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Head: Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs

Flip to be Fair to Your ELLs

Margareta V. Tripsa

Kennesaw State University

Issues and Trends in Instructional Technology

Spring 2015

Dr. Williams
Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs


Classrooms around the world are becoming more and more culturally and

linguistically diverse. The increasing curriculum demands place a burden on the

students who need to learn content and language at the same time. Teachers need to

narrow the ever-growing gap that arises between native speakers and second language

learners by helping the latter approach rigorous content and increasingly complex

tasks in classrooms with English Language Learners. Technology can enhance

teaching and learning in many ways and can serve a great learning or teaching

assistant. The learning that takes place within the classrooms walls is just a

springboard for a much more complex and dynamic learning experiences. How about

giving the students the chance to use all classroom time for engaging in complex and

dynamic learning experiences? This article, Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs, shows why

the flipped classroom model enhances educational equity. This article also discusses

the fact that besides offering the English Language Learners equitable opportunities to

access learning, the flipped classroom approach is also a gateway to a more rigorous,

meaningful, and dynamic classroom instruction.

Key words: blended learning, flipped classroom, English Language Learners,

education equity, trends, technology

Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs

English Language Learners

As we live in an increasingly global world, classrooms are becoming more and

more diverse. This cultural and linguistic diversity generates classrooms that are

richer and more complex. This reality poses various challenges on schools.

Researchers noted a significant gap between native speakers and second language

learners in terms of academic performance (Cummins, 2000, Gndara & Hopkins,

2010, Johns & Torrez, 2001). Research has shown that although English Language

Learners (ELL) acquire basic conversational or basic interpersonal communication

skills (BICS) in one or two years, it takes them five to seven years to acquire

cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) and to catch up with the native

English speakers (Cummins, 2000). Academic language proficiency can be defined as

the extent to which an individual has access to and command of the oral and written

academic registers of schooling (Cummins, 2000, p. 67). Because acquiring CALP

places much more demands on the second language learners, Cummins, who coined

these two terms, pointed out that educators need to create engaging literacy scenarios

and give students multiple opportunities to interact with the content. Besides the extra

opportunities and modalities that the ELLs need benefit from when interacting with

the academic content, educators also need to scaffold their instruction without

watering down the curriculum. This might seem to be an overwhelming job, but

technology can play a pivotal role is helping teachers address the ELLs needs and

differentiate the curriculum accordingly.

Literature shows that technology enriched environments can help ELLs fill the

gap between their academic performances and the results of their native speaker

counterparts, which progressively deepens (Caldern, Slavin, Sanchez, 2011; White

& Gillard, 2011) Personalized learning can also be done easier through the use of

Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs

technology. Pierce (2006) noted that technology can help teachers provide this

scaffolding with handy supports that are embedded in the content, such as native

language assistance and pop-up definitions or visual demonstrations of key

vocabulary terms (p. 28). When used strategically, technology can serve as the

teachers best assistant.


Schools across the world are using technology in different ways. New models

and of instruction and new literacies have emerged in the 21st century. The research

regarding the impact of blended learning or flipped classrooms on the English

Language Learner teaching and learning is quite scarce. The studies that exist consist

mainly of self-report data. Most of the students involved in these studies greeted the

implementation of the flipped classroom model (Bergman & Sams, 2012; Foertsch, et

al, 2002; Strayer, 2007; Kim, Byun, & Lee, 2012). Blended learning are flipped

classroom are becoming very popular. The meaning of blended learning and flipped

classroom overlap and both models have a variety of definitions. In short, blended

learning uses a combination of face-to-face and online learning. Sharma & Barrett

emphasized the fact that, blended learning can exploit the best of both worlds

(2007, p. 8) Therefore, some classroom sessions can be skipped and this classroom

time is replaced with online learning. The flipped learning model is an instructional

model popularized originally through a Ted Talk delivered by Khan Academy

founder Salman Khan, which has received more than 2.5 million views. It basically

claims that by reversing homework and what it would traditionally be considered

classwork, teachers can make more efficient use of instructional time and resources.

