Almost everyone has heard of the concept of flipped learning by now. The related concept of flipped PD has also been gaining traction in many PLN circles lately, but often without many supporting details. The intention of this article is to begin the process of adding those details, and to introduce a new iTunes U course designed to explain the concept of Flipped PD.
Today’s schools are adapting at a rate never before experienced, and as a result, the need for professional development has never been greater. Our school is no exception. We have made the important transition to teaching 1:1 with iPads and have realized an unprecedented need for professional development. Teachers wanted desperately to know how to use the iPad, and as a school we wanted to understand how to fundamentally change the art of teaching as a result of introducing the iPad into the learning environment. We’ve refined the concept of flipped PD in response to this need for on-going, any time, any place, any pace professional learning. We discovered that if teachers wanted to know how to use the iPad and understand how the introduction of the iPad could change the way students learn, they would have to be placed in the role of a student with an iPad. So, the story of flipping PD began in Boyne City.
Our concept of flipped PD has evolved greatly since we began nearly two years ago. During our early stages, flipping PD simply involved providing background information about a topic of discussion prior to a meeting. Our teachers are now tech experts using tools like Twitter, Edmodo, screen casting, blogging, Pinterest, and more to fuel, not only their personal learning, but the learning of their colleagues as well. We now only have two staff meetings a year and those are far from traditional meetings. The remainder of our professional learning occurs within school based PLN teams, individually based PLNs, and grade level teams. These teams manage their own learning from content to scheduling. While their time isn’t monitored, their productivity is. Each PLN team reports progress to the building wide school improvement team, and the individual teacher reports progress to the building principal during the evaluation process.
Teachers are professionals and therefore should be treated as such. The reality is that the traditional professional development model in most schools, has in many ways stripped this professionalism from our teachers. In essence, we have told teachers that WE (school administrators and other outsiders) know what they need to know. We’ve taught them to sit back and wait until we find the time to give them what they need in the manner we think they should learn it. In order to be successful with an attempt at flipping PD, all professionals within a school must be dedicated to the idea of taking ownership of their own learning.
What we have attempted to do is to change that old mind set of sitting and getting. We have given teachers back the time that they spent sitting in general one size fits all professional development activities and asked them to use that same amount of time learning at the time, place and manner that fits them best. Furthermore, we have provided the freedom for staff to learn on the topic most important to them as long as it fits within our school improvement needs.
I’m very fortunate to work with a group of educators who noticed that with the privilege of teaching 1:1, also came the responsibility to re-define teaching and learning not only for our students, but for the adults in school as well. Throughout defining this new model of professional learning, we have found that all teachers are now engaged and contributing members of our collective team. We no longer see teachers sitting through a staff meeting or professional development activity as passive bystanders simply abiding by the contract.
Consequently, the work that is often done by the small minority in some schools is now being done by all staff. This results in much greater accomplishments for our school as a whole and for the individual teachers and students within our school. Furthermore, while this isn’t the reason to implement the flipped PD concept, it should be stated that teachers are dedicating much more time to their professional learning under this model than they ever did within the traditional format. The fact that ALL teachers are now participating and dedicating more time means we are experiencing more professional growth than ever before. The concept of flipping PD is essential for any school attempting to effectively manage the many professional development needs they face. This iTunes U course should provide a framework for better understanding the concept of flipped PD.
Fred Z. Sitkins
Elementary School Principal
Boyne City, MI