Patti Edwards thinks math is fun. So fun, in fact, she made a career out of it. Though she recently retired from teaching at Solon High School in Solon, Iowa, Patti taught mathematics for nearly 35 years to over 4,000 students at all levels. Her experience as an educator and the direct impact she has had on thousands of students over the years may be part of the reason that her poster (pictured below) outlining the components of Flipped Learning was selected as the crowd favorite at the Educational Technology and Computational Psychometrics Symposium in November, 2017, an educational conference hosted by ACTNext which focuses on the role of technology in educational practices and the role of computation psychometrics in educational measurement, and the ways in which they are intertwined. Her poster describes Flipped Learning, a “pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a classroom are reversed”, which she employed in her classroom, and ultimately yielded positive, unexpected consequences.
Patti was introduced to the concept of Flipped learning at a professional conference, and in the true spirit of innovation decided to implement it in her classroom. After some initial experimentation and frustration, a colleague introduced her to Educreations, an online platform where users can view and submit content on a wide variety of topics. Essentially, it’s an interactive whiteboard that allowed her to record voice explanations accompanying visual examples.
When school started in the fall, Patti “flipped” her high school classroom. In lieu of traditional homework, students were instructed to watch (and take notes on) specific instructional videos she created, and then either come to class prepared with questions, or be ready to divide into groups and collaborate on a set of problems aligned to the material covered in the videos. Initially, Patti only intended to flip the classroom for a day or two, at most. However, the student response to Flipped Learning was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and she realized student engagement was at an all-time high. In addition to watching her videos, the absence of a traditional lecture during class time allowed students to collaborate with each other, ask questions and complete activities that aided their understanding of the material.
Patti highlighted Flipped Learning’s many positive consequences. The method encouraged independence by putting a greater degree of responsibility for learning in the hands of the students. Flipped Learning also made it possible to incorporate more time for collaborative problem solving. After making math a group activity, Patti noticed her students engaging with one another on a deeper level and developing greater shared understanding of the material they studied. Finally, Patti discovered that flipping her classroom ended up becoming very multi-purpose, in that it suits different students in different ways. Flipped Learning promotes individualized learning by facilitating independent study, group collaboration, working ahead, and catching up after falling behind, etc. Perhaps the best part is that her videos are still accessible to this day. “I’ve had former students return from college and tell me they watched my videos that semester to help them understand a concept from their college math class.” In total, Patti created 549 lessons using Educreations and her videos have currently been viewed nearly 30,000 times.
In many ways, Patti’s approach to innovation is similar to the spirit we embody at ACTNext. She saw an opportunity to transform her classroom in an innovative way by discovering and applying a new method of teaching and learning. Her experiment affected real learners in positive, exciting ways. Perhaps the most important take away from Patti’s experience is the importance of disrupting the paradigms to which we grow accustomed and acting to challenge oneself. “I just wanted to see if I could do it,” she said. “Ultimately, I let the kids be in charge of their own learning. I tried something new, and it worked.”