The flipped classroom approach asks for a switch in how instruction is delivered

Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs

while students are required to attend all class sessions. Instead of using the classroom

time for a lecture, the flipped classroom is used to reinforce, practice, and analyze the

content that had been previously presented to the students through a video outside of

class. Therefore, classroom time can be used for application of knowledge and

collaboration. Collaboration is a big component of the flipped classroom. The

proponents of this approach claim the fact that collaboration is even more essential

than the use of technology. They asserted that while blended learning cannot be done

without technology, the flipped classroom can. Honeycut and Garrett (2014) tried to

alleviate the tensions regarding the best definitions for these two approaches and

pointed out that, regardless of the definitions used to describe each approach, at the

heart of both blended learning and flipped learning is a learner-centered curriculum

that changes the traditional roles of instructor and student. (p. 2)

Bergmann and Sams (2012) maintained that, ultimately, flipping a classroom

involves shifting the energy away from the instructor and toward the students and

then leveraging educational tools to enhance the learning environment. The use of

technology in the flipped classroom or blended learning settings does not replace the

teacher but it rather complements the instruction fostering a time efficient use of face-

to-face instruction.

New types of learners, new focus

Wells and Holland (2016) noted that, this flipped form of learning can

support a myriad of pedagogic approaches within web-enabled learning eco-systems,

particularly where participatory, social technologies are harnessed to support and

transform the learning experiences. (p. 2) There are no set guidelines regarding what

flipped classroom should look like. The 21st century seems to be very different from

Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs

the previous century. New ways of communicating, new ways of teaching and

learning, and new ways of interacting are emerging. George Siemens developed the

connectivism theory developed in 2005. Although there is a debate whether

connectivism is a separate learning theory given the fact that it resembles in some

respects to other theories such as social cognitive theory, situated cognition, social

learning theory, community of practice, etc., it seems to draw on sound principles

such as: learning and knowledge resides in diversity of opinions, learning is a process

of connecting specialized nodes of information sources, the importance of current,

accurate, and up-to-date information, the increased focus on the ability to know more

rather than an emphasis on what is already known, etc. Andersen (2011) noted that,

connectivism celebrates the faster generation, distribution and application of

knowledge that characterises a networked infused society and culture. (p. 159) The

21st century net native pedagogy focuses on how learners build knowledge through

networking, on the potential of creating content, besides consuming content in various

multimodal ways, and on collaboration as a means that help learners transcend all

time and space barriers.

Literacy has become a central focus during the first decade of the 21st century

and educators and policy makers started to emphasize the importance of teaching

literacy across disciplines. Roblyer (2016) noted that, the English and Language Arts

discipline is guided by a prominent theory, new literacies, which describes an ever-

shifting definition of literacy. Other terms, such as 21st century skills, media literacy,

digital literacy and information literacy, describe similar intersections of digital

technologies and literacy and are prevalent terms used in general education contexts.

(p. 261) Our students are digital learners who expect school to be reflection of the 21st

century realities. Bull and Patterson (2016) made a very good point saying that, with

Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs

technology driving 21st century education, the infusion of appropriate pedagogical

strategies supported by research-based theories will enhance digital delivery, promote

positive learning outcomes, promote self-reflection and self- assessment, engage all

learners in the process, and provide powerful learning experiences. (p. 255) In other

words, a rigorous interplay of content, pedagogy, and technology is required for

designing effective flipped lessons and for addressing the needs of the net generation.

Benefits of flipped classroom for ELLs

Courses with hybrid/blended learning tend to produce stronger student

learning outcomes than the completely face-to-face interaction (U.S. Department of

Education, 2010). The teacher who plans to use the flipped classroom needs to know

how to do it right. They need to know how to create the right content, how to use the

software needed to design the flipped sessions, how to find or recycle existing

resources, where to store and how to share the videos, how to motivate the students to

assume responsibility for their own learning, how to design their classroom

instruction effectively, how to ensure equitability, how to have the students

demonstrate that they have interacted with the content outside of class, how to keep

them engaged and motivated, and how to measure the students progress and the

efficiency of the approach.

In the digital age ELL students can greatly benefit from content delivered

digitally. To narrow the gap between mainstream students and second language

learners, many teachers take advantage of technology tools to help these students not

just learn the language, but also the academic content. There are different types of

technologies teachers could use to support English Language Learners in their journey

to reach increasingly demanding academic standards. One of the biggest advantages

Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs

of the flipped classroom is the teachers ability to differentiate. Finkel (2012) noted

that, educators say that flipped learning can greatly increase a teachers ability to

provide differentiated instruction given that students work at their own pace in the

classroomand teachers can provide more challenging work for those who are

breezing through. (p. 32) In one classroom there can be a wide spectrum of

knowledge and skills and differentiation may seem to be an impossible task.

Students can cover the material at their own pace. They can watch the videos

several times, or they can pause and rewind the videos as needed. The high flyers can

skip portions of the video lectures they already know, and can focus on advancing

their knowledge and skills, as opposed to going through the same materials at the

same pace with the rest of the class. These digital features can bring great benefits to

the English Language Learners because the students are given control over their

learning. Also, online dictionaries are at students fingertips at anytime, wherever

they are. The ability to go over the new content at home, provides ELLs with

translanguaging opportunities. The ELLs can use various avenues to grasp the new

concepts in their native language.

