Flipping the Classroom

So I’ve decided to jump onto the “flip classroom” band wagon.  =)  Now in my 2nd year of instituting a flip class I think I’ve finally given over to the idea that not everything has be taught by myself in class.  With dance and with the students I work with it’s all about working smarter.  I tell my middle school students all the time that I can’t afford to teach them the way a studio teacher would teach beginner dancers (at the age of 3).  I understand that although they are beginners they are older and the movement I learned when I was 5 (point, point, point, close to 1st and plie) isn’t appropriate for teenagers.  I also don’t want them to miss out on the necessary technique that will help them develop their dance knowledge.

A flip classroom reverses how learning occurs.  Instead of the teacher teaching everything in class, students are responsible for learning concepts at home so that they can delve deeper into these and other concepts in class.  In my dance classroom it looks different than a core subject (English, Math, History, etc…) but really the concept is the same.  Instead of having to use class time to teach vocabulary or give a brief synopsis of dance history, a flip classroom allows me the opportunity to focus more on the actual movement (not just the definition), and the ability to physically move thru dance history rather than simply taking notes about the history of Jazz dance.  This also builds in knowledge for students prior to them actually moving in class.  I find that it’s beneficial for students who have little to no dance experience (physical or visual) to view movements prior to class so that when we work thru it they can recall what they saw in a video or read about via our flip class assignment.  What I love most is that it becomes a tool for those students who are eager to learn more.  I find that they use the online resources in order to improve their performance in class.  They go home and practice phrases I put online, they study vocabulary, and they watch and rewatch videos so that they get any information they may have missed in our class discussion.  This class approach is excellent for students who are over achievers but it is also incredibly powerful for students who need more time to “get it”.  It basically supports all learners and in today’s classrooms we have students with such diverse needs that it can sometimes be impossible to make sure that each need is met.  With a flip classroom students become responsible for their learning and are given the tools to be successful in class if they really want to.

I currently use Edmodo (www.edmodo.com) as our flip class platform.  This flip class site is set up a lot like Facebook which makes it easy to maneuver thru for many of my students.  I am able to post pictures, documents, link videos and articles.  I can also create assignments and quizzes that will easily show the teach who has and hasn’t turned in assignments as well as help grade assignments and quizzes depending on how you set it up.  Students can ask questions about an assignment or quiz online and I am able to answer those questions for them and others to see.  Students can post their own homework, videos and pictures directly online which helps teachers when it comes to grading.  Now instead of taking folders home, or having to save all these videos on a USB I can login in and directly view student work.

So what do about students without internet access at home?  Lucky for me I have an amazing District Dance Coordinator who is eager to see this succeed in my class.  In addition to the school provided desktop computer for students, teacher desktop computer and laptop, she has provided me with 5 mini iPads.   I am sure I could get more computers but since I teach dance, it’s not safe to have 10-20 desktops lining the walls as we dance.  That is why these iPads are key to the success of this concept.  They are easy to use, fulfill all the needs of a flip class room (online access, camera for recording, music editing, etc…), and are easy store and get out of the way when we are dancing.  With all this students have access to the technology and internet needed to complete assignments before or after school.  I also tell that in today’s world internet access is everywhere and that it is their responsibility to learn how to access it whether it be at McDonald’s, Starbucks or their local public library.  Not having a phone or internet access at home is not an excuse for the work needed to done for class.

So far I have seen great success.  Every year I struggle to get students to sign onto Edmodo but by the 2nd 6 weeks students are accessing it weekly, if not daily, and are participating in all assignments and quizzes online.  It’s not easy, but what I find I have to make this tool key to their success and once they see that they jump in!

If you have any questions or anything to share that you have done to institute a flip class please share!!

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