Skip to main content

I'm a passionate teacher. Flipped learning enthusiast hoping to become an expert. Mother of two.

Carolina R. Buitrago

Pillar 4: Professional educator

4 min read

Pecha Kucha me

We have been asked to reflect about the 3 indicators for the professional educator in Unit 4, here are my thoughts.
I will have to agree with Frank and his entry on Intentional content post and say that action research also applies quite nicely to this pillar. I mean, I think that educators who ask themselves questions about their teaching practice, take action, gather data about their students'performance and perceptions,  reflect and evaluate their actions, and start the process over deserve to be called professional educators. Therefore, making the action research cycle part of one's own teaching sure will help making any sort of pedagogical implementation one can think of possible.

However, due to political issues, constant neglect of the teaching profession and low levels of commitment, only some teachers are up to the task. Unfortunately, intrinsic motivation tends to be elusive to worn out, under-estimated and under-paid teachers. I think flipping learning somehow refreshes the teaching profession making it fun again since one sees results in students fast. Anyway, I can't help but wonder if flipping learning works because teachers are professional educators or if teachers become professional educators because flippetd learning works. What would you say?

Anyway, thinking about myself and the advances I've made in teaching under this new paradigm I would say I try my best and being a part of this course is vivid proof of those efforts. Let's analyze the indicators individually:

1. I make myself available to all students for individual, small group, and class feedback in real time as needed.

Absolutely, yes. Like 4 semesters ago, I started to give my students my phone number so they could add me to their Whatsapp and Line apps and find me easily any time they needed. Some of my colleagues thought this was going too far and I was "blurring the line between me and my students". I'd say they are right. I dont want any lines to be drawn between us. I want full disclosure and clear communication. After all, they are adults and know how to keep relationships. I found out that students rarely contact me during ungodly hours...😉 They are really thoughtful and respectful of my time, but they also feel I'm close to them. Right now, I have students from previous cohorts write to me to ask questions, references, even advice. They feel they have someone to talk to (academically speaking). They know I'm available. (I invite you to read a paper I wrote on the experience)

2. I conduct ongoing formative assessments during class time through observation and by recording data to inform future instruction.

Absolutely! I remember something Ken mentioned in the hangout about never using all the materials he makes in other offerings of his course. I agree! Even though sometimes it takes ages to design sound formative assessments and one wants to reuse them, every class is different and ends up dictating the "future". This also makes me think how I try not to make the same mistakes twice and to tweak my syllabus every semester in order to make it its better version every time I teach it. I have also found out that making notes of what happened in class, for example with certain technological tools, has improved my practice in future offerings of the course.

3. I collaborate and reflect with other educators and take responsibility for transforming my practice.

Yes, yes, yes... and it bothers me a lot others don't. I have met many teachers who think PD has to be provided not seeked. In my opinion, teachers should look for opportunities to self-actualize (as Maslow would put it in his hyerarchy of needs), but that's just my opinion.

I, on the other hand, have pursued self-actualization opportunities all my life. And fortunately, nowadays it is extremely easy to find ways to learn about anything and everything at a very low price and even for free. I can't understand why people wouldn't take advantage of all these resources, but hey, that's me, a geek talking! 

In sum, being a professional educator is one of the most important driving forces of my life and I try to become a better and more professional educator every day. 

Carolina R. Buitrago

Pillar 2: Flexible environment

3 min read

Offering students a flexible environment to learn is one of the most challenging ideas presented in the flipped learning strategy since that decision does not depend entirely on teachers but on many other stakeholders. Even though I know that when teachers close the door of their classrooms they tend to do whatever they want, we can’t ignore the fact that institutions have policies and expect teachers to observe certain rules and appropriate behaviors. Another reason for saying that offering a flexible environment is challenging is teachers’ ego. This new way of teaching removes the “sage on the stage” and some teachers became teachers in the first place because of their love for the spotlight! I think when flipping learning one has to unlearn many behaviors either learned or acquired through the years and open one’s mind to all kinds of new learning.

In my case, I have tried to open the floor to active learning in my graduate classes. Students who come to study only on a Saturday actually expect the lecture mode and the “expert” view on things. They come to us being a little insecure and full of expectations to become better professionals. Unfortunately, some of them expect to get there just listening to the experts, that means us! J I try to make them “think outside of the box” and offer them opportunities that take them out of their comfort zone. At the beginning of my course, many students report feeling overwhelmed and a bit disappointed because “my class is not what they expected”. Nonetheless, by the end of the course, they thank me for helping them discover their potential! That feels pretty awesome, I have to admit!

