ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

Summary: Whether using "vodcasting," Camtasia, a virtual classroom, or some other lecture capture technique, flipped classrooms are among the most compelling uses of technology in education.

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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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.

Topic: Tech Industry

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • RE: ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

    Chris,
    Not sure how adding a lecture to what you were doing in your 80 minute block makes sense. It simply reinforces a consumer mentality. Sorry, I have a real problem with this - see my TEDx:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GbM0p2Ksig
    delta_dc
    • RE: ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

      @delta_dc - No matter how you construct your culture of learning, outside reference to authoritative works is essential - in English, you have to read the novel to be able to participate in the discussion, in chemistry you have to read about the physical or chemical phenomena and their mathematical descriptions to be able to see how this is applied in any meaningful student-centered approach in class. In higher ed, we face the problem that students aren't doing that work outside of class anymore (very few actually read the book). What Chris is talking about is using the recorded media to be that authority, in a medium with which the students are far more comfortable than they are with books. A good lecture doesn't have to be consumed, in your parlance (although the consumer mentality brings something entirely different to mind than you intend for most of us in higher ed), but does give the skilled lecturer the ability to concisely present what the student needs to be sufficiently current in information to be able to materially participate in the following discussion and group work. I don't agree that this reinforces the "what do I need to know?" attitude. I think this is, in this modern age, one of the only real ways we can get our students to do that outside work before they come to class. I don't use this technique, but I think it works quite well.
      always-a-geek
  • RE: ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

    Wow! The changes in education I read about here! Had this stuff been around back when I was in school - let alone Community College, I just might have not struggled so hard back in the day. Just sayin'...
    Crashin Chris
  • RE: ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

    Chris,
    unfortunately, I see a huge draw back to this (otherwise outstanding) plan - the poor / working-poor student who only has dial-up internet at home, or metered internet on their smartphone, would be unable to get the class content streamed; or in the case of the smartphone user, 10 minutes of streamed video eats up the entire month's allowance of access. Just sayin'...
    Crashin Chris
  • RE: ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

    I think it's a great idea and can be implemented well. Students will be more able to help each other, because they will "get" different things from the videos. If the students are able to assess where they are at when the class begins, the learning could be almost entirely student-driven.

    The videos are kind of like assigning preparatory reading, and hopefully a lot more fun to absorb. If the videos are on a well-documented website, with additional resources hand-picked by teachers, students can find more help when the video isn't enough.

    The point about low-income and low-bandwidth is a good one, but we're quickly getting to the point where affordable connectivity is everywhere. Until then, students who need to can use computers at the school, provided there's a way to have access. Maybe that's the real money issue, actually, and would need to be addressed---providing supervision for after-school homework time. That could help struggling students a lot.

    Anyway, I would have welcomed this during my schooling, and it's great to see it emerging. So many video resources are already available, it's not necessary for a teacher to record ALL their lectures, they can easily fill in any gaps by linking to carefully-selected ones that already exist.
    seejayjames
  • RE: ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

    Agree with bandwidth issue, however if you were 1-to-1 students could transfer videos into a homework file while at school and watch them at their convenience at home. This IS still an issue, especially in rural areas where phone lines won't support broadband and the best option is expensive satellite internet. These are the same kids who ride the bus home so they can't just stay after school and work. Find a way to allow those students to take computers home loaded with what they need and you have solved some of the problem!
    alovstuen
  • RE: ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

    Lack of access at home can eased with low cost devices that can play video and be checked out by students. Maybe a kindle with text and pictures can be checked out by students to get access to the information,albeit in a different format. I see some real interesting possibilities with this.
    G0097
  • RE: ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

    Regarding low income students: many of their communities do have libraries with internet access, free for use. Libraries are often an underutilized community resource. If broadband access is still an issue, a video could be saved and shared with libraries using stick drives or free online sharing services such as Dropbox.

    The flipped approach is interesting, as it alleviates the issue of parents not being able to help students with homework. However, some communities/students will struggle with the existence of homework, no matter how cool it is. It is not uncommon these days for teachers to be instructed to NOT assign any homework, for a wide array of reasons...
    chrisashannon
  • RE: ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

    Great point about the inexpensive media-player devices. Load them up at the beginning of the year, make adjustments to included materials as needed, and check one out to each student that needs access. Of course, those with internet will have many more resources available than just the assigned videos, but it's a start.

    Seeing and hearing experts work through problems and explain concepts can be much more engaging than even the best-written book. It may not be a full replacement, but it's a fantastic addition when done right. It also adds a human element to the information, providing a model which can be inspiring.
    seejayjames
  • RE: ISTE take-home message #2: The flipped classroom makes sense

    Over here in Australia, I work with mostly students that are not interested in learning. I don't think that giving extra work to do at home would work at all. We need to find low cost ways to motivate and inspire our kids.
    pgtechnologies