There has been much discussion about the value of the flipped classroom (an excellent infographic can be found here by @Knewton), and one can now even become flip certified via the Sophia website . Here the teacher sets works before the teaching that students do by themselves, and then the lesson time is spent with the teacher covering that which wasn’t understood. So basically in their homework time they do their learning and then in lesson time the teacher facilitates their understanding of a topic rather than starting teaching them from something being a new topic.
Whilst (IMHO) there me a case in a widely differentiated class of 30+ students when teaching for an hour (meaning each student gets mathematically <=2 minutes each), and it would assist if the students came in knowing some of the topic beforehand, in the classes I teach (of less than 10 students) I do have the time to make sure each student understands what the topic is in the time I am with them.
However, for my Year 8 (US Grade 7) class their next ICT unit that I designed (another feature of a private international school, the freedom to develop the curriculum) is entitled: “What is inside a PC?”
We will look at this thing called a PC that the students take for granted and look at the parts that are inside this magical black box. However, in addition, I will have the students learning about website design, and then once they have a basic understanding of the parts inside a PC create a website to show off their understanding.
I found, in previous years, that students love to see what is inside the PC case, and are amazed at the simple yet complicated nature of it. They are also adept at using websites, but have no real understanding of what HTML or CSS is, or how to create them (though there is always one or two exceptions!). Therefore I try to tie the two topics together.
I will use both traditional and flipped methods of teaching to aid their learning. Whilst we will start with the PC itself and what the purpose of the CPU, RAM, ROM, PSU, battery, HDD, etc. are they can do an online course to learn the basics of HTML/CSS, and then I can apply their theoretical knowledge to the way this really works with Adobe Dreamweaver. The aim being to speed up their understanding of what they are shown in Dreamweaver so that everything is not new, and when I go through the terminology/tags used in website design they can impress me with “I know what that is Sir”.
So the first task is to set them up with accounts on the Codecademy site in order that the students can take the Website Fundamentals course. A feature of this system is that students can earn badges, so in order that they can let each other know I have had set up individual student e-mails, and then via the Google Apps for Education system we also set up a group e-mail so that they can let everyone in the class (and myself) know how far they have got. Tried this part last year, for the first time, and most (not all) of them loved to work through the exercises, even if it was only to gain the badges and let their peers know they had achieved such and such.
There is a very good review of Codecademy by @The Good MOOC last April (A review of Codecademy). Students gain badges for completing exercises, and for x,y,z number of activities per day. Now because this is being flipped and undoubtedly my students will come up with a few excuses as to why they didn’t understand such and such an activity I did them all first. Some of the activities will be difficult for them to understand, yet with the exception of a new student with extremely limited English language skills, all my students if they can get over “this is too difficult so I can’t do it” phase are capable of completing the first sections “Introduction to HTML” and “Introduction to CSS”. Other sections they may find difficult, which is good, as I don’t want them to believe that everything is simple. I want them to appreciate that a teacher is there for a reason; to aid their understanding and to bring about clarity where once there was a mist.
So now I too have lots of these badges:
Just to show them that I too can do this!
Well we’ll see how this year’s Year 8 enjoy being flipped – by the Christmas holiday they should have their websites done, demonstrating an understanding of what is inside a PC case, and have themselves lots of badges to prove they have completed lots of exercises.
Hopefully some of them will do such amazing work that I will be looking to send them (accompanied by myself) to Bucharest in a couple of years’ time for the Infomatrix competition.
Here is a wordle image of the text in this blog post.