Concerned: The Flip Model, Mobile Tech, and Achieving Balance

20111126-160704.jpgThis summer, a colleague in SD 10 (Arrow Lakes, BC) Sally McLean (@sallynmclean) had me in to present to her district on digital footprints. From our discussions during my visit, it was evident she was very excited about the “flip model” of education. (For a bit more on this model see The Flipped Classroom Model: A Full Picture). More recently, I’ve been chatting to my colleague, George Kelly, more about this model as he looks at ways to apply it in his classroom. A great deal of our latest chats have been on developing the personal responsibility of the learner in a flip model–self-direction/self-actualization–so that they actual do the requisite materials outside of classroom time. Today, an article from Australia on the flip model, has me a bit concerned about the potential for promoting hyper-responsiblity (a.k.a workaholism) through an unhealthy combination of mobile technologies and the flip model. The article is “Technology brings the classroom back home in role reversal”from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Am I in favour of the model? You bet. In fact, I taught a substantial amount of my distributed learning program this way for a number of years while I worked in the Gulf Islands School District (SD 64, BC). Students worked through curriculum using me as a resource, facilitator, and support as necessary. Sometimes I filled information gaps, explained things differently, referred students to extension materials, or just plain paced them (or pushed them 😉 to complete by their goal time. That was a number of years ago when technology was not as prevalent–or as hand-held–as today.

Am I in favour of mobile technologies? Definitely. I believe that they enrich our personal and professional lives, learning opportunities and more. I think that having access to information technologies everywhere/anytime is a benefit when used wisely. I use my iphone and ipad often, have brought ipods into my faculty and hope to bring in some ipads soon. I am constantly looking at how mobile technologies can optimize learning and teaching in the classroom. (I’m not an extremist, though. There is a time and place for everything. The QR codes on the notices placed on the inside of our VIU bathroom stalls by our student health group? Not a place and time I endorse re. using mobile technology for obvious reasons.)

So why the concern? The combination of mobile technologies & access to education is a great thing, but it needs to be framed appropriately. I think that the Sydney Herald article hit on something we haven’t anticipated in shifting education to an everywhere/anytime paradigm–at least as not as far as kids are concerned in a mobile friendly world. While not the thrust of the article, the concept of the classroom extending far beyond the physical classroom is exciting & problematic now–in a way it wasn’t before highly mobile technologies. For me, it raised the question of how we avoid developing a culture of workaholics who can’t establish boundaries between ‘work’ and personal time.

Technology as a venue for workaholics isn’t new. I think the issue hit the business sector hard first as mobile technology–Blackberries–infiltrated that market. With the advent of smartphones, you didn’t have to be a workaholic staying in the office, you could be one anywhere–even on vacation with your family. I bet we all know people who can’t stop themselves from answering work emails when not working, continuing to work because technology has reached them everywhere/anytime. I think it first hit the education sector hard with the proliferation of online learning & the rise of digital communications. Those early online instructors were barraged with email & other digital communications 24/7–in a way no F2F (face-to-face) teacher had to deal with (unless you live in a small rural community–but that’s another issue).

Managing time efficiently is one of the techniques that needs to be taught to those taking up online instruction–or those who have a heavy technology component to their educational roles–or even just those educators who are very into digital communications, social networking, & mobile computing. My colleague & friend, Rachel Moll (@rfmoll) says she thinks I’m very good at setting boundaries between my “work” time and my personal life–as I trail around with my computer, or iphone, or ipad. (Rachel catches me on my good days! It’s all relative–ask my husband, Arnie, and he might disagree.) Though I love my job, am passionate about technology, and like to go above & beyond, I believe I am getting better balancing when I work and when I don’t. (At least I hope that’s how my dean and faculty members perceive it–as well as my two young sons and my husband.)

Do I think that learning shouldn’t occur everywhere/anytime? I’m totally in favour of learning everywhere and anytime. It’s a very Zen concept. However, I think it’s different when it’s a passion or personal interest versus when it’s driven by outside forces–your boss, your 9th grade science teacher, etc., under deadlines, pressure, etc. moving into time that was previously reserved for other important items that make us healthy humans. As we move ourselves and our students into the everywhere/anytime paradigm, we need to teach ourselves and our students to achieve balance and establish boundaries–allowing time for personal lives, families, friends, working out, resting, being spiritual–goofing around. As we look to move to a flip model, we must ever be aware of ‘reasonable’ workloads based on student capacity–general or specific to an individual–and work to establish boundaries.

My recent conversations with George on the flip model were centred on the need to build up students’ personal responsibility and commitment with regard to their own learning so that the work assigned outside of class got done–without the teacher acting as a heavy handed overseer, administering quizzes, etc. During those conversations, I didn’t look at the other end of the spectrum that the Herald article brought to mind. Some of our students can become overwhelmed, become compulsive about completing content. Some educators can be over zealous in assigning homework–let alone learning–outside the bounds of the physical classroom.

Boundaries don’t need to be rigid–they can be flexible or fluid, but when when we look at the balance of what we do, that balance should always be healthy for the individual. If you’re using an everywhere/anytime approach with a flip model using mobile technologies, help yourself and your students manage their time and efforts in a healthy manner. Check-in with yourself and your students: Is the workload or activity manageable in a reasonable timeframe? If not, be flexible and fluid: adjust them. I included the picture of the acrobats as a reminder of what amazing things can be achieved when we are experts at achieving balance. Technology and changing our pedagogical approaches should ultimately make teaching and learning better and help us achieve amazing things–when well balanced.

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2 Responses to Concerned: The Flip Model, Mobile Tech, and Achieving Balance

  1. Highly energetic post, I enjoyed that a lot. Will there
    be a part 2?

  2. Excellent post. I absolutely love this website.
    Keep writing!

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