As a social studies teacher at high school in a low-income neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida I'm always looking for ways to boost student engagement and academic achievement. There are plenty of ways educators can do that, but in 2013 I'm determined to take advantage of all the ways technology can support what I'm teaching my students: I want to flip my class.
If you don't hang out in education circles, you're probably wondering what in the world it means to flip a class. A flipped classroom is a learning environment where the teacher does more facilitation as opposed to direct instruction.
I've seen web clips of teachers who have flipped their classrooms. They tend to demonstrate highly engaging activities and I think with amazement how nice it would be to integrate similar tools with my own students. For instance, I currently use an older white board for notes and occasional power point presentations to teach about various places around the world. However, if I had an interactive board and students were equipped with their own laptops we could collaborate to create our own maps and other resources to drive home lessons. My students gravitate more towards activities where they are in control of the learning process as opposed to me driving instruction.
Of course not everyone in education is sold on flipping classrooms. One criticism of the flipped classroom movement is that if you're a student from a low income background, you're less likely to have access to technology you need to do it. Most of my students don’t have computers at home—they're forced, for example, to rely on computers at their local library. So to flip the classroom, they each need a laptop.
The movement to equip every student with a laptop is growing—places like Maine are on the cutting edge of providing every student with one—but in most schools that have been hard hit by the recession federal, state, and local funding dollars to implement one-to-one laptop or tablet program are minimal. Without the resources to make flipping our classroom a reality for my students, all the innovative lessons I have in mind quickly become wishful thinking.
At the beginning of this school year my classroom technology consisted of four computers and an outdated projector. My goal is to raise enough funds to purchase a class set of Google Chromebooks. I've been busy fundraising so we currently have two in our classroom. They are affordable and very easy to set up—but we need 28 more to really be able to flip our learning experience. I've set up a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdtilt to make it happen.
Sure, one could say because another teacher in a wealthier district has these tools, I want them too. This is not the case at all. We are talking about something bigger and longer lasting. If we don’t all do our part to ensure that every student receives a world-class education, we do a disservice to everyone. This generation of learners needs to be prepared for life beyond high school regardless of where they come from.
There should be no gaps or divides in the quality of education each student receives. Is quality contingent on technology tools? No. However, the overall learning experience greatly increases when there are resources are in place to allow students to interact in meaningful ways that promote student achievement.
Click here to add supporting the crowdfunding campaign to flip Dewitt's classroom to your GOOD "to-do" list.
Laptop on desk image via Shutterstock