A sneak peak of SOFLA – first random thoughts

 Last year (2020) I had everything ready to flip one of my pronunciation courses. Material had been prepared, ideas were organized, the institutional platform designed and almost ready ... when the quarantine kept us all locked in. What could I do? I was suddenly forced to flip ONLINE! 

I did my best mainly through trial and error, because I did not know there was an approach called SOFLA: Synchronous Online Flipped Learning Approach, full of tried and tested ideas, tools and strategies to make teaching and LEARNING significant, motivating and succesful! 

As I am now delving into this approach, I can say that its eight basic steps which form a cycle of learning provide a clear framework to organize lessons and it is useful for both teachers and students, who would know what they are doing, why they are doing it and what comes next (not a minor detail in today's context so full of uncertainties).

The cyle of learning in SOFLA (Marshal and Kotska 2020)

In 2020 we teachers had to teach online to students who had not enrolled in an online course. I believe that made a world of difference. Students were not ready - psychologically or technologically - to suddenly be faced with a completely different environment which required a change of attitude on their part, which required them to become more active and in charge of their learning. In my case, I assumed the famous 'digital native' would know how to manage technology, but I was wrong. They did not know how to learn with technology. They barely knew how to send an email attaching a file, So, we taught technology, we taught how to use apps and sites so that then we could move on to teach them the content we were supposed to be teaching. (And the fact that many teachers had to learn all of this first adds a further hindrance which deserves a post of its own). 

There is a lot to do for pre work - interactive video, collaborative reading, etc - and there are many activities to adapt to online synchronous meetings. The change takes time but I personally believe it is worth its while. Still, in my own context (La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina) the poor internet connectivity - or its expense! - and the lack of devices (both for students and teachers) are key obstacles that do not depend on us (the educational community) but which need to be solved if we are to avoid deepening the divide between those who access education and those who don't. Or in any case, we might need to develop a variety based on SOFLA but without the compulsory synchronic component... we'll see. 


Marshal, H. and Kotska, I. (2020) Fostering Teaching Presence through the Synchronous Online Flipped Learning Approach. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language. (24 - 2).

Unit 0

I think I experienced a from of flipped learning back in the '90s while I was at University and there was a teacher who I admired because she gave lessons on History of the English Language and she barely spoke herself during her classes,which were excellent. We, students, did all the talking. We were asked to read some material and then, the lesson would start with the question: 'What did you find interesting?' and we would go on talking and making comments on what our partners said. We were few students, no more than 15, and I would not dare go to class without having read anything. At times, we were asked to go to classes in pairs and only for about twenty minutes, so the class got even more personalised. 
So, being a teacher of English now, teaching English phonetics, I am worried about the amount of time I talk during my lessons, which I find inevitable, because I have many topics to explain. But then, the amount of time my students speak during the lesson is quite limited! And I am teaching phonetics! So, I started thinking how I could maximise class time and specially class time quality for my students. How could I listen to them for longer periods, how could I manage to make THEM do the talking. That was when I remembered my History of the English Language teacher and found out that, in a way, her methodology has a name: flipped learning. I have read about it, and started to combine it with technology, which seems a very good combination. But, COVID 19 appeared and we were suddenly pushed online! So, I think I cannot evaluate how much it is really working at the moment, because the context now is very special. There are students with no connectivity, students who have kids or grandparents to look after, limited time to devote to learning, stress related issues, the lot.
I have enrolled in the #openflip course to discuss experiences, to learn about how to flip classes meaningfully, to know what not to do. One thing I always fear is that students would not read or do the activities assigned before the face-to-face lesson (be it really face to face or virtually) and then I would have to explain again, talk a lot again, and discourage the ones who have actually done the activities and I would not really be encouraging the others to do the activities for the next class. Although I have allowed those students to stay in class and just listen, they make me really uncomfortable. 
I have thought of dividing the class in groups of three, four or five to have more personalised lessons but in this context I believe it may even be negative or intimidating. 
So, let's see how my amateur attempt to flipping lessons can be improved!

Some further thoughts here...