Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Flipped Classroom: Glow or Grow for Education?

Edudemic.com: http://edudemic.com/2011/12/15-flipped-classrooms/
When I first read the term "flipped classroom" on Edutopia's homepage, I had no idea what they were referring to. Of course, as an inquisitive soul, I needed to find out. So I clicked the link and ended up here. As I began reading, I realized I was actually familiar with the concept (I don't live under a rock, after all). For those of you who need to be familiarized with yet more educational jargon (since we are inundated with familiar concepts disguised by unfamiliar jargon), here is what I discovered after reading:

The "flipped classroom" is a classroom in which traditional "lecture" activities occur at home so that "homework" and activities can occur in the classroom with teacher guidance. The idea is that the important learning comes from the trying to apply the concepts, not from the lecture, and that this gives the teacher more time to help students troubleshoot and practice the right way, versus going home and cementing misunderstandings in their learning. In theory it is a great idea - I would love more time for "perfect practice" and "troubleshooting" in my classroom!

Here's how teachers tend to make it happen:
  • podcasts (soundbites and videos that can be played online or on ipods)
  • youtube videos
  • web pages
  • presentations (powerpoint, prezi, etc.)
  • educational technology (there are a multitude of companies that give teachers the software to easily create educational videos - follow the Edutopia link above to see a few)
Reading the list, do you see the same problem that I do? Access to technology is not available for every student (or every teacher). I teach in a rural community and have several students who don't have internet or computer access at home. I already balance demands from my principle to create more online/digital assessments with a lack of technology in my classroom, and a lack of available technology outside the classroom for my students. This is a problem I can handle (and also one for another day), but how would I manage the demand when their daily learning would require this?

A Principal's Reflections: http://esheninger.blogspot.com/2011/11/flipped-classroom-explained.html
Now, when I read about the "flipped classroom," my mind went a couple places. 1) Math teachers at the high school in my district are already using this model, 2) there are non-technological ways to provide "teaching" outside the classroom without using technology, 3) long-term goals for "viewing lectures" can help alleviate the time crunch. Let's address these one at a time.

Obviously this model is achievable as teachers around the U.S. (and the world?) are using it, including within my district. Our high school has some advantages to making this model work that could be applied to other schools if they decided to implement this. ELO or extended learning opportunity is available daily at the high school. It is built into the schedule and essentially computes to 30 minutes before lunch (or as a reward for students with great grades - they get to add this 30 minutes to their lunch). This means not only do students have time built in to get extra help and ask questions, they have time to grab a computer and watch the video (as long as enough computers are available - although I think some teachers could devote this time to doing a daily showing of the video for interested students, alleviating this problem as well. As mentioned by other troubleshooters - it is definitely in the interest of student time to pick a specific subject area to focus on (or alternate video days), as there just isn't time to watch a video for every class every night.

Student time constraints aside, some teachers have been using the flipped classroom model since long before the invention of youtube or podcasts. The edutopia article does mention that homework and tech aren't necessary in creating a flipped classroom, though it doesn't go into detail. Here's my thoughts: Once upon a time, there was a great technology known as the textbook. Teachers assigned readings and students came back to class with questions, information, and knowledge which could help them begin to apply what they learned in class. There are many teachers which still do this (and I student taught with a man who used this in conjunction with making podcasts available online - which students listened to by choice rather than imperative). With this in mind, printing presentations or lecture information for students to go over outside of class is another option (made somewhat difficult by paper/printing limits given to teachers).

Edudemic.com: http://edudemic.com/2011/12/real-flipped-classroom/
I personally struggle with assigning learning in this way because some students at the 6th grade level simply lack the reading skills and/or confidence to access the learning at home (and for that matter, would flounder with a podcast where they cannot ask questions. As a solution, I use the workshop model. This I will accredit to Sam Bennett - though I am no expert on this, she was the one who familiarized me with this idea as a formal concept at the Colorado Council for the International Reading Association annual conference in 2011. Basically, short lecture at the beginning of class, or even letting kids work through the "teaching" during a warmup time before you start activity time with them. Honestly, one of the teachers I worked with during my practicum used this model and he was definitely the teacher I try to emulate daily.

So now I think it is time to describe what I mean by "long-term goals for viewing lectures." What I mean here is I don't think you need a lecture daily. For example, you can give the students their take home lecture (be it podcast, video, or whatever) and give them a goal a good week away to have previewed it. Maybe students have a chapter to read every week, or need to watch their video before Monday of every week. This gives them plenty of room to find a time that works for them. I like the idea of having something like this due every Monday. Then Monday can be a quick review, mini-trouble shooting session and we can spend the rest of the week going more in depth and working through the kinks.

Here's an example of how I might do this. 6th grade students in Colorado have to be able to use map skills to problem solve, including the use of latitude, longitude, cardinal directions, scale, etc. So I can require they read the chapter on these map tools in the book. Then, on Monday, give them a basic warm-up asking them to tell me where something is located (identify the coordinates) or tell me what is located at such-and-such coordinates. Don't make it too involved. For this, I give them sticky notes. Then, when they are done, they bring me the sticky note. I glance at it quickly, if they answered correct I hand them instructions for a practice activity and keep the sticky, if they didn't I hand back the sticky and ask them to try again. Some of them will be able to work through where they went wrong on their own (I encourage them to solve problems themselves - I have a 5 minute no questions policy at the beginning of class to help them develop this practice).

The Flipped Classroom: http://www.scoop.it/t/the-flipped-classroom-a-new-take-on-classroom-instruction

After 5-10 minutes for this, I go over it briefly with the class, often letting them explain their process to their peers. Then I may take the group that struggled during this formative assessment and we work on the practice activity as a small group. I guide them and they ask questions. Other students often work in pairs around the room. During times like this I either allow other students to come visit the small group table to ask me questions, or I have them write their names on the board in a list (and schedule time to walk away from my small group to go down my list, one by one).

Educator, Learner: http://www.brianbennett.org/blog/flipped-classroom-exit-letters/
Keep in mind, this is just one activity, so I might organize a different workshop in a very different manner (ie, groups problem solving at tables as I float, once I split the room into "get it, don't get it, and kinda get it and the warm up was to sit in the appropriate area, individual work and I move systematically from one desk to the next checking understanding - you're teachers, you get my drift).  Back to my activity. The next day we might add a new skill to identifying coordinates....we might try plotting lines in coordinates. And the day after we might add scale. By the end of the week we can do quite a few things. All of these activities were based off of the single reading, but we scaffolded and built onto the skills gradually.

Thus, don't think students need to literally have the old-school classroom literally flipped every day with lecture at home and homework in class. That is not what the flipped classroom is. Anyways, that's what I gleaned. I hope that helps. :) Good luck!

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