Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Ten Stages of Flip

Remember how facebook introduced timeline a while back? Whatever your reaction to it, just consider that in a few years, people on facebook will be able to look back at the story of their own lives, the story that they wrote as it was happening, which, let's face it, will probably be way more accurate than any autobiography ever written.

This post is kind of my timeline since I started flipping. I looked back at all my posts since that first day, and it was quite the eye-opener, even though I wrote them all and I was there for the whole saga. I think it's crucial for everyone, flippers and critics alike, to let time enter into the discussion. You have to look at it all on a timeline to appreciate it. Toss it all onto a time graph, as individuals, as schools, even the whole movement. For example, I see my professional growth like this:

What can I say, I'm a math teacher, I'm into graphs.

If we looked at the movement as a whole this way, we'd see that the name is starting to not make as much sense, for example, "flip"  is starting to be replaced by "Flip 101", since it's really just a starting point, for those of us who are actually doing it. New labels are emerging that reflect the collaborative and higher-order-thinking natures of the movement, like coflip and metaflip. But the thing is, real change is happening, and it started with teachers.

But some critics just don't seem to be patient. They want it all to be perfect right away. But hey, if someone said to you: - You there! Improve everything you do! And make it snappy!

.....what would YOU say? We all need time, time to think, regroup, absorb, debate, learn. And that's what happens after that first venture into the land of flip, you become a learner right along with your kids.

So here are my stages so far, just under two years in. Whatever speed you move at, and whatever order you do things, I hope you recognize some of these, and please feel free to add.

1. Awakening and Courage: You hear about flipping the class and can't get it out of your head, but it takes almost a year before you have the courage to try it. You make your first recorded lesson and assign it to your students to watch.

2. Let-down: Not all of them watched it. You are shocked. You mean there are kids who don't do homework?!? You assign the same text book questions that you have always assigned. Few requests for help, and those from the same kids who always ask for help. Those who didn't watch either keep a low profile and struggle with the work, or watch during class, if there's a device handy of course.

3. Persistence: Repeat until you can't stand the quiet and the loneliness. You acutely feel the need to interact with your students over anything, preferably the content, to discuss, to hear their thoughts, to straighten out all the things that surely need straightening out.

4. Stirring it up: You start a class by asking if there are any questions from the previous night's lesson. There are a few. You think - this is not so different from traditional, it's the same few kids watching the video and asking questions. What's changed? Why am I doing this again?

5. Connecting: A student asks for help. And it's a good question. It's the kind that you wish every student would ask. It's not just Mrs. how do I do this, it's Why is it this way and not that way. You help them out. You really help them out. You see exactly where they need help, because you're having a conversation with them about it. You realize that even though you only helped one kid, it's such a powerful exchange that you are addicted to it. You wonder why this is the first time it's happened, even though you've been teaching for over 20 years.

6. Widening the radar: You start to initiate conversations with other kids, rather than wait for them to do it, because you know that most of them would rather not even be here, let alone talk to you about how they can't do the things you're asking them to do, which by the way, they don't want to do those either. You find you're getting to know these kids for the first time since they've been in your class. You feel a bit ashamed when you think of all those who've slipped under your radar over the years.

7. Speeding up/down: The stronger students begin to move ahead and ask for the next lesson before it's ready. You are like a deer in the headlights. you have any other homework? you ask sheepishly. That night you spend a boatload of time queuing up the next few lessons and assigned work. You make it all available to them, from a website that you've only now understood what it's for, a content management system, or CMS. You start saying things like CMS. You try to sound casual, like, oh yeah, I just put it on the CMS, whatever.

8. Keeping track:  Since they're not all getting things done at the same speed, you realize you need to keep track more than you ever needed to before, but you can't keep up with the data. You start to use another website to do that, a wonderful one called google drive, and it is wonderful, for it is google drive. You start to say things like "I uploaded it to google drive" or "Did you update the checklist on google drive?" for you are now making these things called google forms. Your friends start to call you a technological genius. And stop listening to you because they think you must be some kind of technological genius, and anyway, they "don't have time" for all that tech stuff. You start to feel all alone.

