Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Flipped Classroom

The Flipped Classroom approach is been widely implemented in schools and colleges around the world. It is even considered as one of the greatest achievements of 21st century education.

The concept behind it is to reverse the traditional classroom practices with the aid of technology. Students access the already prepared lecture materials at home, in advance of the class and in the class they engage in structured class activities to work through problems with their teachers’ help, further their knowledge and learn through collaboration with fellow students. For the Flipped model to be successful, teachers before its implementation need to assess whether it is appropriate for their curriculum and students. They need to see if their students will be receptive to the new learning environment and upon implementation and use, teachers should employ effective practices to keep the model functioning successfully.

While technology facilitates the creation and working of a Flipped Classroom model, it takes a lot of planning and consideration to perfect the model. There are many tips, guidelines and practices available for a Flipped Classroom. I have assembled a list of some of the best practices by teachers for the Flipped Classroom, here’s it:

Use of existing technology for better student and teacher adaptability of the model: The technology you should use to make your Flipped Classroom work should be such that, the students and teachers are already familiar with its usage and can adopt it into their everyday teaching and learning activities. Technology should not complicate things for them; it should be easy to use and should not really require student and teacher training. The technology should support easy creation of material which can be easily accessed by students, and easy presentation of digital lectures by the teachers.

Facilitation of collaborative learning among students: Learning through collaboration offers broader perspectives than learning on your own. Though students watch the digital lectures at their homes and out of the class, once in class they should be allowed to give vent to all their thoughts, ideas and doubts related to what they have learned. Students should be made to participate in discussions to talk about their learning. They should discuss their doubts with their fellow students and work out solutions to their problems on their own. This encourages them to think creatively and independently and makes the learning outcomes much more effective. Teachers should also be part of such discussions and must more offer help when students together are not able to find solutions to their problems.

Creation of engaging pedagogical models: For authentic learning, you need to incorporate effective learning models in your classroom. These models can be of Project-Based Learning (PBL ), Game-Based Learning (GBL ), Understanding by Design (UbD ) or more. You as a teacher should be proficient in the implementation and use of such models, only then you should go ahead and put them into practice. Look at how you can use the Flipped model to support the processes of these learning models. These models allow you to differentiate instruction, or support students who have wider or different learning needs. Also, these models help you take the role of being more of a mentor or a guide rather than just being a mere provider of knowledge. Technology helps facilitates the implementation of such learning approaches in to the Flipped Classroom for even better learning outcomes.

Build reflective activities for students to reflect about their learning: Every time your students watch a video, they should be made to go through reflective activities that will make them reflect about all they have learned from the video, how it can benefit them, its significance, relevance and more. Just as it’s your duty to create instructional activities, you should also create such reflective activities. You should make reflection a regular practice and part of your classroom culture. A lot proper time after every video lecture for students to think about what they derived from it so that in the class time they can discuss their reflections with you, the teacher. The Flipped Classroom can function effectively only when everyone reflects about their teaching and learning for betterment and to make progress.

Use of multiple means of representation: You will have different kinds of students in your class with varying learning needs and interests. Sticking onto just one way of representing information in lectures will eventually bore them and they will lose interest in learning from them. Your digital lectures should always possess that attractive element which induces the interest of students. Lectures should be made creative and interactive with the use of a variety of digital media like music, music videos, humor lecture and the like. The lectures should set pace to your students’ thought process and encourage them to employ their creative mindsets to uncover and learn from them. Also, you should introduce varied follow-up activities in which students can engage to learn further or assess their own learning after watching the videos. These activities can be the inclusion of quizzes, polls or brainstorming after the video lectures.

Teachers should understand that the Flipped Classroom approach can enhance student learning only if it is implemented and kept in working effectively. Relying completely on the technological aids used by the Flipped model will take you nowhere. You will need to constantly put in efforts and employ varied and effective practices to ensure progress and successful working of your Flipped Classroom.

