#flipclass as community

i began this space to share my journey as i experimented with my teaching practice. i created “white space” for this tinkering by archiving my “outdated” self, the stand and deliver me, onto video. this archiving allowed me the freedom, time and infrastructure to explore and recreate my role in the classroom space.

it would be easy to keep the story all about me, as one teacher, tinkering. but it really wasn’t. it was much more about discovering, as you would an enchanted garden, a flourishing community of teachers who also wanted to tinker with their practice…and they were willing to do so in an open, collaborative and collective manner. no one had THE answer on how to do #flipclass perfectly, or even what exactly #flipclass was…we all came to it with the mindset “let’s figure this thing out together”…”let’s try to see what we can come up with”…together.

over time…months and years…we created a collective understanding, held together, as to what we created #flipclass to be; it was created on the fly, simultaneously by many different practitioners. #flipclass adapted and evolved within and through the practice of the teachers in the community. yesterday, chatting with @crystalkirch, who is one of the many peeps i began this journey with over 2 years ago…it hit me…yes, that’s what #flipclass has grown into; a community, that’s where #flipclass exists and is held, that is where it was created.

this may all sound like a load of malarkey to you, convoluted and obscure. i am ok with that. you would need to ask other #flipclass peeps if this how they see #flipclass before based on their responses, you could say with authority….umm, Carolyn, you have it all wrong!

and so in this iteration of my definition of #flipclass (as i have tried to define it many times) i choose to describe #flipclass as a community of teachers. who either through f2f or virtual means, implicitly or explicitly agree to support one another, co-create ideas, and problem solve actively together, as a community. #flipclass is not possible as a single teacher and instead, is only possible by the combined efforts of many. there is no one way to #flipclass, there is no manual, no form, no checklist…nope #flipclass is a group of people…a community.

you may be thinking…well…so what…this happens everywhere and with lots and lots of teachers…you are probably right. but…maybe we all have to find our own, or rather we all have to forge our own connections with others to create community.

and so for me, this time, #flipclass is community.

#flipclass as adjacent possible

Strategic change management often means encouraging gradual evolution – allowing the company to move from one adjacent possible to another. One idea – collaboration, for example – can lead to another, such as removing fixed desks and landlines and encouraging what we call the ‘bump factor’. These changes, in turn, can lead to further improvements in the way that people, places and technology work together.

Dave Coplin


If you think about educational change, you can’t (all other variables kept static) change from a traditional “stand and delivery” teacher and POOF overnight become an inquiry based one. Similarly, moving from a teacher directed classroom to a student centered one, requires a gradual evolution for both teacher and students. Too radical a change might in fact cause the extinction of the very change you are trying to implement. Systems survive by maintain homeostasis of the system, not by being disrupted, regardless of how worthy or valuable the disruption. Moreover, the change might not even be imaginable or seem possible from the starting perspective.

How about on our way towards the desired change we move to the adjacent possible? First.
How about instead of telling teachers the changes they “should” make, how about providing them with a way to change?

Many #flipclass practitioners have spent considerable time and energy defining, explaining and clarifying what exactly #flipclass is and what it is not. Throughout I felt a key component of my explanation was missing but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it; #flipclass was close enough to what I already did but AT THE SAME TIME it opened up new opportunities for changes previously unattainable and unseen. This dynamic was for me the secret sauce of #flipclass as a vehicle for change. It was not whether #flipclass was “bad or good” (we could debate this forever) or the same as traditional practice…

Instead. What mattered? #Flipclass was possible AND created new possibilities for further change. Critics have been quick to pounce and this observation against #flipclass; “Look teachers who use #flipclass move beyond it”. Exactly!

How about instead we consider #flipclass as adjacent possible? As Steven Johnson describes, adjacent possible:

captures both the limits and the creative potential of change and innovation. In the case of prebiotic chemistry, the adjacent possible defines all those molecular reactions that were directly achievable in the primordial soup. Sunflowers and mosquitoes and brains exist outside that circle of possibility. The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.

