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Flip the Pen in Learning

It was about a year ago when I came up with this idea of "Flipping the Pen". Having worked with so many teachers and seeing how exercise books and paper play a major part of initial projects or lessons, I asked myself why is this still happening in a 21st Century learning environment? Why are we as teachers using technology as a secondary follow up tool? With the tools teachers and students have at their disposal, surely the pen should now be the secondary tool?

Now before those pen advocates become up in arms about this idea, let me explain that I am in no means saying that the pen is obsolete. I understand that writing with a pen is a necessary skill and one of which should be taught extensively from a very young age. I also understand that most examinations are administered with the trusted pen (although that is a completely different argument and a perhaps a different blog post!). What I am saying is that technology should be where we start as teachers, particularly, when using a pen becomes an embedded skill.

Let me explain further. Many teachers I have seen on my travels as a Edtech workshop presenter and teacher are fixed with using exercise books, particularly in English and Maths. Each student has an exercise book and they write in their books. The teacher collects in exercise books, spends hours marking them and suggests improvements. They edit in their exercise books, crossing out or re-writing, which they don’t really do as it takes too long, and then at the end of editing the teacher tells them to get the computer out and type up this piece of work so it can be neatly displayed on the wall. With the technology of today, why as teachers are we still doing this? With Word Processing and Spreadsheets, particularly Google Docs and Sheets, the students have this amazing tool where they can edit and change their writing until they are happy with it, and even then they can go back and make amendments. It’s easy!

Once the finished Word Processed piece is finished, we then Flip the Pen by copying the finished word processed document on to a piece of paper in their best handwriting. This is the piece that is displayed on the wall for parents to see. As a parent I have to say I'd much rather see a hand written piece than a Word Processed piece. All the editing work is done on a computer, and the pen is used as a final task. This is Flipping the Pen.

I mentioned Google Documents because as Google Certified Teacher I am a big advocate for using Google Apps as an effective teaching and learning tool. What Google Docs offers not only with Word Processing and re-editing, but the ability to return to any part of the document history using Google's Revision History feature. This also allows a teachers to see how a student's work has progressed during the development of the piece of writing. Teachers can then use the comments feature to start learning conversations with the student. Therefore giving formative feedback consistently to improve the writing.

You can also Flip the Pen in Mathematics. So many teachers struggle with integrating technology into mathematics. Use the technology first. Use the graphing features on a spreadsheet to record data and the change the data so the students can see the graphs and axis' change. Once they have seen this, then Flip the Pen and ask them to re-create the graph on a piece of paper, they will be much more confident with defining the correct y-axis!

One teacher I was coaching wanted to teach percentages. Her idea was to give each of the students a 10x10 grid of graph paper and then a series of percentages related to a colour, for example, 22% red, 12% blue etc. They then were to produce a creative design by colouring in the squares. So I suggested to this teacher that she Flip the Pen. I suggested she use a spreadsheet and then use conditional formatting in the spreadsheet. I wrote this spreadsheet for her and then produced the following videos to explain it further. We then used the MATHS PERCENTAGE CHALLENGE so the students could post their designs to the school intranet, or on the AttechEdu Facebook page.

So how else could we Flip the Pen? I'm looking for ideas. I've highlighted a few here in this blog, and have many more which I will add as videos to my ATtechEdu Youtube Channel and Flip the Pen playlist. Please comment on this blog below and let me know how we can really create a movement with Flipping the Pen.

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