Monday, June 18, 2012

Don't just flip a lesson, try flipping your role

As an educator, I am interested in observing any noticeable benefits of flipping a class over the long run.  While I am excited about any technique that raises student engagement, the fact is that this blended teaching method is fairly new and has a few basic roadblocks, specifically, a student with poor or no Internet access at home seems to be at a disadvantage.

Never the less, I am NOT an anti-flipper (if such a term exists).  Rather, I am somewhat prudent in making evaluations on teaching techniques that I am not very experienced.

On the other hand, I would offer a somewhat different take on flip teaching that applies to any classroom - including those with students who lack Internet access at home.  This alternative flip is not based on the instruction, but rather the mindset behind the role of teacher and student.

No, I am not talking about having students prepare lessons and teach parts of a class.  That isn't new.  Instead, I am referring to a more philosophical outlook on the role of teacher and student.

The traditional mindset is that the teacher is basically trying to sell the lesson to the class (content, skills, relevance, etc.).  In this role, the teacher builds upon her strengths to develop engaging lessons in the hope that students buy-in to what is being taught.  There is a presentation, sales are tracked (grades, attendance, effort, etc.) and at the end you may even be asked to meet a quota (I'm referring here to higher standardized tests scores for those affected).

What might happen if we flip that mindset?  What if the teacher's role was the buyer with the student selling their attention and engagement?

With awareness of the competition for student engagement and attention (Internet, videos, online classes, etc.), the classroom teacher is forced to reflect on what she brings to the table that the student cannot get elsewhere and leverage that difference in the transaction.  What can the student get from you that he cannot get online?  That answer is seems more valuable today than ever before maybe because it is overlooked more today than ever before.

Face to face, physically present, connections based on responsiveness, interactions, being friendly, and establishing mutual trust

So while technology can be credited for making the flipped lesson a potentially powerful tool for student achievement, we may also want to credit technology for bringing back into the forefront a proven, yet seemingly overlooked, aspect of student engagement - the transformative power of student-centered relationships in the classroom.

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