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Scaling Flipped Learning Part 1: Technology Strategy

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 post is the first out of seven in a series. The other posts are:

A 2014 study indicates that 46% of U.S. 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. KeepItSimple

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 which was 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.

I have pondered their situation and have come to the conclusion that we need a more systemic approach to flipped learning. 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.

I believe 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. Our technological systems, pedagogy, and evaluation methods are too complex. In this post, I will address the technological systems, and in my next two posts, I will discuss the pedagogical and the evaluation methodologies needed to implement flipped learning at scale.

Technology

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.

IntegrationEverythingMustIntegrate

It is important to think through what technology is best suited for your 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 a school chooses should integrate with existing each school’s technology infrastructure? They need to address questions such as:

  • Does 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-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.

Video Creation

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.

Video Hosting

Where will the videos be stored? Should a school host their 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, by having so many options you only create 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, I recommend that a school support one LMS.

Workflowsundefined

When I was Lead Technology Facilitator at a school district in Illinois, it became abundantly clear to me 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 syste
m complexity discouraged teachers from implementing flipped learning. I constantly thought about workflows that required fewer clicks and less technological expertise. When I work with schools and districts, I customize the flipped workflows with simplicity in mind. So keep it simple! Fewer clicks! Make flipped learning simple and carefully think through your workflows.

What Happens when Flipped Learning is Not Supported?

One challenge I hear over and over from teachers is that too often school-provided devices don’t 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 which 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 can’t get timely and regular access to the devices, they quickly give up.

I realize that upgrading the technology infrastructure requires an outlay of money, but in this digitally connected world, this must be a priority in schools. So if you want to implement flipped learning with efficacy in your school or district, you must think bigger. You 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 my next posts where I will discuss the pedagogical systems and the evaluation methodologies to bring flipped learning to scale.  

 

8 Responses

  1. Hey Jon, you are absolutely correct regarding the need for a robust technology infrastructure. I am the first to advocate that we must focus first on teaching and learning when developing digital learning plans, but we also must provide a robust infrastructure that support tools, resources, and systems that enable powerful digital learning opportunities for all students.

    In my new role working in schools across an entire district, I have also realized that flipped learning workflows must be tailored to specific grade levels and take into consideration the pedagogical focus of each school. As I’m sure you’ve encountered in your travels, the best tech tools and workflows for flipping an elementary PBL unit are vastly differently from a mastery-based high school geometry unit.

    Thanks for highlighting the need for school and district level support for educators willing to explore Flipped Learning and other innovative approaches to teaching with technology.

  2. Joanne Ward

    True! Great article. In my experience, students would start to consider me and flipped-learning as a joke if all they do is signing up to different once-used platforms. It’s difficult for 14 years old kids to keep track of things so I have to make it simple and keep one portal for everything. I can use several, but I better embed them on a website or a LMS so my kids do not need to spend too much time on finding things, then they start to feel annoyed, then they stopped learning.

    I once used a on-line quizzing website and because of the logic of the program, it was very unfriendly and finally my students were tired of it. Eventually, it turned out to be a joke that my students laughed at in their convocation. It’s good to have something to be remembered by my students, but hopefully not in this way again 😛 @@

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