Before I started the Digital Leading and Learning Master’s program at Lamar University, I had already implemented some technology in my classroom. I began very slowly integrating technology into my classroom by substituting paper and pencil assignments with technology. I would give students assessments through applications such as Plickers, Quizizz, etc. I knew there was more to integrating technology into the classroom than just having students play (educational) games and substituting it for paper and pencil assignments. So I began to look for other educators and studying how they use technology in the classroom. I would go to technology conferences and started to hear about the flipped classroom. I was in a session where Todd Nesloney was talking about how he flipped his classroom. That got me thinking that my English Language Learners (ELLs) could benefit from that classroom environment. So when I began the Master’s program I already had an idea of what I wanted my innovation plan to be.
My innovation plan was to create a classroom environment where students learn the basics of the lesson at home, and then at school, I get to work more with them in small groups to master the skill/standard they are learning. This is called a flipped classroom. I also stated that I wanted to incorporate station rotations with more technology. In my previous district, it was mandatory to have stations every day, so I decided to also incorporate that aspect in my innovation plan because I was already doing it in my classroom. When I began the program, I had taken the year off to be with my young children at home. So all the work I had done for the flipped classroom was for a fourth-grade classroom setting in my previous classroom. In my previous classroom I had about 120 minutes for math instruction, so having the flipped classroom would open up more time for me to work in smaller groups and give my students more of a personalized instruction. Having this type of learning environment for my ELLs would help them get more time to master skills/standards, collaborate with one another, and open more time where they can also work on much needed academic vocabulary. As the program progressed I completed literature reviews on the pros for having a flipped classroom with station rotations for ELLs.
Since I had been working on creating this type of learning environment, I had already made math instructional videos for fourth-grade students. I had already created and made notes of lesson plans and websites for my fourth-grade students. So when it was time for me to come back to work I was hired by different district and in a new grade level. I had been blessed that one of the focuses of theirs was technology, so I had about ten iPads at my disposal every day. The district also had set up a technology cohort with teachers from different grade levels. So my students who were in fourth grade came from a cohort teacher and were already knowledgeable about technology. So now coming into to a new district where I only had two desktop computers at my disposal, we were getting five iPads, but not until mid-October, and with students who had no technology background. My math instruction time also went from 120 minutes a day to only 90 minutes a day. Now that my math instructional time was decreased I felt it was important for me to create a flipped classroom environment.
At the beginning of the year, I talked to my students’ parents and got their permission for their child to participate. They were all willing and looked forward to the new experience. I got in touch with the technology instructional person for my campus so I can get my students’ Google usernames and passwords. We did not get started with Google Classroom until mid-October due to Hurricane Harvey. I thought that once I had their Google Classroom information it would be smooth sailing, but that was not the case. It has been difficult to keep a steady pace of making videos and having students watch them. It has been difficult for me because I came into a new grade, new district, with new expectations, and new ways on how they run a math classroom and how the content is taught. My progress has not been what I would have wanted it to be. Getting my station rotation with technology has been much easier. Students are working on skills/standards that they are weak on. We are working on collaborating with another class and that is going to be a slow process, which is okay with me since it will be the first time I do anything like that.
My innovation plan is still in the beginning stages, but even though I wish it was different, I am okay with my progress. It is a learning experience. There are outside forces that get in the way and there is nothing we can do, but to be flexible. I will continue to try to make more instructional videos for my students. I will continue to encourage my students to watch the videos at home and help them learn how to sign in and watch the videos more independent. When next year comes and I implement the flipped classroom, it will be much easier because I will already have a bank of videos set up for them. Some of my colleagues have gotten wind of my innovation plan and they are asking me questions about it. Hopefully next year they will implement a flipped classroom environment.