Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Thoughts on Flipped Teaching and Economically Diverse Student Populations

by Robert Townsend

I have been a teacher at Clintondale High School in Clintondale Township, north of the Detroit, Michigan, for more than fifteen years now. Typically, our students come from an urban environment and travel many miles by city bus to attend our school. Located in a blue-collar, middle-class neighborhood, Clintondale High's student body is socioeconomically diverse. We are what would be classified as an "at risk" school, with approximately 73 percent of our students qualifying for free or reduced lunches. These changes in the district's demographics led me to decide to "flip" my classroom. I see two parts to the technology equation of flipped learning: student access to technology inside and outside the classroom.

I cannot control access for students outside of school, so I plan for the information I know that they can get through using the after-school computer room or the local library. I have made accommodations in my planning by asking for homework assignments a week at a time. I have found that my students are easily able to find an hour or two once a week to complete their work. Another concern in flipped teaching is the different levels of computer literacy students bring to the classroom. This may be the most challenging aspect of using technology in flipped teaching. Often our classrooms include students at the most basic level of technology competency sitting next to students who can teach their teachers something new. I have found that partnering students together, along with, of course, instructor guidance, is key. Also, as students use technology more frequently, they become more comfortable with it.

Flipping is not really about technology—although technology can make teaching easier—it is more so about in-class time for activities, discussions, group work, and one-to-one sessions with the teacher. This extra time allows me to check each student's progress rather than just those who are brave enough to raise their hands in class to ask questions. I speak with each student in each class, every day.

Robert Townsend has been a science and social studies teacher as well as a baseball and basketball coach at Clintondale High School for more than fifteen years.