As much as I love gadgets and slick inventions that do cool things in the classroom, my real focus in ed tech is finding ways to really improve the state of the art in teaching via technology, not just try to teach with state of the art tech. So when I heard about the idea of the flipped classroom at ISTE last week, I was genuinely excited. I know, bad me for not hearing about it sooner, but a whole lot of people were talking about it at the conference and I couldn't help but get swept up in the buzz. It's an idea that actually makes a whole lot of sense and is a killer application of personal tech in education.
If you aren't familiar with the idea of a flipped classroom, essentially listening to or watching lectures becomes homework that happens prior to class. Then classes are devoted to small group work, interaction with the instructor, labs, etc.
When I was teaching, my school used a long block schedule and I had 80 minutes to work with students. I always admired the teachers who could pack those 80-minute sessions with great activities and experiential learning that wasn't possible in a shorter period of time. However, I spent most of my days teaching low-level and remedial math. The kids in these classes struggled to such a degree that I would have to spend inordinate amounts of time going over questions, reinforcing concepts, and demonstrating problem-solving techniques.
Finally, I usually resorted to a big no-no of the long block: Homework during class. It was the only way that I could get students to even do their homework most of the time, but it was also when the best actual learning took place. When I could sit down with 2 or 3 students and work through problem, discussing the why's and wherefore's of specific algorithm or alternate approaches, then the lights would go on and they would understand far better than they ever would going home and puzzling over homework they don't understand.
Flipping the classroom makes that unnecessary, though. Teachers record their lectures or mashup their own lectures with resources from YouTube, publishers, etc., that students can then consume at night. By the next class, they've already heard the lecture and are then ready for a quick refresher and can start whatever activities play to the strengths and needs of the group and the class.
An outtake of an ISTE session with a couple of the pioneers of the flipped classroom can be found here, while a Ning dedicated to the concept (and to so-called "vodcasting" in education in general) can be found here.