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Frank Stonehouse (ITESM, Morelia)

Unit 2 - Learning Culture (Pillar 2 of FLIP)

4 min read

Starting out in this course, we are exploring the 4 pillars of flipped learnnig. In , we are looking at pillar 2, or the learning culture that educators & students create together. Here are a couple guiding points for teachers from the Flipped Learning Network's publication "What is Flipped Learning."

Although I strongly feel that learning activities should be meaningful and relevant to student's lives, sometimes I do find it challenging to develop tasks which are congruent with this aim. To be truthful, I would like to do much better with this. When it comes to projects, I have much more success in this area as I select the projects mostly by aligning them with current events and student interests. I give them flexibility to choose topics within the framework of the task. However, I find it much more difficult to make tasks relevant when using a textbook. Since student have to purchase the book per school policy, we must use it in class. Often the topics aren't currently meaningful to students or very engaging. So, it takes quite a bit of thinking and planning on the teacher's behalf to somehow morph the given activities into something more interesting and relevant. Often times, the teacher just needs to abandon the input materials and swap them with something else. In this way, the student takes a more invested approach to noticing key features of the language. After doing this, the learner can return to the textbook and simply answer the questions after already "getting it" in a more meaningful way beforehand.

Scaffolding, Differentiation & Feedback

(Oxford Journal, 2015)

Writing skills and subskills are critically important in succeeding at university and real life. Preparing student to write better begins even before college. I work with both high school and university students. Their writing skills are usually not anywhere close to where they need to be. So, as teacher, I must scaffold activities that allow students to jump in whereever they are in the writing process. I would never simply give a writing assignment and say, "Go!" We usually start with looking at the differences between dependent and independent clauses. Then move on to sentence structure and variety, including comma use. After that, we start to look at text organization and content. And while we are doing all of this, we continually explore more and more grammar points and vocabulary. As mentioned in a previous post, I also connect my students with outside experts and social networds so that their learning experience isn't isolated to 1 approach. They have multiple mentors and ideas to bouce around and draw their own concluscion from.

I am taking an educated guess that students start out with poor writing skills because their previous learning experiences did not pay attention to scaffolding and differentiation. And, if there is no other feedback than simply a numerical score, well that says it all. Here is an interentesting read on scaffolding: 6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use with your Students by Rebecca Alber (Eutopia). And 5 critieria for effective scaffolding (Applebee, 1986) published at Oxford Journals,

I use Google Drive for all of my writing assignments. And, with the Chrome browser, I add the Doctopus extension, which was created by a teacher. This extension allows me to effortlessly control the writing assignment process and give really meaningful and differentiated feedback to each and every student. With this tool, I can make global comments such as, "Gloria, I can see that your use of the writing conventions that we have covered so far this semester have really improved over a short time." And, I can highlight and make specific, more targeted, comments at key points within the student's writing assignment. I can also make voice comments which add a more personal touch of encouragement and connection bringing my much closer to the student rather than a marked up sheet of paper.

In closing, I still find developing a meaninful learning culture to be quite challenging, yet I fully comprehend its importance. It takes practice and much reflection. After each class, it's critically important to step back and assess what worked and what didn't work, what connected with students and what didn't, and to then make iterative adjustments as you move forward with students and your own personal growth. Teacher reflection and action research are critical. But also, a teacher should try their best to develop a personal learning network (PLN) with their educational peers. This can be done via Twitter, reading blogs, joining social networks, participating in online courses, going to conferences, and so on. In all of these PLN environments, there is a ton of sharing and learning going on. Just jump in!