Sunday, July 30, 2017

She Pushed Me! #flipblogs

Looking for the one inspiration for flipping my class leads to one of two stories, a long winding yarn about observing an amazing teacher, Dena Leggett (@denakleggett), and her first year of flipped AP Chemistry class, much contemplation and consideration, or a very short single word – data. In 2011, the week of inservice before school starts included a twenty-minute session about flipping the classroom. Dr. Leggett presented data from her AP Chemistry class and the data from Clintondale High School Algebra. At the time, I taught on-level physics in Texas where every high school student is required to take physics on an algebra II level. This lofty goal was quite a struggle when the students in my class included many who had not even passed algebra I or chemistry yet.

Dr. Leggett flipped her class in 2010 with great success based on the model proposed on the AP message board by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams. I had the opportunity to observe her classroom, help her troubleshoot the issues, and see the results for myself. But this was AP, I teach on-level. It might have ended there, but then she showed data. Seeing data where failure rates dropped from over 50% to less than 20%, made me realize I could not continue without giving flipped learning a try.

That afternoon, I met with my teaching buddy and let him know I was going to flip. I hoped he would join me, but I was okay doing this by myself. It was a tough sell since we had good lessons and activities, but he reluctantly agreed and we got to work that afternoon finding a video for the first day. (Keep in mind this was 2011 and YouTube was not the educational resource it is today, Khan Academy was to high level for my course, others were not mathematical enough.) After a few hours of searching and previewing, we found suitable videos for day one. We created our guided note with the YouTube link. We also wrote a letter to parents explaining that their student was telling the truth, physics homework was watching a video and taking notes.

We did it, flipped our first day. Just like any homework assignment some did it, some did not. Some students had notes and some did not. So far it was not much different. There were some benefits. We had a lot of class time to actually finish an introductory lab on measurement, collected all the data, worked on questions, wrote conclusions, and even got to the post lab. Students had time to think and collaborate. We had time to talk to each student, make sure they could measure correctly, and lay the groundwork for good data collection for the rest of the year. That was something very new for our course.

We were happy enough with the initial experience, we kept going. The two biggest struggles we faced were learning to create videos that matched our content and making sure students had quality activities to do the learning. The best reason for flipping was it made learning physics less painful for many and a joy for more. Looking back, we learned, changed and improved so much after that crazy first attempt, but you must start somewhere. We jumped in, it was not pretty, but we
didn’t drown. Thanks for the push, Dena!