Flipping-Out Teachers

Last year, as part of a School Improvement Planning Team (SIPT) Subcommittee on Online Instruction, we’ve worked on developing a plan to get all teachers practicing online instruction. It was a great experience. Below I discuss some of the things we did and what I might do in the future to improve upon them.

1. Defining a Belief Statement to drive actions of the committee, and eventually faculty. There are lots of good ones on line to use as springboards for your discussion and as models for crafting your own.

2. Working to define what actually constitutes online instruction. Do we mean conducting online research, submitting assignments to a shared folder, using Google forms to give quizzes, using Edmodo or some other LMS or CMS. These are conversations that have to be had. Each community will have their own definition of

3. Invite union representation. We had a such a person early on in our process. It was necessary that we established on-line learning as an enhancement of the classroom experience in which teachers were vital to facilitating learning, and not a replacement of teachers. However, encourage continued union representation. Once the union is sure the goal isn’t to replace teachers, they should continue to be part of the process of developing meetings, PD, and as another conduit of information for the committee.

4. We conducted a survey to gauge teacher comfort, skill-level, and current implementation. It showed what we predicted–teachers at all places and levels. Not so helpful. We found that some people know technology and some don’t. Don’t survey if you think you can reliably predict what people will say.

After we did the above, we wanted to accomplish the following:

  • Flip a facculty meeting.
  • Build faculty skills to bring proficiency in online instruction skills to 100%. We wanted to use a gamfied system to train people in the digital technology skills and hardware they’d need to create on-line coursework. We have laid the foundation for this, but haven’t implemented it yet. It’s sitting in limbo right now.

Here’s what I learned:

Everything will take more time than you think. Planning our flipped faculty meeting took weeks. We had to plan a discussion. Find a topic. Set questions. Establish the rooms and the groups we’d use. We had to train facilitators. We had a dozen people involved.

As part of this, we attempted to use WordPress as a discussion platform. Good idea, but epic fail. Sites crashed and comments didn’t show up fast enough. Our tech-weary faculty gave up quick.

Don’t bite off too much, and keep expecatations low. When I teach, I’m all for plunging in and going for it, and seeing what happens. In doing so, I’ve done a lot with platforms like Edmodo and Canvas. I’ve done great on-line synchronous and a-synchronous discussions. I love the experimentation, adventure and challenge of this stuff. Just because I love it, didn’t mean some of my peers would. The more I talked to people, I found that in terms of online environments, email might be the farthest reaches of someone’s frontier. Online documents, cloud storage…for some this might as well be Greek, to use a well-worn cliche.

Doubt is part of the process and doesn’t mean that it’s bad. While our flipped faculty meeting bit it, I don’t think that it was all bad. We had some exposure to the possibilities of these kinds of meetings= and a kind of platform that we might use for flipped meetings. We also had faculty see how our facilitators worked around tech issues that emerge in the middle of a plan. Tech in the classroom will never be fool proof and there will be problems. Teachers have to figure out how to be flexible and go. Teachers did this before digital technology, they should bring those same skills forward into computer labs.