And Just Like That, I Flipped

Photo by Lê Tân on Unsplash.

My seventh grade library students and I are making podcasts together. As a teacher, it’s been a practice of letting go. I’m not the worst audio producer in the room with my students, but I’m also not the best. In this project, we are all teachers and learners.

The kids have recorded incredible interviews with parents and siblings, mentors and teachers. Now they are cleaning them up using Ocenaudio (at least the ones that are following my lead; some are using Audacity or Adobe). Today I wanted to show students a nine minute clip from a longer YouTube tutorial that explains how to play with settings to improve sound quality. Having already spent 10 of our precious weekly 45 minutes giving instructions, it suddenly seemed ridiculous to spend even more class time watching the video together as I had planned. However, I knew they would eventually have to watch the video to move on with their project.

I asked students to raise their hands if they’d prefer to watch the video on their own rather than as a group. All hands went up. Point taken. I showed them where they could find the link to the video on our class page and let them get to work.

I don’t know why I was surprised to see so many students actually watching the tutorial. Not all at the same time, of course. Some were still learning how to import their audio and make basic edits. Others were ready to move on to more advanced features. Some watched the clip straight through and others paused frequently, moving back and forth between the video and their project. Then there was the student who had no interest in watching an Ocenaudio tutorial because he was working in Adobe.

And just like that, I flipped my classroom. The video tutorial was important, but not enough to spend time watching it at the same time. Instead, it functioned as a resource that students could access as needed.

Realistically, my students would not have watched this video if I had assigned it for homework. Not in a class that meets once a week for less than an hour and offers nothing more to the report card than a pass or fail. And I wouldn’t ask them to watch it at home. I’ve been skeptical about flipped classrooms in the past because I believe there is no substitute for face-to-face learning and because I believe there should be limits to the demands we make on students’ time outside of school. Homework, sure, but class doesn’t always need to be on.

Today, however, I finally experienced the value in allowing students to access materials and reach benchmarks at their own pace. It freed up time for us to workshop together and allowed for differentiation. It was by all measures a micro-flip but a flip nonetheless, and I finally see what all the fuss is about.

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