– Dr. Thomas Mennella –
It’s not enough to do it, we must do it well.
AALAS’s Second Wave Summitt – a virtual conference that spanned the entire month of July 2020 – was simultaneously uplifting, energizing, awe-inspiring, and troubling. As I sat in on town hall meetings and reviewed dozens of inspired three-minute lightning talks, it dawned on me that our focus – as members of the Flipped Learning revolution – must shift from “how many teachers are using Flipped Learning?” to “how are teachers using Flipped Learning?”. We must move beyond the doing of Flipped Learning and instead concentrate on doing it well. The time is now to move all of us into the next evolutionary stage of this amazing approach; and we need your help!
For years, those of us who had experienced the magic of Flipped Learning were driven to spread the word that Flipped Learning works. If we could only share this message, we thought, others would adopt this amazing approach and their careers would be so much more rewarding and their students’ learning experiences so much richer. It was an issue of numbers: how many teachers are using Flipped Learning?
The COVID-19 pandemic was a tragedy in so many ways. Deaths, illness, closed businesses, lost wages, the list goes on and on. Nothing minimizes the toll that this pandemic has taken on global society. That said, one small silver lining appeared to some of us to be a massive movement of instructors towards active and flipped learning. With so many teachers being required to migrate our classes and courses online, we had no choice but to embrace innovative and cutting edge pedagogies. And, Flipped Learning was often at the top of the list. Finally, the revolution was here. Or was it?
In response to the pandemic and its effects on education, the Flipped Learning Global Initiative released a free, online micro-course providing guidance on the rapid transition to online learning. Then, in July 2020, the nonprofit Academy for Active Learning Arts and Sciences hosted the month-long Second Wave Summit focusing on strategies and best practices for the next academic year. I sat in on many of those sessions and they were teeming with enthusiastic teachers ready to embrace a new way to practice their profession. These were the flipped learning novices we’d been trying to recruit for years. I was pumped. But then I began to keenly listen to what some of them were saying.
It’s not enough to try flipping, to kind-of flip, to use aspects of flipped learning, etc. Instead, we should expect ourselves to evolve and improve with each new implementation of best practices…
“I tried Flipped Learning for a little while, but it didn’t work at all.” “My students hated Flipped Learning. I think I gave up after two weeks.” “I never tried Flipped Learning. I don’t like myself on camera.” Every cell in my body wanted to stop these sessions, interrupt the moderator and explain: Flipped Learning requires patience and time for transition, stick with it. Students don’t fully appreciate Flipped Learning until the first exam or assessment and then they realize how much they’ve truly learned. Flipped Learning is not about the videos; you don’t need a camera at all. But I didn’t interrupt, I couldn’t explain. I simply realized, we must shift from focusing on “how many teachers are using Flipped Learning?” to “how are teachers using Flipped Learning?”
Just as we celebrate a baby’s first word, “mama”, we celebrate every teacher who has the bravery to try something new and better: Flipped Learning. And, just as we don’t even consider celebrating a six-year old saying “mama”, but instead expect them to learn and work hard to develop a full and robust vocabulary, we must also expect more of ourselves as new flippers. I’ve been flipping my courses for nine years and still I fail, and learn, push myself to improve and innovate each and every semester. It’s not enough to try flipping, to kind-of flip, to use aspects of flipped learning, etc. Instead, we should expect ourselves to evolve and improve with each new implementation of best practices as they are listed in the Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning. It’s not enough to do, we must do well.
Time to level up
So, where do we go from here? We already know that the next academic year will be different from any other. We’re full of uncertainty with reopening plans still in flux and new COVID-19 case numbers on the rise once again in certain parts of the US. Flipped Learning is clearly one of the few paths that lead to complete preparation for multiple modalities and for our ‘new normal’ as educators. But, it’s not enough to do flipped learning, we must commit to doing it well.
To the Flipped Learning titans reading this (yes, I’m looking at you Jon Bergmann, Ken Bauer, Eric Mazur, Robert Talbert…) let’s work together to send a unified message to the educator community: flipped learning works best when done best. To the new flippers out there, you are not alone. There is a vibrant global community of flipped educators out there ready to share, discuss, coach and console. Join one of the few world-renowned online communities of flipped educators (FLGI and FLN are among those), reach out and connect to other like-minded educators. Even the titans named above are known to answer as many emails from strangers seeking advice on best practices as their schedules allow.
Do you want to do? Or, do you want to do well? Do you want to be saying “mama” for years or do you want a full and growing vocabulary of innovative instruction? Do you want to scramble all academic year? Or, do you want to employ a teaching strategy that is malleable, vetted and ideal for any approach – face-to-face or online? Join us for the next revolution in education. A revolution not of quantity, but of quality. Spread the word that Flipped Learning works… best when done well. And, join the growing global community of flipped educators committed to doing just that.