In my experience facilitating out-of-school time programs, I typically avoid homework and assignments that need to be completed outside of the program. Participants attend a program in which the emphasis is on engaging with and learning from others, usually through project based learning. I do not give lectures but I do find myself explaining concepts, vocabulary, systems, processes, and other important understandings that help participants get a better sense of the program goals, content, and activities. Even skills or routine tasks that they need to successfully participate, usually have to be built into our schedule – setting up user accounts, sharing cloud files, taking surveys, etc.
It’s not uncommon for youth to become overwhelmed with the logistics of the program and therefore cannot stay focused on their individual tasks or complete group activities. Flipped learning is an important approach to consider because participants would have even more control over their pace of learning and be able to view course content on their own terms as needed; this would be particularly appropriate for ESL youth and those who have difficulty concentrating on lecture-style instruction and text-heavy resources (Educause, 2012). Several factors come to mind that would make flipped learning an interesting emerging pedagogy to explore in my work:
- A need for differentiated instruction – Each youth comes to the program with a unique skillset, certain abilities, interests, and lived experiences – not unlike a school classroom. Part of what makes the program successful is that each participant brings this unique perspective that allows youth to learn from one another, however the varying needs, interests and learning styles usually require group and individual activities to be scaffolded, particularly in the beginning of the program as I am getting to know the participants. Utilizing a flipped approach would allow students to spend the initial period getting to know their peers and discussing topics and issues that they had been able to explore in depth, prior to arriving for a program session. For some participants, this would lessen their anxiety at meeting new people and give them an idea of what will be discussed and expected from them during the program. This approach might help some youth be more engaged if they have had a chance to explore the content we are learning on their own (Edudemic, 2015).
- Mixed-age groups – I typically have a range of age groups in a single program, which makes it even more complicated to design activities or project based learning where each participant can be successful within the group. I try to make sure the older youth give younger ones a voice in discussions and don’t try to assume all of the leadership roles. Flipped learning strategies would level the playing field and ensure that participants are given opportunities to examine the content at their own pace and with the help of others outside of the program if needed. Giving youth “more power over the way and process by which they study and learn” (Edudemic, para 13 ) can only help them to succeed in diverse learning environments. An important skill we focus on in my programs is networking – learning to cultivate and use your contacts (neighbors, mentors, friends, teachers, etc.) to support your personal, academic, and career goals. A flipped approach would allow the youth to access their network for support and bring in any new knowledge, understandings, and experiences into the group.
- Limited schedule – Often my programs meet 2-3 times a week for 12 weeks during the school year (fall or spring), and on a more condensed schedule during the summer. During the school year program cycles, participants are also juggling school, extracurricular activities, part-time work, family obligations, and/or social time with their peers. A flipped learning program would give them an opportunity to examine content on the off days, and spend program time working collaboratively with their peers or practicing needed skills.
- Flexible and personalized content – Whether it’s college planning, career exploration, or leadership development, I often have to build in time to teach life skills, study skills, and job readiness skills, in order for participants to succeed in completing the various programs. Using flipped learning, I could provide youth with a range of materials to use or review and they could select which topics and activities to explore. This would also mean that I would not need to select content based on the needs and interests of a majority of participants or even try to set priorities based on the time available – students would have access to content to explore individual interests and use program time to collaborate on shared needs and group projects.
- Variety of tools available – One of the main reasons I typically have not expected participants to complete “assignments” outside of program time, is that usually a significant number of them do not have time or access to the technology needed to complete work at home. Often they might have other responsibilities at home that barely allow them to complete their own homework much less an additional assignment from my program; or they may not have internet access at home or data plans on their mobile devices. However, I do think there are opportunities for a flipped learning approach to be applied. My priorities for selecting tools would be their accessibility and usability for participants; this would definitely mean that I’d have to use a variety of platforms and it might change between program cycles depending on the abilities and access available for each participant. I would certainly emphasize tools that were free and available on mobile devices so using social media, YouTube, podcasts, and cloud storage would be an initial place to start. Since we typically use these tools in the program, it wouldn’t be a major transition but it would require more effort in the beginning to create recordings, videos, and other multimedia resources.
As I started to explore various resources to figure out what tech tools would be appropriate in my programs, I realized that this flipped learning pedagogy is still primarily focused on formal educational environments (schools) so many of the tools would not be needed in my programs. Since my focus is usually to help youth navigate the greater community and resources to support their job readiness, career exploration and college planning, using widely available and free open platforms in an important aspect of the program. Web 2.0 technologies are ideal because they are accessible and widely utilized by youth. For my program, “the greatest benefits of flipping [my program] are not about using technology or students learning through video. The greatest benefit lies in using face-to-face time to provide each student with individualized attention rather than large-group instruction.” I’m looking forward to exploring this pedagogy further, and Sams (2015) referenced a Google Document of flipped learning resources curated by Dan Spencer, definitely a good place to start exploring tools that are currently being used. In many ways, a transition to a flipped learning approach would require the most adjustment for me, not for the participants!
Edudemic. (2015). The Teacher’s Guide to Flipped Classrooms. Retrieved from: http://www.edudemic.com/guides/flipped-classrooms-guide/
Educause. (2012). 7 Things You Should Know About Flipped Classrooms. Educause Learning Initiative. Retrieved from: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7081.pdf
Sams, A. (2015). Flipped Classroom 101. Topic: Flipped Learning, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=286&category=Featured-videos&article=Flipped-classroom-101
Spencer, D. (2015). Flipped Learning Resources. [Google Document]. Retrieved from: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IOI5-tXZvOEVCFhoN5hlsccnRa-8_77nx3GDdB6C-tE/edit