What if my students can't access the internet to watch flipped lessons?

When I talk to other teachers about flipping the classroom, eventually I'm asked the question” How do the kids without technology access the videos?”

In short, and pragmatically speaking, you do whatever you need to do.

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I first learned about ‘Flipping the Classroom’ at a UNL TechEDGE conference. Oddly enough, the presenter hadn’t ever ‘Flipped’ the classroom himself – he was just presenting the theory to those of use who were naïve enough to give this crazy idea a try.

After his presentation, he provided a time for questions. Immediately, I asked the question he had prepared for. (It was probably similar to something you’ll hear from a lot of folks once you bring up the idea of ‘Flipping’). To my memory, my question resembled the following: “Mr. Presenter Sir, I love the idea, but how do the kids without internet at home watch these videos? I mean, I teach at a Title I school and I know a lot of my students won’t have access the technology necessary.”

His answer: “I don’t know. Make it work.”

While the answer didn’t exactly fill me with confidence at the time, I have come to appreciate his obstinacy. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ when it comes to this question. Each school operates differently and has different ways students can access technology. Some schools are one-to-one with devices, and others spend a lot of their time fighting over a few, coveted, germ-infested laptops.

So while I can give you an example of how we’ve done it at our school, it does come with the caveat that it may look totally different when it comes to yours. Also, it’s important to note this may look different regarding your specific subjects. Just for the record, the subject we’ve flipped is Elementary math, and the videos are about 5-7 minutes long. (Check out my other post on how I structure my videos to include scaffolding and how to further improve cognition).

Without further ado, our plan of attack:

1) The students with internet access watch the videos at home - either on a computer, tablet or smart phone.

2) The students who don’t have internet access watch the videos at school. We have a lot of students who eat breakfast at school before the day even begins. Knowing this, we opened up a room and have four laptops where students can sit down – before or after breakfast – and watch the video. It took all of 10 minutes to train the kids on how to find the videos online. Currently, we have the students access the videos through my Twitter page, which we’ve bookmarked to help expedite the process.

Yes, this does require some responsibility on their part. They have to carve out about 10 extra minutes to get the work done. Nonetheless, you can remind them 10 minutes now, is a lot less painful than time spent afterschool working on endless sheets of homework. Also, there go all their excuse for not getting their homework done.

3) If students don’t want to give up their time in the morning or can’t make it before the cut-off time, some will watch it during the first part of their recess. Oddly enough, I have some who prefer this. Give up recess? Sick. I know.

4) Lastly, Other ideas

I’ve heard of teachers loading the videos on laptops, (physically) and having kids check them out from their school. I’ve also heard of teachers burning dvd’s or cds each day. Sounds like a lot of work, but they’re making it happen.

So there you have it. Or maybe you don’t. I really do apologize that there isn’t a super easy way to ensure your kids can all watch your videos. Hopefully, in a few years this won’t be the case. Until then, I’ll leave you with a heart-felt, awe-inspiring quote to help you along your way. You’ll have to commit it to memory, because this isn’t exactly a 1,2,3 and you’re done sort of thing. Remember why you’re doing it, remember why you care, and remember whose lives you’re shaping.

It’s not a reason to give up. It’s not a reason to not start. It’s hurdle. It’s a challenge. How will you get your videos to your students? Listen to the voice in your head.

Mr. Presenter Sir: “I don’t know. Make it work.”

But seriously, don’t give up. Make it work.