The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.

Change occurs within a complex interconnected system. You might in fact, have the best new idea, but that does not mean it will survive within the system. If you see #flipclass simply as “old wine in new bottles” consider #flipclass as the process of change rather than as the change.

Johnson compares ideas to a number of interconnected rooms down a hallway: you can’t reach the final room without travelling through the others. When I was in my “traditional teaching room” I could not see all the way down the hall to inquiry. As I moved into the adjacent possible of #flipclass, I gained new perspectives that I could not have in the original space. Being in this new space, a new adjacent possible became possible.

What is your adjacent possible?

Celebrating some amazing teachers who share!

I know some amazing teachers! Teachers who share their work with the world. I know many have benefited from their openness and ethic of sharing. I know too, that sharing can come with challenges and disappointments.

Here I wanted to celebrate 3 teachers I know who share and whose sharing has inspired me (I know many others who share as well).

The first teacher I want to celebrate is Crystal Kirch, who is the queen of blogging, WSQ and highlighting!! Crystal is a blogger extraordinaire; her commitment to regular and detailed reflections have benefited 100’s of teachers. Crystal’s letter home to parents is exemplary and moreover she has collected parent letters from many other educators to share (double share).

My other favorite sharer would have to be my work partner Graham Johnson who has the most amazing You Tube channel (no bias at all) that is viewed across the country and has helped countless students through math. Graham even made a fancy pants video for parents welcoming them and providing relevant information about the upcoming semester in his #flipclass. Moreover he maintains a stunning website with his course materials.

Last but not least, I am always inspired by my incredibly talented #flipclass colleague Stacey Roshan for her high quality and through work. it is evident that Stacey loves her job, her students and is committed to producing high quality work for her classes. Whether on her blog or her You Tube Channel Stacey demonstrates excellence and exceptional commitment. Below is Stacey’s welcome back to school video.

Kudos to Crystal, Graham and Stacey for setting the example and willingly sharing with all of us.

You all make me proud to be a teacher!!

3 Tools to Connect Your Classroom in Under 3 Minutes.

Are you short on time? Or maybe you’re just short? Or maybe like me…you are BOTH. 🙂

When I first started to digitally connect with my students 3 years ago, I tried a class Facebook group. At the time I pretty much kept it a secret as I was not sure how it would be perceived by other teachers (I did run it by my principal). The response and feedback I got from students was so positive and the interactions so beneficial, I was enticed to try other forms of digital connection.

Below is a quick video I made to share at our staff meeting. I used Pow Toons to showcase another video making tool that is fun for both teachers and students alike. If you don’t have time to watch the video highlights are provided below.

3 Tools to Connect Your Classroom.

1. Facebook Groups.


Don’t have Facebook?  You make the group and do not have to friend students. To start a group you need to add one person who is your friend (I always add my daughter and then once the group is up and running she exits). No problem get a student to make the group for you.

I post daily reminders, pictures from class, documents and links of interest.

Students will ask questions and other students will usually beat me in answering and that’s magic!

I know some teachers prefer Edmodo to Facebook but I find with senior students Facebook can’t be beat. I should say, I do not demand students join the group or Facebook, it is just another place they can access class reminders and updates, but not the only place.

2. Class Twitter Account

I have a separate account just to Tweet out class information, daily reminders and answer quick questions. This year, I invited parents to follow this account as well, as a way to keep up to date on class activities .

Use Future Tweets if you don’t want to manually Tweet updates and reminders each day.

3. You Tube Channel

Don’t have your own videos to share? No problem! There are so many amazing videos available videos on You Tube, why not have them collected all in one place? Again if you don’t have time for this consider giving this project to a student.

My You Tube channel is here.

Not sure how to make a channel? You tube has a great Help Center

What’s your favorite way to connect your students?