9. Deepening thoughts: You feel like your class is becoming a ragtag band of math wanderers, then suddenly you remember a class activity that you were all fired up about 3 years ago from a workshop but that you never fit  into your class. You spend your evening designing it down to the last detail. Then you worry that it will only take 5 minutes of class time, so you design 2 more activities just in case.

10. More aha-ing: The first activity takes the whole period, because it was a good one, a REALLY good one based on research by Malcolm Swan, that got all of them talking about things you wanted them to notice....and things you didn't even think of, but are really awesome that they're talking about. With you. And each other. So now, during your class, there are conversations going on. About all kinds of stuff, including math.

I know, I know, I said ten...oh well:

11. Community: You join twitter and go through the ten stages of twitter. Then you join The flipped Network and start meeting other teachers. You stop feeling all alone.

12. Awakening of creativity: Everytime you take a shower 2 dozen more ideas come to you. You forget most of them by the time your hair dries. The one you remember you spend the rest of the evening putting together. You resolve to either stop taking showers or write these ideas on the wall with a grease pencil. (Thanks Kate Nowak.)

13. Reality: Your family alerts you to the complete lack of clean underwear anywhere in the house, and to the strange cryptic messages on the bathroom wall.

Bonus steps:

You re-watch your first video.

You begin searching for a large rock to crawl under because it is just so awful. Just. So. Awful.

And now the next stages, which will include making my "lessons" shorter and less and less necessary, another thing I can't get out of my head since hearing Graham Johnson speak at the Global Math Department webinar. Thanks, Graham. And thanks facebook!


  1. Hey you, Love this! Made me laugh :)Great idea with the wax pencil (my family would really think I had "flipped").

    It is such a progression, a work in progress and it is hard when you are criticized en-route to the yet unknown.
    Great honest overview of what it is really like to jump into to the deep end alone and not knowing how to swim.
    Cheers and holidays wishes to you Audrey.
    yours in flip,

    1. Thanks, Carolyn. Crazy is yet another interpretation of flipped, and my family already sees it that way, for sure. I am fortunate to work with people who are open-minded and supportive to the max.

      You have a great holiday too, with lots of rest and recharging of the batteries, left brain AND right brain!

  2. I went through the flip evolution in a matter of months... found information & Edmodo online & met others online via Twitter over the summer and I couldn't wait to get back to teaching in Sept. I had the TIME over the summer to dedicate to figuring out the flip. As you state, time is precious to the flip process.

    The same should be said for students being introduced to the flip: they too need time to adjust.

    AND, thank heavens there is someone else to commiserate with about writing ideas in the shower! I was getting ready to use crayola's bath crayons for my walls-- a splash of color never hurts! I can't tell you how many masterpieces were "written" only to be washed down the drain the second I turned the water off.

    Keep on doing what you are doing! You're not alone! We're all in this together!

    Great post!
    (I can't stop using exclamation points! ! !)

    1. Thanks, Kate. That sounds like me, I dipped my toes in toward the end of a school year and nearly went out of my mind waiting for September. And the shower thing, I think it's the same thing whenever you let your mind wander, like this summer when I was cycling, I had and lost so many great ideas on each trip....
      And don't stop using those exclamation points! I don't interpret them as shouting! And I have the same tendency anyway!
      Thanks so much for your comment, have a great holiday!

  3. Great post Audrey! Very relevant. It would be fun to have a similar list from the student perspective...1. The teacher isn't "teaching" anything! etc.

    1. omg Dalia, that is an amazing idea! I might get my students to use their blogs for that! Thank you for the idea, and also for your comment, it really means so much to me.

      Have a great holiday, lots of R & R, and lots of turkey!

  4. I like! Your list made me laugh.
    I've been working on a couple of projects lately that have me going through my own timeline. I'm searching for a metaphorically significant moment that helped me realize the progression. Like Jem in "To Kill a Mockingbird" when we see the exact moment he loses his childhood innocence and get a foreshadowed event yet to come. I too have been trying to break my journey into stages to find those moments.
    Hope to see you at FlipCon13.