I have tried to offer students opportunities to problem-solve, to simulate difficult teaching situations, to study teacher’s cases, and to work with their hands in class. But, for that to happen I have had to step away and record my lectures. I have found that this new setting is much more enjoyable for everyone and makes us all happier every time we see each other (which is like 4 times at a semester).  Therefore, I would say I do do the first indicator: “I give students opportunities to engage in meaningful activities without the teacher being central”. I have to admit that I have had a hard time stepping away because I love to be on the spotlight. [Guilty, your honor!] But, I have found that it is so much better for my students and that I get much more recognition for helping them discover things that I would just by giving everything to them.

On the other hand, I still struggle a bit with the second indicator: “I scaffold these activities and make them accessible to all students through differentiation and feedback”. I’m still looking for ways to better differentiate learning for my students. I have started offering much more thorough feedback, though. I have been working with screencasts for giving feedback on their papers and learning objects and it has been really fruitful for everybody. Students love to hear me talk about their papers and give them comments on specific parts of them. I use Camtasia and Screencast-o-matic for doing my feedback screencasts and it has only gotten positive results for me.

Anyway, everything we do to offer a more flexible environment to our students comes with a price. It is time consuming but every second of it is worth the while!


Carolina R. Buitrago

Pillar 3: Intentional Content

3 min read

In my opinion, intentional content is one of the most interesting pillars in FL. I guess all teachers want to provide our students with intentional content, not with a bunch of useless facts.

However, set curriculum in most institutions and the "this-is-how-we-do-it" model some administrators preach have taken away the magic of teaching for some people.

In language learning, especially,  we have the possiblility to make every single thing we teach intentional. After all, we are teaching students to be themselves in a foreign language. Therefore, everything we share with students can be used in their own life. Unfortunately, sometime bureucracy, the set curricula and other variables have transformed language classes into meaningless moments for repetition.

Students in language classes could (and should) learn about themselves as people, about their community, about their profession, but most of the times, the use of a textbook and the set standards to achieve have taken all the fun out of teaching/learning.

In my context, an EFL one, it is crucial to use every class minute wisely, since class is the only contact students may have with the foreign language in a day. However, when students come to class to "stay busy" and when no connection whatsoever is found between the content and they, as people, I can only understand their lack of engagement and attention and their laid-back attitude towards the lesson. Students are tired of "studying" the language, they want to finally start learning it. I think that's how FL earns its place in the language classroom!

Fortunately, this is not my case! Even though the class I teach in the MA program I work for is set and has been taught many times, it evolves. I know it might sound a bit contradictory, but considering the class observes the use of technology and its implications in language teaching and learning, it can't be static. In that sense, I have plenty of room for exploration, design and decision-making. This possibility to innovate has led to my flipped graduate class.

However, not all teachers are this lucky. My students, for example, are educators in the public sector and have to face the worst possible conditions for teaching, not allowing them to offer the best conditions for learning to their students either. Some of them have as little as 2 hours of class a week, and rarely those 2 hours are used for English instruction. My students report they are usually asked to "give out their class hours for other activities" like meetings, or school cleansing or whatever. It is really discouraging for them.

Also, in the public education setting, students don't see much use for English in their real lives. They have challenging socio-economic situations, forcing kids to start in the workforce very early in their lives, some do it right after they finish high-school, others not even get to finish that. Therefore, English to them seems more a luxury than a need. For that reason, they don't invest much time and energy trying to really learn the language. Considering that, intentional content delivered through videos is a flipped learning environment could be a game-changer for these students and teachers.

In sum, the third pillar of FL is very important for me in providing the best experience of learning to students and in showing them the importance of English as a foreign language. I think we should always provide intentional content, flipping or not.


Carolina R. Buitrago

Pillar 1: Flexible Environment

4 min read

Pillar 1: Flexible Environment

I have been working on flipped learning for over almost two years now, and it all started because of my willingness to be more flexible with my students. I decided to provide them with all the necessary assistance for them to have an enjoyable learning experience, and this is how I came across flipped learning. 

As I mentioned in my first post, at the beginning, I wasn't looking for a method or a new pedagogical approach. I just wanted a strategy to engage my graduate students more in my class and to guarantee that the few hours we saw each other face2face were meaningful. The students I started to work FL with were a group of graduate students pursuing a Master's degree in ELT. Our class, Autonomous Learning Environments, is the first fully blended course in the MA program. Even though nowadays it is pretty hard to find an only face2face program, students expectations differed from reality. They imagined because they had signed up for a f2f program they wouldn't have any time online. However, in our University, one of the guiding principles is autonomy. Therefore, we connect autonomy development to blended learning and all of our courses have some sort of online time. As I mentioned before, my class was the first fully blended course, and I say this because in the previous courses, students online time was merely devoted to downloading resources and replying to one or two forum posts. When students got to my class (8 hours f2f; 24 hours online + independent study) they were overwhelmed and utterly mad. They even mentioned it in the "Concerns forum" saying they had signed up for a face to face program because they were terrible online learners. Experiencing this resistance, I decided to look for ways to make them feel better and have a rather smooth walk into online learning, after all as Bergman and Sams (2012) mention it, we just want to do the best for our students and that's how we stumble upon flipped learning. 

