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Flipped dilemma: What to do when kids don't have internet

By Todd Nesloney
May 20, 2014
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In my previous post on flipping my classroom I talked about how much it has changed my entire view of education. I know what some of you were probably thinking when you read it: "Well all of his students have devices" or, "They all have internet at home, so that makes it easy."

The truth is that 50 percent of my students do not have internet access at home.

I work in one of the largest school districts in my state — based on square miles, not student population. Some of my students ride more than an hour on the bus to school every morning. Our district is extremely rural. We also have about 66% of students on free and reduced-price lunch. Because of these two factors, many students either can't afford internet access or it just flat out doesn't exist where they live.

So how do I manage to make my flipped classroom work? Here are a few of the ways I accommodate students who can't get online at home:

For students with a computer

Students who have a computer but no internet access at home can bring in a flash drive and I'll load the videos onto it for them. We also have open Wi-Fi on our campus, so kids can bring their Apple devices to school and download the videos from the iTunes U app to watch later at home — no connection necessary!

For students with no computer

If students don't have a computer at home I burn the videos onto a rewritable DVD. Why rewritable? Because in my first year of flipping I didn't have all of my videos created right away. With a rewritable DVD students can bring it back to have the newest instructional videos added.

Was this time consuming? Heck yes. But I wanted to make sure this model of teaching worked, so I did whatever I needed to do.

For students without a DVD player

If DVD isn't a viable option, my campus has a class set of iPod nanos students can check out from the library. I can upload the videos and check the devices out to students to use at home. Never have they been lost, broken, scratched or stolen. I set these expectations clearly from the beginning.

Is the screen small? Yep. But you do what it takes to make things work.

When parents won't allow devices at home

Each year, I have had a parent who didn't want their child to bring a device home. That's when I need to have a very blunt and open conversation with the parent to explain that I have done everything in my power to make flipped learning work for their child. If none of the above options work, it's time for the parent to meet me halfway and have their child arrive early or stay after school to watch the videos. My videos are never longer than 10 minutes and I only assign them up to three nights per week, so it isn't a big time commitment.

I'm sure there are other ways to make flipped learning work for students who don't have internet access at home, but these are the methods that have worked best for me. The only thing that truly stands in the way of making your flipped classroom a success is yourself. Instead of making excuses about why kids "can't" do things, we need to be figuring out solutions. The possibilities are limitless!

Todd Nesloney is the principal of Navasota Intermediate in Navasota, Texas, and TCEA's 2014 Teacher of the Year. He is the author of the children's book Spruce & Lucy, co-author of Flipping 2.0 and co-host of the Edu All-Stars podcast. Connect with him on Twitter via @techninjatodd.