GRANTED: Funding Your Flipped Classroom When Your School Won’t

Out of The Box April / The Community April / April 3, 2018

– Barry Sponder- 


No money or resources to flip learning? I’ve heard that before.

I teach a course in Computer-Based Instruction (CBI) and for the last twenty years have required students to write and submit grant proposals as part of the CBI course curriculum. We first focus on how to evaluate classroom needs, then search for funding sources and, finally, learn how to write and submit a grant proposal. When teaching in public schools I experienced the out of pocket syndrome, buying whatever materials the school didn’t give me, because that’s what the best teachers around me did; and I was trying to be a good teacher. Although the expenses for individual items weren’t unreasonable, they quickly added up to hundreds of dollars for things I felt I needed but were not in my classroom budget. Eventually, that led me to writing grants and discovering the untapped resources available to educators, often just for the asking. All I needed to do was learn the lingo. I figured that if I asked well and submitted ten grant proposals, three of four or more would be funded. I kept submitting proposals and that’s just what happened.

Years later, when I began teaching educators at the university, I queried them to see how many had written and applied for grants. It wasn’t surprising that each year I received only one or two affirmative responses, while the other students acknowledged not really knowing where to start. Even back then, using Flipped Learning Beta .76, the development and use of materials for pre-class instruction required costly expenditures for hardware, software, and other associated resources necessary for materials production and for individual and group space activities.

In those early pre- and post-Y2K days I used Macromedia Flash, Dreamweaver and Director, along with HyperCard, ToolBook and QuickTime to develop materials that I put on CD-ROMS, distributed on videotapes, and posted online with Tripod, an early free website-maker. I taught students to do the same. No materials? Write a grant! Since then, the majority have received grants ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars’ worth of materials and support that they otherwise wouldn’t have. It was fun seeing students make the system work for them.

At the class meeting a couple of weeks ago, many grad students were surfing the wave of achievement and riding the crest of success because all who had submitted grant proposals to Donors Choose, and all the other 35,000 submissions to the site, were successfully funded through a multi-million dollar grant announced the previous evening on late-night TV. The ultra-generous funding was lauded by supporters of education as a remarkable contribution to the public good, worthy of eliciting more donations from other big donors and from everyone else too. Our graduate students, teachers all, will be receiving their requested equipment and materials to use for both individual and group space activities.

The lesson they learned and repeated over and over again, year to year, is to not get stuck when you don’t have everything you need to flip learning the way you want to do it. There are plenty of donors who are willing to support your efforts; you need only to ask (and ask and ask again).

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I have been teaching Educational Technology courses at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) since 1997. My Ed.D. is in Instructional Technology from Utah State University where I researched Distance Learning in Alaska while teaching distance education courses in the 49th State. For two decades in the Nutmeg State I have been teaching graduate and undergraduate courses—both on and off-campus—focusing on using technology for learning and instruction—while demonstrating technology for instruction and learning. My current focus is flipping college courses and training public school teachers to flip their own classes. Over my career my experience includes creating instructional learning materials such as videotapes, laserdiscs and other current-at-the-moment technologies in the 1980s and today I utilize Web 2.0 tools, animation and state-of the-art technologies as part of my graduate and undergraduate courses at CCSU. I’ve been developing and using synchronous and asynchronous instructional media and methods as a natural practice, even before I knew I was flipping my classes, intuitively. I have been using flipping methods, developing instructional videos, for many years while training pre-service teachers and retraining graduate students to use their own technology resources creatively, for their own students.

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