Is equity an issue in the flipped classroom?

One of the common criticisms of the Flipped Classroom is the issue of equity. The argument goes something like this: the flipped classroom disadvantages students who lack access to technology at home or who live in confined conditions where viewing a video might be difficult. The argument, like dandelions in spring, is plentiful and easy to find.

According to Wikipedia, educational “equity deals with accommodating and meeting the specific needs of specific individuals. Such needs-based accommodation will not result in equal treatment of all students.” Let’s take a look at examples of inequity in education and go deeper into the story. Note that for the purpose of accuracy I will stick to the specifics of senior secondary classes, as this is where I work and have extensive firsthand knowledge about that situation.

Currently students in senior secondary courses are assigned homework on a regular basis.
This is a fact. 
As an example, take my daughter who is in Grade 11. She has on average 1 to 2 hours of homework on a weeknight. On weekends she might have 5 to 6 hours if she has a major assignment or a test to study for. My daughter is lucky (she might disagree); she has 2 teachers at home who actively support her when she does school work at home. She usually sits at the kitchen table and if she hits a hurdle, needs help editing, or wants a hand studying, one of us is available to help. Often times she does homework with friends, both virtually and face to face, many times homework assignments are a collective effort.

She has support on 2 fronts, that as a classroom teacher, I cannot guarantee or provide to all my students; supportive parents and peers. The variable in this scenario is access to people; the resource that makes my daughter’s situation unequal to some other students is people and not technology.

The flipped classroom has afforded me the ability to be available and supportive to more students, in more ways and in more places than previously. Not all students watch the videos at home, but some do. Some students watch videos in class with a friend during ‘flex time’ (student directed time in class). Some students choose to come to class early and watch videos when class is quiet, some watch the videos on the way to school on the bus and some students decide they will not watch videos at all. The point is, they can choose to watch videos when and where appropriate or not all.

Students have different needs, schedules and preferences for learning modalities. There is not a one size fits all solution to providing equity.

The lack of access to technology or space at home is perhaps one variable that determines whether education is an equitable one. Equity is not about providing the exact same education for every student. Equity is about determining what each student needs to be successful and providing those conditions. Technology is a variable I can make up for, by offering alternative times and places, to access videos. But what I cannot provide alternatives for is the availability of a caring, invested and supportive adult who is committed to student’s success. I choose to make the most of my face to face time with my students, some who need significant support with the content, some who need someone to talk to, and some who need me very little.
I am not implying that I was not a caring teacher beforehand. But before, I did not have the ability or means to differentiate for each student, it WAS one size fits all. And if you do not understand this, I am sorry, but you need to get yourself to a high school ASAP and sit down with some students and teachers and find out what is actually going on.

The flipped classroom is more equitable to more students than the education I was able to provide previously. Equity comes in degrees.  Finding one example of inequity, does not make the overall situation less equitable. Do situations of inequity still remain in the flipped classroom? Of course, some students show up without breakfast for goodness sake. But I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am able to tailor my support more specifically than I could before. AND I am able to meet the demands of my curriculum, ALL at the same time.

Can school compensate for parental support and involvement in school? Can school compensate for the social group that a student is part of?

How can we make school more equitable for more students more of the time? And what about other sources of inequity that student’s experience on a regular basis? What would make the examples below more equitable? Would access to teacher videos perhaps provide equity?

1. Students who are not able to physically be in class for extended periods due to health issues, where course materials are only made available in class.
2. Students who work after school out of financial necessity and struggle to keep up with sleep, let alone homework.
3. Students who are involved with high level athletic programs, train early every day, travel regularly for games or competitions and miss class on a regular basis.
4. Students who live in remote communities where the teacher for a senior academic course is not an expert in the subject matter and struggles to provide adequate materials for the course.
5. Students who live in remote communities where the course they need to enter university is not offered at their school, due to class size considerations.
6. Students who are taking a provincially examinable course (Science 10, Socials Studies 11) where the teacher does not provide review materials or cover the entire course.

