I asked one of my students this week to elaborate on her efforts in implementing a flipped classroom model with her 7th graders this year and the reasons for straying from the typical approach of watching recorded video at home and using in-class time for practice and hands-on learning (she had previously shared that she was doing both recorded lessons AND in-person lecture). I was trying to get a sense of the limitations presented by the unusual circumstances in which most teachers find themselves. Her answer was revealing and I think underscores the amazing resilience and creativity happening in classrooms today. Given the uncertainty of her district’s response to varying levels of COVID outbreaks, she was preparing for every conceivable lesson delivery option that might occur at any given time, maintaining support for her kiddos, while at the same time developing curriculum. I’ll share her exact response below:
I do an in person lecture for students who are here, and the video is there for students who feel they need to watch it a few times as the lecture wasn’t enough, and for those who are absent. With the population I currently serve, I honestly cannot depend on the majority to watch my video either at home, or at school. With the exception of my pre-algebra students, my STAR tests were mostly from 2nd to 4th grade levels (for a 7th grade class) with the fall star test. I’m in a high poverty area, and many of my students don’t have much structure or support at home. So, that’s why I feel the need to do an in person lecture too and then provide the video as an extra resource. Right now, except for quarantined students, I see my kiddos five days a week.
I am calling my classroom flipped but it isn’t the true definition as students aren’t going to watch the video at home and come in and work. I guess I have a bizarre HYBRID flipped classroom this year so far.
Now WHAT IF our district goes red, what then? Well. My thinking is, students are going to HAVE to watch the videos I make. If that happens, well, you know what I’m going to do. I’m going to make them EdPuzzle videos and make them count for a grade. That will take A LOT of time regarding grading, as I’ll have to either read and grade a lot of open ended responses, or make up a bunch of multiple choice questions. If that happens, so be it. When I taught online before, the curriculum was already developed so I didn’t have to do EVERYTHING from scratch. I’ll cross that bridge if it comes.
WHAT IF we go orange? Well. My plan now is to HOPE they watch the videos if they need them, and NOT do EdPuzzle so the two days I work with them can be focused on practice. If that isn’t working, I’ll do the EdPuzzle thing.
Our district voted to stay in yellow still for the next two weeks. I think they did this because the majority of our population are struggling families and kiddos and the best thing for THEM is to be IN SCHOOL.
I share this “boots-on-the-ground” example because I think it’s important to highlight the heavy burden we are placing on our teachers and one that I don’t think many of us can fully appreciate. I’ll say again how important it is now and for the future that schools and districts begin allocating resources to support teachers in curriculum and content development. This doesn’t have to be groundbreaking or cost a lot. All it requires is a concerted effort to thoughtfully investigate and make available existing resources in ways that don’t add additional strain on teachers. Although reports and guides such as The Learning Policy Institute’s guide to Restarting and Reinventing School offer sound guidance on equity issues and teacher training, it doesn’t provide any guidance on how to lessen the burden on teachers day-to-day activities (they do offer a list of resources on their site though – see below). The same can be said for the Danielson Group’s Framework for Remote Teaching, which provides important pedagogical guidance for distance learning but no support for online curriculum development. What teachers need is a comprehensive plan and dedicated resources for delivering content that doesn’t require them to take on the task of time intensive online curriculum design and development – that work should be delegated to instructional designers. If your school or district doesn’t have an instructional designer on staff there are existing resources that can be cobbled together to create the semblance of a whole. Below are just a few examples…
- Learning Policy Institute – curated list of resources including special needs and young children
- ck-12 – free open source textbooks
- Common Sense Media – free lessons (k-12) on digital citizenship
- Wide Open Schools – free resources site developed by Common Sense Media
- Khan Academy – free content and tracking tools
- High Tech High – a PBL network of schools with access to lessons, students projects, and other resources
- ShareMyLesson – curated free resources available to educators
- PBS Learning Resources – needs no explanation
- California Dept. of Ed Remote Learning Guidance – list of free resources
In addition to content-based resources, we also need to take a serious look at educational technology as a whole and how software programs and applications are designed. As it stands today, it is nearly impossible for any individual teacher to implement an efficient teaching and learning system using what is currently a hodgepodge of disparate tool sets. Instead we need standards that better support an integrated system of available tools and allow for single logons, single points of contact for troubleshooting, streamlined assignment submission, outcome-based assessment tools, progress tracking, and asset management. Sal Khan speaks about this as the future of edtech in this interview with PhilonEdtech, but these are essential needs NOW for teachers to do the job they were hired to do.