network supplied by Lightspeed Systems. I’m using it to post discussions that become the ‘homework’. Everyone has to post and I can see quickly who has and hasn’t. It also means shared learning is available to all students. Contextual details for Sarah Waters’ The Night Watch? Done as a team. Everyone can access this to support their A Level coursework. MBC also has a assignment setting function as well as iPad, iPhone and android apps. Anytime learning and collaboration! And what’s more, the Lightspeed system allows for school specific web filtering allowing us to be in control and flexible with the filtering we deploy.

    1. This sounds great, Gary. Would like to see it at work. Is it a social media function that sits within an existing VLE or is it the whole virtual platform? How long did it take for the students to adapt?

      Kieran Earley
      Devonport High School for Boys

      1. Susan Marsh

        I like this idea of embedding this within an existing VLE. Last year I set up a Y7 Science Twitter account to discuss Science issues. The students did express concerns that parents weren’t happy for them to use Twitter. The idea that students can engage with this in a ‘safe’ environment sounds very appealing.

        1. I wrote to a Year 11 parent on this issue too. Perhaps we can look at alternatives, as you suggest, as a school? Gary at Notre Dame has written an interesting piece about MyBigCampus below.

          Kieran Earley
          Devonport High School for Boys

        2. RWM_LearningLab

          Interestingly my Year 7 really responded well to twitter and daily twitterQs it was the Year 11 that did not want to take part. You are also up against the mindset “you only want to get more followers”-untrue but difficult to get them to believe it. My Big Campus certainly looks good, will discuss with classes and see what they think.

  2. Robert Maitland

    I have tried “flipped learning” last year and after discussing it with my Year 10 & 11 classes we are going to try it again this year, using mainly Khan Academy but also some YouTube lessons created by my Year 7’s last year. Anything that gets pupils thinking for themselves and taking ownership of their learning must be a good thing. As has been said for many years by Universities and employers we are producing students who are brilliant “exam passers” who have little ability to think for themselves. So any use of flipped classrooms, SOLO taxonomy and the requirement that “in this room”, “on this network” or “on this social site” you are require to put effort in and think must be encouraged.

    1. RWM_LearningLab

      We are not in 1912 but I fear that some of our teaching methods still are ????.

      1. The other issue is that students probably find it easier to be told the answers so there is a challenge on both sides of the learning relationship.
        Kieran Earley
        Devonport High School for Boys

  3. Paul Barnett

    Khan academy has a good maths app that we could use on the iPads in the classroom. Worth investigating…

  4. Alison Shafee

    Maybe a parent friendly tweet or link would help? So parents could read the poem and spark a discussion. May be of interest to boys not in that class.

    1. Good idea – will do!

      Kieran Earley
      Devonport High School for Boys

  5. Hannah Rowe

    We use the Khan Academy at home to teach the kids programming skills and, rather futilely, improve their mother maths (this is after an honest admission that my eldest son’s knowledge has now far outstripped mine). I tentatively like the ‘flipped’ approach to learning but can see problems. It relies heavily on the child’s thirst to learn and the parents ability to help. It is fine to say the emphasis is on the child but it will be the parent who deals with the frustration when a child does not understand (and they are perhaps unable to help!). It is a good tool used in balance with other methods but I would hate to see it being used the majority of the time.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I totally agree. This approach should only enhance the learning relationship, not replace it. I’m trying hard to engender Twitter use as a point of contact outside of hours for tough Qs; patchy progress so far. Parents are welcome to comment too!

      *Kieran Earley
      Devonport High School for Boys
      Paradise Road, Plymouth, PL1 5QP
      01752 208787
      dhsb.org / Twitter: @kieran_earley

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