Educators Answer Questions About the Flipped Classroom

I’ve received a number of questions and comments on my recent Education Next article, The Flipped Classroom. Most gratifying have been the rich exchanges in comment threads and on twitter (#flipclass), primarily from educators explaining their experiences, challenges, and discoveries from “flipping” their classrooms. Here are their answers to common questions:

On student/teacher engagement:

The part that is often missed when discussing these concepts is that it’s a strategy for learning that humanizes the classroom. Building and growing teacher-student relationships is essential to improving student learning outcomes. When a teacher has the opportunity to speak to each student and assess their progress every day, students feel that learning matters. They feel challenged and supported. Again, it’s not about the technology or the devices, it about shifting our pedagogy to put each student first.

I use this tool for all the reasons stated and more, particularly the opportunity to spend more class time addressing the higher order thinking skills. Could it be that this is the point that critics are missing? The term ‘ flipped classroom’ places too much emphasis on a tool used by students to prepare for class and clouds the fact that teachers are developing fuller, richer learning cycles with their new time. Let’s call it the ‘flip-tool’ and start to write more about the consequences that is the rich learning cycles we have been able to develop for our classrooms.

On technology and ensuring equal access:

I have vids on flash drives and DVDs for kids w/ no internet access/digital tools.

[Teachers] don’t need the internet to do this! They can create videos, and save them on students’ machines quickly and easily. That way students just watch them from the computer without having to worry about connecting to the internet. We’ve also been able to repurpose old laptops for just this use. Since all the computers need to do is play a few videos, old laptops are perfect for this task.

On managing time and motivating students to do at-home activities:

The flipped class allows for learners to customize when and where they learn. I have plenty that spend class time learning and practicing, and at home, they don’t worry about chemistry. There is no such thing as “homework” anymore. If they work, they can use class time to front-load and account for their work life. We went through how to budget time and use the resources so they don’t overwhelm themselves through the year…. Most of what my kids (and many flipped kids) do is use the videos as A) remediation if they need it, or B) pre-learning for use in class the next day. The videos I put out are less than 10-minutes in length, so the time at home is considerably LESS than a “normal” homework assignment. Plus, they aren’t sitting at home struggling with a worksheet or book assignment, so their mental stress is also alleviated to a degree with a flip.

one of the most surprising things I learned when a colleague and I went to using videos to deliver most of the “content” of our class was that when forced to boil down the content to the most important concepts in order to create the videos, we ended up with a total of 8 videos of about 10-15 minutes each for our 10 week course in microbiology. In the past, we wold have spent FAR more time delivering the same content in class. Now, class time is spent exploring the content in context, the students are in the lab more often and the class time is a far more collaborative endeavor for the students. We have been able to do more higher-order thinking projects with the “found” time. Also, the students really like being able to control the pace of the delivery of the content in the videos. We provide them with sheets to take notes on while watching the videos so it is not simply a passive activity. Flipping has definitely resulted in more engaging and enjoyable class time for the students and the teachers.

Finally, as chemistry teacher Aaron Sams explains, it’s important to emphasize that there’s no single model, with most teachers figuring this out, adapting, and improving their practice as they go.

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