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. 

Reference:

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).

INTENTIONAL CONTENT

 

We’re supposed to support all the circumstances when education is between difficult events and learning but, even without time, patience, as teacher we need to be dispose to help the students to achieve their goals, even if it doesn’t go with our believes. Along with the content we can form strong minded student’s able to take decision, evaluate the situations in their life with the resource we gave them in that hour of class. Also, we can work with other teacher to support the development of skills in all the subjects, even if we’re talking about math, chemistry, English, history, etc. We can help them to not only receive information but transform their environment.

A LESSON PLAN ABOUT THE MIX OF SKILLS AND THE CONTET OF MY ASSIGNATURE.

 Like I've said before, I work teaching English for middle schoolers and that's a hard age to understand the different type of process related with making decisions, the changes of life. And with this lesson plan I want to help them teaching them the skill of making plans for take decisions at the near future and be prepare for the punche's life gives us. So, I hope you can read it and undertand that teaching basic English doesn't mean to pass boring information to the books into their head, but an opportunity to prepare them for life.


What about those schools without an appropiate content?

 

We already saw what was the flipped learning, but it’s really about working as a group but also alone to interpreted every topic we want to learn about. It has to be interactive, but is it really education like that in every single country and village you work at? For me, the answer is no. Sometimes you don’t have the resources to work with, or the content the schools or government gives you to work it’s irrelevant. I’m talking about those school that take a bunch of students on different ages and suppose to be in different grades but as you might know is in a village where they barely can have electricity or water at every hour.

Like one of the pages the course gives us for information we normally assume that in this century all the students have internet and can be able to work in platforms and send different assignments. In the type of schools I’m talking about they only have one teacher for all student’s and he/she is responsible to teach all the contents, they might have books but are not design for their need or level, and this doesn’t mean the students are “not smart enough” to be on a regular classroom, they don’t have another place to go and see the classroom as a big nanny where they can leave their kids while it’s working time.

And everyone in this pandemic are talking about the different resources, how to teach from distance, make interesting lessons, but what about those ones who won’t be able to learn any content at all, what the government or school will do about it? And one solution I can say it’s using the radios, television, teacher giving lessons with a few students outdoor at 6 feet of distance between everyone. We’ve to do anything we can to reach education to those in really need.

Learning Culture

#Week2

Pillar two

This week’s discussion is about learning culture which gives great importance to the roles of the teacher and students in the teaching-learning process. Traditionally, the teacher is considered the unique source of knowledge and information and as a result becomes central in students learning. In this approach students play a sub role, being receptive and dependable on what the teacher provides. On the other hand, flipped learning, proposes students as central in their learning. They should be active in their knowledge construction and evaluation of their progress. They are the principal character in their learning, leaving the teacher on a side, as a guide who provides resources and tools and creates the environment where for students can learn and develop.

In the following lines I will share my thoughts and experience regarding the statements on pillar two. Then I reflect on learning culture and finally state some questions in relation to teaching following the flipped learning approach.

Firstly, I am going to share my experience about giving students opportunities to engage in meaningful activities without the teacher being central. I consider I provide the environment for students to get involved in activities which have purpose and that are important for their learning, however, I have just questioned myself about whether students see the value of the activities they engaged in. I came to the conclusion that making students aware of the relevance of the activities is vital to have them involved. I have come to the conclusion that I need to work more on scaffolding activities and make them accessible to students as well as to differentiate them and give feedback. I think that I usually provide student with materials, resources and activities to construct their learning, but I am missing the scaffolding part. I think that I have taken for granted that students would know what to do. I recognize I need to work on improving my feedback, because I usually give feedback on the results but on the process. I just wonder about the time I need to focus on individual needs of each of my students to keep track of them and give feedback. I guest this is easier to do when teaching individually than in groups.

In regard to learning culture, from my point of view, the discussion should not be about whether we are able to learn on our own or not, but about when it is possible or when it is not. I consider we are all able to self –teach, but there is a variety of elements which determine our success on this approach to learning. Some of these elements may be: interest in the subject, the complexity of the content and our aptitude on it, resources and even time. I think the first thing we need to want to learn on our own is interest on the subject, without interest we won’t put effort or time into it. Let’s imagine we are interested on a certain topic but, what will happen if the subject is complex by nature or I determine it as so because I do not have aptitude on it. I will need to be assisted in finding the right resources and process to learn about it because if we find ourselves capable we might keep going, however if we find it complex we might get demotivated and quit.

I believe in in self-teaching, but I also consider there are things we learn in community or partnership. I think, for example, of learning a language and I come to the conclusion that there are things I can learn and understand on my own, but there are others, which by nature need to be developed in group, for example, the speaking ability.

As a conclusion, I would like to question if people who preach flipped learning have learnt something following this approach. I wonder if we can teach in a way we have not experimented on our own. Would we be able to understand the processes our students go through and the difficulties they face if we haven’t self-learn anything?