Are classroom situations 100% equitable or not at all? Or are there degrees of equity along a spectrum?

There is inequity in school, of that I am certain.
What specific actions can we take today to make conditions equitable for more students?

Break from blogging for #etmooc: Top posts of 2012.

I will be taking a break from professional blogging over the next couple of months to take on some new projects. This breaks my heart in some ways, but I am very excited to dive into the MOOC world (#etmooc) amongst other projects. Maybe I will see you there?

I thought I might highlight posts that had clicked for you and for me over the last year.

I appreciate your support and comments over the past year of growth and evolution.

1. Dear Points….We need to break up. Inspired by @MrPicc112

2. Excuse me, I think I am having a revolution.

3. Establishing classroom routines: flex time, learning journals, hot seat, packets and more!

4. Recipe for a #flipclass: Homework + worksheets + random videos.

5. Inspired Countdown 2012.

6. Celebrating Canuck chicks who tweet.

Learning journals: A bench along the path.

Well designed gardens include pathways that are both inviting and offer places for rest and reflection. When designing a pathway through the garden we might add a bench in a tucked away corner or a reflection ball to pull the visitor deeper in.

The design of a learning pathway is really no different if we hope to invite and nurture reflection for learners. A year ago I was not an overly reflective learner myself. A year later however, I crave blogging, as I would a run or a good book. Reflection provides time and opportunity to clear out brain debris, reorganize, synthesize and seek inspiration. The real appeal of blogging for me has been the chance to step out of my practice and view it from the outside. I am not sure if this makes sense to you, but when I explained this to fellow Biology teacher Amy Nickel she agreed (and if Amy agrees it must be true!). For me (and probably you) teaching is a personal activity and most of the time I am too immersed in the act of doing it to see clearly what it is I am doing.

Deep meaningful reflection has become one of my most favoured and used tools in my personal learning tool box. I wanted to offer learners the same opportunities as they make their journey.

When first offering students opportunities for reflection I considered the following:

1. Private or public?

2. Digital or paper?

3. Audience?

4. Format?

I decided on inexpensive (35 cents), portable, paper learning journals that are written during class time, and are read only by me. I provided general prompts at the start, later in semester I encouraged them to write holistically in a stream of consciousness. Early in the semester I prompted everyone to take part in journal writing to get the habit going and to provide some quiet reflective time within the day. As the semester progressed I let students decide for themselves if it was meaningful for them to continue (last year I insisted, but last semester I wondered why insist?). Some students seemed to take to it immediately, some seemed to just enjoy the chance to take time out of their day to be quiet (which I think is valid) and some were frustrated by the process.

Simple, inexpensive and portable. Personalized with a $ Store nameplate sticker!


1. Convenient – Journals in class made it hassle free.

2. Inexpensive.

3. Private – Students shared personal information that they might not have otherwise.

4. Low tech – Not dependent on tech or internet connection.

5. Personal – I enjoy reading and responding to students in writing (feels personal for me).

6. Timely feedback – Provided insight as to what was going well and where students were struggling.

7. Evidence for me to change – Provided me with concrete evidence that students can very accurately self access and can make concrete plans to remediate.

8. Connection – Students love to read my comments.

9. Stress free – No strings attached (ie not for marks) so enjoyable for all.


1. Lack of authenticity for some – Not authentic and/or meaningful for all students.

2. Limited audience – Read by me alone.

3. Limited creativity – Paper not digital.

4. Negative reactions – “Why do we have to do this in Biology class?” Difficult to get to the deeper power of reflection in such a short time.

5. Limited function – Found that by mid-semester that we had tapped out on the big insights (personal and class related).

Next semester I am planning/hoping to change things up. I am thinking about going digital; expanding the audience and function of the reflection.

What have you tried in your classroom? What worked well for you and your students?

Would love to hear!