What is the ‘flipped classroom’?
The ‘flipped classroom’ (sometimes referred to as the ‘inverted classroom’) inverts traditional teaching methods by delivering the content or instruction outside of the class via an online medium and moving the ‘homework’ or other activities into the class. In other words, students watch their lectures at home at their own pace; class time is used for instructional support.
In the flipped classroom the role of the teacher changes from that of presenter of content (sage on the stage) to facilitator of the learning journey (the guide on the side).
The beginnings of the flipped classroom
The term ‘flipped classroom’ is mostly attributed to two chemistry teachers, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams. In 2004 they started teaching at Woodland Park High School, a rural school in Colorado. They were the ‘Chemistry Department’ and to make their lives a little easier they began sharing in the planning of Chemistry lessons.
Being a rural school, Bergmann and Sams noticed that many of the students missed a lot of school travelling to and from ‘nearby’ schools for sport and other activities.
Things changed when Sams read an article about software that could record a PowerPoint slideshow including voice and any annotations, converting the recoding into a video file that could be shared online. They realised that by using such software they could cater for students who were missing classes and in 2007 they began to record their live lessons using screen capture software and posting the recordings online so students could access them.
Benefits of flipping
A review of current literature will provide numerous so called benefits to adopting the flipped approach.
- Flipping increases teacher-to-student and student-to-student interactions
- Teachers have more class time to spend 1:1 helping students
- Recordings can be shared with other department members, substitute teachers, students, parents, and the community
- The content becomes more easily accessed and controlled by the learner – students can review parts of the lesson that are misunderstood, which need further reinforcement, and/or are of particular interest
- Flipping provides a personalised learning experience for every student
- Flipping creates a collaborative learning environment in the classroom.
But wait, there’s more to consider
Basically, when we are considering flipping as a teaching methodology we need to look at two things – the technology and the pedagogy.
Firstly, we are making assumptions that students have access to the technology at home. I consider my household to be a fairly tech-savvy place without going overboard. We are a typical family. Our main computer is my work laptop (for portability reasons) set up at a work station. We have another older laptop, a tablet (mine!) and both teenage members of the family have their own iPod Touch. There is no desktop computer or Smart TV, they don’t have their own personal computer, iPad or tablet. It’s not that we can’t afford it but we choose to have boundaries on what is in our house, how it is used and when it is used… after all, they are teenagers!
Points to note: Don’t assume that students either have the technology, or if they do, have access to it whenever they want. Do your research first. If students are expected to access online content, they need the time to do it. Ask the parents and keep them informed.
With regards to resources, there are two options – use what is already out there or create your own.
The selection of pre-made elearning resources should be made very carefully. Teachers shouldn’t take the easy option of adapting their learning objectives to suit the resources they have stumbled upon. Instead, they need to find the resources that match their learning objectives.
An example is that of the resources available via the Khan Academy. With over 3,300 videos in areas including Maths, Science, and Humanities there are plenty to select from. However, on closer examination they may not all be suitable. Mathematical concepts aren’t necessarily taught in the same order or the same way as they are in the Khan Academy. Many of the videos presume certain underpinning knowledge that not all students may have and the selection of some of these videos may cause confusion amongst students.
Points to note: Be prepared to spend a vast amount of time searching for appropriate resources. Aim for quality content and supplement it with your own material if necessary.
The other option is to develop your own elearning resources. Easy … make a PowerPoint (if you don’t already have one), gather a few handouts, upload them into your LMS, tell the students they are there … done! Unfortunately this happens far too often and no wonder students are getting turned off by the use of technology in schools! Considering the other types interactive online experiences students have, expecting them to be self-motivated enough to sit through a badly designed PowerPoint and Word documents is quite unrealistic.
Points to note: Creating your own resources requires careful planning, time and a certain level of skill. It might require some participation in professional development activities.
Sure, providing the class material online enables the student to rewind and re-visit material if they don’t ‘get it’ the first time. However, the reality is that students often don’t realise they haven’t ‘got it’ until a test situation. Teenagers typically rush through any work that the teacher has set for homework (as a mother of two teenagers I know how they operate!).
A typical parent-teenager dialogue might go something like this … “Have you finished?” … “Yeah” … “Do you understand it?” … “Yeah” … “OK, show me” … [grunts of teenage objections] … [grunting teenager gets question wrong] … [pick from one of the following teenager responses] (a) “We didn’t have to get them all right“, (b) “I was getting them right before you came along“, or (c) “We were told to only spend 15 minutes on this” (translated as “I’ve had enough and I’m not doing any more!”).
Points to note: Don’t expect students to be passive recipients of information. Build in opportunities for self-assessment, reflection, collaboration and discussion. Get them to do something with the information.
Good pedagogy, both in the selection or design of elearning resources and in classroom interactions, is absolutely essential. A good teacher will plan their lesson so that there is a mixture of ‘lecture’ (content delivery), questions, enquiry, problem solving, reflection and group work. The ‘lecture’ time, whether online or in the classroom, should also include questions and discussions along the way. These principles should apply to the more traditional classroom as well as the flipped classroom.
I’m not against the idea of the flipped classroom, in fact, I’m for anything that merges my two passions of education and technology. However, flipping is not a solution that fits all students in every situation. It should be more than just using video to deliver content.
Teachers need to look at what they are teaching how they are teaching it. The appropriate teaching methodology is selected to suit the student and the content. The decision to flip the content should be made for the benefit of the student, not the teacher or the school.