It's important to highlight I was assigned to teach someone else's course. The professor who was before me had more face2face hours and therefore lecturing seemed to be a good option, but coincidentially, when I came in the program they reduced the number of hours for the class. I taught it as it was for a semester, but I realized time needed to be better spent in the classroom and online time needed to offer students more practicality and variety. Thus, I started reading about active learning, student engagement and inquiry based learning for implementing more hands-on activities during the face2face encounters. I had started using screencasting back in 2007, and I thought it could be useful to just record my lectures and save f2f time for discussions and other activities. I also gave them my whatsapp number and organized Skype calls for tutoring.  Students enjoyed these changes very much and felt we were "closer". I went to a conference to present this experience, but when I was doing my research on screencasting, you know, to provide teachers with references at the presentation, I came across the term: the flipped classroom. It turned out I was doing it!

Well, I'm sorry about the rather long introduction to my ideas on flexible environment, but I think if we came across flipped learning it's because we are the "crazy one" at the place we work, or because for some reason, we realize traditional learning/teaching doesn't offer the level of flexibility our students need. I decided to devote more time to my students (creating materials, etc.), but what I've gotten in return has been amazing. Students feel much better about the teaching/learning process, they devote more time to the class, they contacted me more frequently and felt helped, etc. In general, the results with that particular group of students were great. 

In regards to the indicators for flexible environment: 

  • I establish spaces and time frames that permit students to interact and reflect on their learning as needed.
  • I continually observe and monitor students to make adjustments as appropriate.
  • I provide students with different ways to learn content and demonstrate mastery.


I think I do. I have found that the only way to get students involved (at least my MA students) is by caring about them and by showing them you care. I feel that providing my students with a flexible environment where they can think for themselves and develop as teachers and people is a great way to care!

Carolina R. Buitrago

Flipped learning 101

3 min read

Flipped learning has become the fuel for my academic career. I discovered flipped learning approximately a year ago when looking for strategies to engage and involve my MA students. I remember feeling disconnected from my syllabus (I was teaching someone else's course), and I could see my students felt that disconnection. I have been in the field of educational technology since 2007. I remember using screencasts since 2009. But not until 2014 I discovered the great benefits of the flipped classroom. 

I had never heard anything on the topic before 2014. Now, I know this set of ideas, method, methodology (what is it, anyway?) Has been around for more and many people have gotten great (and not so great) results of using it. Anyway, gsoing back to my FL journey... I was not looking for a new methodology, I was just looking for the best way to optimize my class time (only 8 f2f hours in a semester, the rest *24* delivered fully online) and offer my students the best of me, be it in the online environment or the face 2 face one. My search started with active learning, student engagement, student involvement; coincidentially, all of these terms converged in the flipped classroom (I first found about it). I started to read a d grow more and more interested by the minute. Then, I started creating content videos for my students and creating "fun and engaging" activities for my in-class time. Student evaluation scores went up that semester. So the next course I had, I started doing screencasts of students' work, flipping feedback... students would have the screencast and then we could work on their doubts and solve them. Evaluation scores stayed up! 

I couldn't get in 2015, by recommendation of my tech angel, Christine Bauer-Ramazani from St Michael's College, I joined the EVO session called flipped learning. Doing the EVO session changed my life! I met great flippers around the world, learned about the FLN, and heard Robyn Brinks Lockwood talk. These events changed my mind and showed me there was a lot more to learn! 

Nowadays, I'm the coordinator of the technology in the classroom implementation project at the department of foreign languages and cultures at Universidad de La Sabana in Chia, Colombia. I'm working with a colleague on a research project flipping writing and grammar in one of the English courses (ours is an EFL paradigm) and we have been getting very interesting results. 

We have a problem with student engagement (this population is different from the one I started with) and we are convinced flipped learning is the answer. We are in our way and loving it. Oh, and our project on FL won the BETT Award for "Uso de tecnología en Educación Superior" at the last BETT LATAM Leadership Summit which took place in Mexico this month. 

I just know flipped learning is the most exciting thing I've ran into and I will continue working on it every day!

You can find here my intro video to the class! 

Carolina R. Buitrago

Very excited to have joined the @openflip class. Can't get enough of flipped learning and I'm really looking forward to this experience!