Frontloading is a great strategy for ensuring comprehension especially when

working with second language learners. By offering the students the opportunity to

get familiarized with the new concepts prior to addressing the topic in the formal

setting of the classroom, the teachers are facilitating learning in a more equitable way.

The ELLs are given the chance to be ready to engage in hands-on and small group

learning activities in class. Danker (2015) found out that, the flipped model puts the

responsibility for learning more on the shoulders of the students giving them the

greater impetus to experiment (p. 174) The learning environment that characterizes

the flipped classrooms cannot be a teacher-centered environment. The instruction is

Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs

characterized by: increases in interaction between student-instructor, student-student,

student-content, and student-outside resources (Dziuban, et al., 2004, p. 3)

Another great benefit of the flipped classroom emerges from the fact that it

allows teachers to focus on the higher spectrum of the Revised Blooms Taxonomy in

class. When the students watch the lectures at home or at introduced to the concepts at

home, they can work on developing higher level thinking skills in the classroom.

Hence, the teachers should be using active learning strategies that put students in the

center of the learning experiences.

Brief list of resources for getting started with the flipped classroom

To flip their classrooms, teachers can use videos that are available, they can

record their own videos, or do both.

To use content that has already been created, teachers can use various

resources such as: Khan Academy, Brighstorm, iTunesU, Mathispower4u, TEDTalks,

and TED-Ed, YouTube, and YouTube EDU, refseek (academic search engine),

BrainPOP, BrainPOPJr,

Screencasting Software options: Camtasia Studio or Camtasia for Mac, Jing,

Snagit, Screenflow.

Web-based screencasting options: Snagit for Google Chrome, Screencast-o-

matic, Screenr, Smart Notebook, Movenote.

Video options: iMovie

iPad Apps: Show Me, Explain everything, Screenchomp, Dioceri, Knowmania


Learning Management Systems that can host the content and where studnets

can interact with it: Moodle, Edmodo, Schoology, Lore, Haiku.

Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs

Screencast/Video hosting options: YouTube, TeacherTube, SchoolYube,

Google Classroom, Google Drive, Dropbox, Vimeo.


The flipped classroom model offers the English Language Learners equitable

opportunities to access learning and it is also a gateway to a more rigorous,

meaningful, and dynamic classroom instruction. The schools need to change and be in

synch with the realities of the society as failure to do so might have serious

repercussions. New models of education would soon bring competition to traditional

models of schooling. Therefore, it is critical that schools open their doors to the

outside world allowing for new models of formal and informal learning to emerge. In

order for schools not to lose ground, as online learning and free educational content

become more pervasive, stakeholders and administrators must seriously consider what

schools can provide that cannot be replicated by other sources. (Horizon Report,

2014, p. 6) To be effective in the 21st century, people must be able to exhibit a range

of functional and critical thinking skills related to information, media and technology.

The strategic use of technology tools, the benefits far outweigh the problems that

might arise in the process. Technology can play a pivotal role in academic

environments because if offers a vast area of opportunities to differentiate instruction,

to meet students needs and to challenge all students: ELLs, special needs students,

gifted and talented students, or mainstream students.

The flipped classroom is not only about videos. Flipping classes requires the

flipping of minds as well. (Salifu, 2016) Pierson (2001) warned that, unless a

teacher views technology use as an integral part of the learning process, it will remain

a peripheral ancillary to his or her teaching (p. 427). Therefore, teachers need to

Flip to Be Fair to Your ELLs

focus on using technology to enhance students learning experiences, and create new

learning opportunities that wouldnt be possible otherwise. Harris and Hofer (2009)

warned that, when integrating educational technologies into instruction teachers

planning must occur at the nexus of standards-based curriculum requirements,

effective pedagogical practices, and available technologies affordances and

constraints (p. 99). The assumption that exposing teachers to technology is enough to

prove that they are technology proficient is as false as the idea that if students have

tech skills they will automatically know how to use technology for instructional

purposes. Literature shows that many teachers are lured in a technocratic trap by

designing lessons according to specific educational technologies, rather than

curriculum based content standards or students learning needs (Harris, Mishra, &

Koehler, 2009). Therefore, schools and districts need to make sure they provide their

teachers with the support needed with regard to professional development

opportunities. Creighton (2003) said, expecting technology to be the answer is

putting the cart before the horse. Technology has undoubtedly great potential and its

potential resides in how we utilize it for our purposes.

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