'F-L-I-P your low-tech classroom' by Saima Abedi

9th June 2019

Working as an ESL and EFL teacher for last 15 years, I am determined to contribute to educational reform. To learn more and more, develop ELT material, train teachers, carry out action research and participate in conferences nationally and internationally are some of the goals of life that I am presently immersed in.

The 52nd International IATEFL Conference was my first IATEFL adventure and it stretched for five fun-filled, fertile days. Being the winner of the Macmillan Education Scholarship and a presenter plus participant, I enthusiastically seized the plethora of opportunities to achieve, excel, get inspired and be acknowledged at the event. Not only that, I revisited my learning; reflected on teaching practices; expanded my network; gained international recognition; went sight-seeing and made some life-long global friends.

This journey started when I presented at the NELTA (Nepal English Language Teacher Association) conference back in 2016, where I expanded my network and added a few Nepalese teachers to my contacts, who nursed the idea of applying for IATEFL. The scholarship forms are comprehensive; there is step-by-step guidance to help you fill them in.You may apply for as many scholarships as you want to. All you have to do is to focus on your strengths, and be enthusiastic about mentioning your achievements and count on your luck (Yes, it does work sometimes!). Once you win the scholarship, your job is all done (believe me) because the IATEFL team and your sponsors (like mine when I won the Macmillan Education Scholarship) are right there to constantly assist you. Before even reaching the venue, I was fortunate enough to be prepared for my presentation on ‘Flipped Learning for Low Tech Classes’, as it was reviewed, re-reviewed and even rehearsed. Therefore, I received an amazingly incredible audience response.

The flipped classroom model actually revolutionized my teaching-learning process as it inverted my teaching procedures by shifting the instructions from a group to an individual learning space. In other words, I introduce materials and tasks to students outside the classroom and the learning process has become dynamic and interactive, enhancing a wide range of skills. When we think about the flipped classroom, the first idea that enters our mind is the use of technology. The most popular online tools to flip classes are:

  • websites, such as online exercises/quizzes
  • recorded lectures
  • supplementary videos, either instructional or content (TES Teach, TED Talk, You Tube)
  • MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
  • podcasts
  • e-books
  • blogs
  • simulation games
  • teaching channels
  • and the list goes on…

However, from a global perspective, one of the notable hurdles for learners and educators like me is teaching in classes with limited or no access to technology. To be precise, public schools and low-income households in developing countries struggle to bridge the digital divide. So how can you flip low-tech classes?

Firstly, I employed four basic principles for inverting low-tech classes, starting with the four letters of F-L-I-P. Here ‘F’ is for ‘Flexibility’ of the given material, as it should cater for different learning preferences that ensure setting of students’ own learning pace and time. For instance, use of text or reference books, customized hand-outs (like Mind Maps / Story Maps), magazines, newspaper articles or reports, comics, television programmes (drama, cooking shows or documentaries), pictures, charts, maps, posters, interviews, songs and surveys. Students are provided with a couple of options to select the mode of acquisition according to their own preferences, at the most convenient place or time. Equipped with the required information, they apply the concepts in the class and receive teachers’ prompt and constructive feedback.

The second principle ‘L’ emphasises ‘Learner-Centered’ classes in which the role of students is active and the teachers’ job is as a facilitator. Being inquisitive, students bring along queries or problems to be solved in the class. It is possible that some students might come to the class unprepared (in the beginning it does happen; remember everyone isn’t the same!!!) and they would look for ‘just-in-need teaching’. If the mode of interaction in the class is pair or group work, such issues are automatically resolved. For example, I have so many students who love to teach others. Based on research, the average retention rate of new information is 75% for practice by doing (National Training Laboratories, Bethel, Maine), and is increased to 90% by teaching others. This means that diligent pupils will get an edge here.

The next principle, starting with ‘I’, focuses on ‘Interactive Content’: incorporate motivation by providing a real purpose, a meaningful task for exploration of the given content. This enables learners to build up curiosity and connections with their prior knowledge.

Lastly, ‘P’ is for ‘Practice by Doing’, as the class time will be utilised in applying and checking the concepts for deeper understanding and greater retention. Some of the engaging activities that I use for my low-tech classes are theme-based board games, debates, puppetry, discussions, field trips, creating PowerPoint presentations, digital storytelling, use of smart phones for making short videos, podcasting using Audacity and rap songs using the Smule AutoRap app. I found these teaching tools great for ensuring active learning in a flipped learning scenario. Trust me: these strategies can be easily adapted and implemented in any EFL and ESL class.

To access or download my full presentation you can click on the following link:

Flipped Learning for Low-Tech Classes IATEFL 2018 from Saima Abedi

Don’t wait…. Just apply for this enriching and life-changing experience.

Saima Abedi, currently working as an EFL and ESL teacher, is a seasoned educator with 15 years’ teaching experience. She has a professional degree in education, as well as multiple Masters, postgraduate certification in Critical Thinking from Oregon University and the ICELT from Cambridge University (via SPELT). Determined to revolutionise the education system, she has been designing ELT content and conducting workshops nationally and internationally for a few years. She has received numerous awards and scholarships for being an innovative and enthusiastic teacher.

IATEFL 2019 Scholarships

If you’re inspired by Saima’s story, why not apply for a scholarship for IATEFL Liverpool 2019 yourself? Applications for our 2019 scholarships will open on Friday 1st June 2018. The closing date for applications is 16.00 (UK Time) Thursday 12th July 2018. Any applications received after this time will not be accepted.