    1. Thanks Troy, I'm glad I'm not the only one laughing at my jokes! It truly has been a journey full of ups and downs, but mostly ups, as you know. I like your literary reference - that's one of my favourite books and movies. Would that moment be when the children are waiting for Atticus in the car and they're frightened by Mayella's drunken father? As math teachers go, I'm probably more of an arty type than a sciencey one...
      If you do write about your metaphorically significant moments, I'd love to read that. I think my biggest one was the first Malcolm Swan activity, which fairly exploded my class into life.
      I would LOVE to go to flipcon13, but I'm hoping to make it to the Canadian one this year, and I have to choose one...
      Have a great holiday, safe and warm, foreshadowing of only good stuff, or stuffing!

    2. In the book, it is the moment the jury reads the verdict and it says something to the effect, "Jem jerked violently with every 'guilty' as though he was being stabbed in the back." In the movie, he just puts his head down and cries a little. They don't play up the significance of that moment the way it should be.

  5. Thank you so much for this timeline. I was cracking up when I read the list because I thought I was the only one who did those things/felt that way!
    I'm the only teacher "flipping" at my school, so I do feel alone in a sense. I'm going to read more on your blog and through PLP because I'm just getting the hang of what it truly means to flip the classroom. I don't think I'm doing it totally correctly and need to make it better. But, I'm excited and cannot wait to learn more. Thank you so much!

    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful Kristina. Who knows what the right way or wrong way is - I think it all depends on who's doing it. And I'm sure you won't be alone in your school for long. Once your kids start telling their parents and teachers how much they learn in your class, it'll spread. Maybe not like wildfire, but it'll spread for sure, hang in there! And tks for reading!

  6. I teach Mathematics for K-10 thru K-12 students in Mexico, well in Cd. Obreg√≥n Sonora. I am in a workshop with Ken Bauer who assisted to the FLIPCON14, and that is how I found you... and I´m soooo happy for this!!!
    I will start flipping my Algebra class next semester, and I really don´t know where to start!!! any ideas??
    Thanks and I also LOVE to watch movies or you meant produce movies???

    1. Hi Linda, I've been thinking a lot about how to answer this. I think it's probably best to start with making some kind of recording, not because that's the most important part, but because it's the most logical.
      1. Pick a lesson that you're really happy with, and look for the part or parts that can easily be removed to outside the classroom, that is, the easiest parts of the lesson. Vocabulary, or a simple procedure are examples of lesson components that can be moved onto the recording.
      2. To make your recording, I recommend Voicethread for beginners, although I still use it a lot. It's a web tool that makes it easy to record lessons using powerpoint slides, and it's easy for your students to watch and make their own voice, text, or webcam comments.
      3. Before assigning the recording, spend some time in class explaining to your students exactly what you expect them to do while they're watching - eg. take notes, answer questions in the lesson, ask their own questions. You might want to make sure you make plenty of prompts within your recording - eg, "Type your answer here".
      4. Next day, spend some time addressing any questions or comments that came up during the recording. There may be enough of them to form an entire period! If not, use the time to do whatever parts of your original lesson were not in the recording, eg practice, a sorting activity, problem solving etc.

      I hope this helps, let me know if there's anything I can help you with!

    2. Oh and by the way I meant watching movies!

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Thanks Audrey, great tips!!

    I haven´t used Voicethread, but last semester I was using Educreation, are they similar? I already downloaded in my Ipad the App "Explain everything", but my problem is that I almost didn´t have time to produce these materials, at least not the whole activity like you are explaining here in step 3... I was just explaining some problems that could be difficult to answer by themselves.

    I´ve been thinking a lot about how to start, but I guess the best way is actually TO START and not be afraid of mistakes.

    My colleagues think that I shouldn´t flip my Algebra course because my students are very young (it´s their first semester at our school) and they are used to a different kind of teaching. But I think that it is great, because if I start slowly and doing everything that you explain in step 4, they will love this way of learning Math and it is not going to be the nightmare they are expecting to.

    Again, thanks a lot for taking time to answer my question. I hope I will give you good news on August when I start flipping my Algebra class.