Saturday, January 26, 2013

Flipping the Classroom

    At last Thursday's Board of Education meeting, we had a presentation on math education in our school district.  One of the presenters was a junior high math teacher who has been introducing classroom flipping in her advanced math class.   Flipping the classroom "is a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is most commonly being done using teacher-created videos that students view outside of class time. It is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom, and reverse teaching."

In the version our board of education listened to, the teacher records a video of her classroom presentation and posts that presentation on Edmodo, a free online teaching tool that allows teachers and students to communicate for teaching and learning.    The students' homework consists of logging in to Edmodo and viewing the video presentation.     Edmodo records which students have done their homework, so that the teacher knows who has come to class prepared.   The student can view the lesson as many times as she wishes, can stop the lesson and think about what she has learned, and then start it up again when she is ready.   The following day, the class does "homework," in the presence of the teacher, whose major responsibility is to answer questions, monitor students to make sure they are using their work time constructively, and develop individualized strategies for students who are struggling and students who are ahead of the class and need individualized challenges.  

   Classroom flipping has become a hot-topic in education circles, and we all know that education has a way of grabbing onto certain new ideas and turning them into fads, but this new approach seems to have tremendous potential.   Numerous online resources discuss how best to use the technique.  There are articles on why it works and others on potential difficulties.  One advocate of the Flipped Classroom explains that the technique is
  • A means to INCREASE interaction and personalized contact time between students and teachers.
  • An environment where students take responsibility for their own learning
  • A classroom where the teacher is not the "sage on the stage", but the "guide on the side".
  • A blending of direct instruction with constructivist learning.
  • A classroom where students who are absent due to illness or extra-curricular activities such as athletics or field-trips, don't get left behind.
  • A class where content is permanently archived  for review or remediation.
  • A class where all students are engaged in their learning.
  • A place where all students can get a personalized education.
The teacher who presented to our board of education convinced me that, at least in her hands, classroom flipping will make her a better teacher and will confer a significant benefit on her students.   I definitely would have liked to learn in a flipped classroom when I was a student?  

    For those of us who are policy makers, a number of questions are presented by the flipped classroom.   They include:
  1. Is classroom flipping for gifted teachers (like the one who presented to us on Thursday) or for everyone?
  2. If we believe in flipping, what are we going to do about access for students who don't have easy access to high speed internet?
  3. Should a school district provide organized tech support to teachers so that they can produce quality online lessons?
  4. Is the purpose of flipping to add instructivist or constructivist teaching, or both.  In other words, are we using flipping merely to improve the efficiency of what we are doing right now, or should flipping be a part of a transformation of our teaching philosophy?  
  5. What if teachers start using pre-canned lessons from places like Khan Academy for their classes?  Do we expect teachers to develop lessons specific to their class, or is it ok to deliver a lesson created by someone else, that is not targeted to the specific class?  
  6. Is teaching this way more work (I tend to think so), and if so, how do we accommodate that? 
I'll  write about these issues in an upcoming post.  Here are some resources on  Flipping. 

District 742 WebArticle on Flipping the Classroom
National Public Radio Discussion of Flipping the Classroom
Online Demonstration of Flipping
University of Northern Colorado Educational Vodocasting
Three Part Series on the Flipped Classroom
Before We Flip Classrooms, Let's Rethink What We're Flipping to.
Flipped Classroom, Pro's and Cons.  Edutopia
Flipping for Beginners  Inside the new classroom Craze (Harvard Education Letters)

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