I have been using this approach for the last two years with great results. It has been an effective practice. Here you can find MyFlippedClassroom

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

7 Pillars of Digital Leadership in Education

Guest post by Eric Sheninger

With society becoming more and more reliant on technology it is incumbent upon leaders to harness the power of digital technologies in order to create school cultures that are transparent, relevant, meaningful, engaging, and inspiring. In order to set the stage for increasing achievement and to establish a greater sense of community pride for the work being done in our schools, we must begin to change the way we lead. To do this, leaders must understand the origins of fear and misconceptions that often surround the use of technology such as social media and mobile devices.

Once the fears and misconceptions are placed on the table, leaders can begin to establish a vision for the effective use of technology to improve numerous facets of leadership. The challenge for school leaders is why, how, and where to begin. Digital leadership is not about flashy tools, but a strategic mindset that leverages available resources to improve what we do while anticipating the changes needed to cultivate a school culture focused on engagement and achievement. It is a new construct of leadership that grows out of the leader’s symbiotic relationship with technology.

The end result will be sustainable change in programs, instruction, behaviors, and leadership practices with technology as a pivotal element. Digital leadership requires a shift in leadership style from one of mandates, directives, and buy-in to one grounded in empowerment, support, and embracement as keys to sustainable change.

From my work I have identified what I call the Pillars of Digital Leadership. These are the specific areas embedded in the culture of all schools that can be improved or enhanced though the use of available technology, especially social media. They present a framework from which any educator or leader can begin to harness the power of technology to change professional practice and initiate sustainable change. 

7 Pillars of Digital Leadership In Education 

1. Communication
Leaders can now provide stakeholders with relevant information in real time through a variety of devices. No longer do static, one-way methods such as newsletters and websites suffice. Important information can be communicated through various free social media tools and simple implementation strategies in order to meet stakeholders where they are in the digital age.

2. Public Relations
If we don’t tell our story, someone else will, and more often than not, another’s version will not be the one we want told. Leaders need to become storytellers-in-chief. We can now form the foundation of a positive public relations platform using free social media tools where we control the content.  By doing so, we create the means by which we share all of the positives associated with our schools and create a much needed level of transparency in an age of negative rhetoric toward education.

3. Branding
Businesses have long understood the value of brand and its impact on current and potential consumers. Leaders can leverage social media tools to create a positive brand presence that emphasizes the positive aspects of school culture, increases community pride, and helps to attract/retain families when looking for a place to send their children to school.

4. Student engagement/learning
We cannot expect to see increases in achievement if students are not learning. Students that are not engaged are not likely to be learning. Leaders need to understand that schools should reflect real life and allow students to apply what they have learned through the use of the tools they are using outside of school. Digital leaders understand that we must put real-world tools in the hands of students and allow them to create artifacts of learning that demonstrate conceptual mastery. This is an important pedagogical shift as it focuses on enhancing essential skill sets—communication, collaboration, creativity, media literacy, global connectedness, critical thinking, and problem solving – that society demands.

5. Professional growth/development
With the rise of social media, schools no longer have to be silos of information and leaders do not have to feel like they are on isolated islands that lack support and feedback. Leaders can form their own Personal Learning Network (PLN) to meet our diverse learning needs, acquire resources, access knowledge, receive feedback, connect with both experts in the field of education as well as practitioners, and discuss proven strategies to improve teaching, learning, and leadership.

6. Re-envisioning earning spaces and environments
Once leaders understand the pillars and how to use them to initiate sustainable change, the next step is to begin to transform learning spaces and environments that support essential skill sets and are aligned with the real world. Leaders must begin to establish a vision and strategic plan to create an entire school building dedicated to learning in an ever so more digital world. In order to do so, leaders must be knowledgeable of the characteristics and dynamics that embody innovative learning spaces and environments.

7. Opportunity
It is important for leaders to consistently seek out ways to improve existing programs, resources, and professional development. Digital leaders leverage connections made through technology and increase opportunities to make improvements across multiple areas of school culture.

Leaders need to be the catalysts for change and the pillars identified above provide a framework.
Each is critical in its own right to transforming and sustaining a positive school culture. By addressing each of these pillars, leaders can begin changing and transforming their respective schools into ones that prepare learners with essential digital age skills while engaging a variety of stakeholders.  Digital leadership begins with identifying obstacles to change and specific solutions to overcome them in order to transform schools in the digital age.