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).

Errol St.Clair Smith
I am the Director of Global Development at the Flipped Learning Global Initiative. I joined the education community in 2005, working closely with national education organizations on community outreach and professional development. Over the last decade, I’ve led the development of community platforms for The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE); the Association of Curriculum Developers (ASCD); the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Associations for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the National Parent Teachers Association (NPTA), and the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO). I'm honored to have received four Emmy nominations and an Emmy Award for public affairs programming. In 2017 I co-authored Flipped Learning 3.0 with Jon Bergmann. The book was updated based on the AALAS Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning in 2019.

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