Here at Student-Centered World, we are huge promoters in the flipped classroom. When I first learned about the flipped classroom, I thought it sounded great in theory, but how in the world can you keep up with the fact that kids need to do work on their own time in order to be able to do work in the classroom as opposed to just reviewing the work that was taught first hand by the teacher?
I attended a workshop that explained the workaround this and once I implemented it, I never turned back. There are a lot of benefits to flipping the classroom, including the fact that instead of students learning the information and then going home and having questions, they learn the information at home and then come in to the teacher with the questions where they could be answered on a deeper level and understood even further as the content is explored hands-on within the confines of the classroom.
However, many teachers are unwilling to try this because of the lack of access to technology on behalf of their students.
We know within our classrooms, no matter if you are in the richest of rich districts or poorest of poor, there is a spectrum of socioeconomic needs for the students that are staring back at us. We often need to remember that they have no control over the financial gains or struggles of their family. They are just along for the ride.
It is also an element that can change with the flip of a switch. One job loss or sudden inheritance could change the entire dynamic of the financial structure for a specific child’s family. However, all of our students are entitled to the same education and to be given the same opportunities to be able to excel to their fullest potential in life.
Flipping the classroom can help narrow this divide in education. It is the ultimate tool in differentiating. A fantastic read that explains this in detail is “Time for Learning: Top 10 Reasons Why Flipping the Classroom Can Change Education“ by Kathleen Fulton (ad). I would suggest checking it out.
However, this still does not change the fact that there are some students out there that do not have access to technology which is so often the focus of a flipped lesson.
This could be because they do not have consistent access to a device, may not have access to the Internet, or do not have the skills to utilize the technology appropriately.
When looking at a bunch of students that may have these barriers and more in the way, it seems like it would be a futile attempt to even try to flip a classroom. However, there are solutions and workarounds for this problem.
The first thing you need to realize is the benefits of the flipped classroom. When a student can work on his or her own, they are able to work at a pace that is appropriate for them in their own learning styles. They do not have to feel embarrassed if they need to rewatch something or go over a concept more than once to understand. They are also able to spend the time with the teacher engaging with the material as opposed to passively learning it, which is huge in the student-centered model.
Because of this, teachers can interact one-on-one with more students daily that they would not have access to if they were trying to do a full class activity. With the teacher able to circulate more, it creates a better dynamic for the classroom and results for the students.
Personally, I always would complete a survey on the first day of school to find out what technology the students had access to. I would not just check their technology access, but I would also focus on what their backup plan was. Sure, a student may have access to a computer, but what if their Internet goes down? What if they can’t use the device that they were planning to use? What is their backup plan?
Many students have neighbors, relatives, or even a local establishment that has Wi-Fi readily available. Having a backup plan is the first step in making sure certain that your students know all of the bases in order to make this work.
As time progresses, there are even more and more opportunities to access the Internet that there weren’t before. Even gaming systems that many students have can access the Internet and be used for schoolwork. There is always an option, and always a Plan B.
Except when there isn’t.
If there are students that just straight up don’t have access to technology outside of school, there are a number of different options to remedy this on some level depending on what you, your district, and the student’s parents are willing to work with.
If it is a device issue, perhaps there is a program within your school where a student can sign out a device to be able to work from home. There is the option of using alternative locations and times to be able to complete assignments, such as before school, during lunch, during study hall, in the library, etc. Personally, I always had a computer available so if a student had an issue, they were able to come and speak to me and we would find a time that worked for everybody that was least disruptive to have them complete the assignment. Rarely did I get any pushback from this and they were thankful that I was willing to work with them.
There is always the option as well to have stations set up in your classroom so if anybody was unable to complete the assignment, they are able to work on it in class before moving forward to the activity that other students are taking part in. How often do we focus on the kids that didn’t do their work as opposed to spending time with the students who did? This is an opportunity for everybody to be equally attended to while having all their needs still met.
There is always the option as well to send home DVD’s or flash drives with the material on it so if the Internet is the issue, but a device is not, there is still a way to access the information. At the end of the day, the teacher could always print out a version of whatever the information is for this student to look over. For instance, if it is a video you could always get the transcript and have them annotate to get the same information, just in a different way.
The key is to always be thinking about another way to make the magic happen. Flipping the classroom will change everything you know about education and finding ways to help students access that information outside of your classroom will benefit everyone in the long run. It’s not like your class is the only one that the student will ever need to use technology outside of the classroom, not in this day in age. By helping them find a local Wi-Fi spot or a way to access technology that they may not have known before, it will help them as they move forward throughout their school careers. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and students not having access to technology should not be a reason to feel that flipping the classroom is impossible.