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Implementation: Flipping the Classroom

Turning learning on its head

Where one-on-one computing and bring your own device (BYOD) programs focus on the physical implementation of technology and management of the devices and software, “Flipping the Classroom” is a unique new way to integrate the technology into the learning process and (as the title suggests) turn learning on its head.

In every typical classroom there is some form of “teaching a new lesson” (usually a lecture or presentation) followed by practical assignments, homework, activities, or lab work to help the student cement their understanding of the new topic at hand. In this model, technology participates in the “post lecture” space, providing engaging ways to complete assignments and projects implementing the “learning” of the day. In this case, the role of the teacher is traditional, and the technology is used to create a highly engaging experience, which not only makes learning more fun, but also increases the speed and depth of student retention of the material, thereby enhancing the educational experience.

But, what if we decided to “flip” the role of the teacher and the technology?

How does that work?

Imagine a class where students received lectures and presentations on new concepts and topics at home in the evening via computer or DVD. Then the next school day is spent in active participation of individual and group activities, cementing the concepts by interacting with the teacher and fellow students.

Students can work individually or in small groups. Different groups of students can be learning and reinforcing different parts of the same topic at the same time. The teacher can focus on helping each child with understanding the material instead of spending their time imparting the material.

As you might expect, there are a number of pros and cons associated with this type of classroom model.

The “Pros” of a flipped classroom:

  • As stated, the teacher shifts from “imparting the material” to helping the student “learn the material” taking into account each child’s unique learning style and aptitude.
  • Presentations are consistent for each student and each subject and are consistent year over year. Since students are watching pre-recorded presentations, there is no question about “what” is being taught.
  • Since the presentation is recorded, the student can stop and rewind any section of the lecture as many times as they like to understand a particular concept.
  • Presentations can be amended and continually improved based on student performance against previous presentations. “Imparting the topic” simply gets better and better.
  • Specialized topics can be presented by guest lecturers. Imagine learning about gorillas from someone like Jane Goodall, or political science from a former secretary of state like Condoleezza Rice.
  • Students can more easily move at their own pace, and the teacher can focus activities based on the pace of each student.

The “Cons” of flipping the teaching model

  • The classroom moves from being “teacher-centered” to being “student-centered.” Some teachers are not able to make this transition as easily as others. Some teachers enjoy the “theater” of imparting the material. For them, that’s their role.
  • Is each teacher going to create recorded presentations for each classroom, or will one teacher record a certain subject at grade level, such as 4th grade math is done by one teacher instead of each individual teacher. How do you select which teacher presents for the topic? Individual teaching styles can be lost.
  • What technology will you use to make the recording? How much will this cost? Will the video be available online? Will DVD copies be available for offline access? What if a student doesn’t have Internet access or a DVD player? How will the student access the material?
  • Careful consideration should be made around what topics/classrooms are “flipped” and when. It is not feasible or reasonable to flip everything at once; different topics seem to be better suited to a flipped model than others.

Do your homework up front and it will help ensure a successful program.

For more information

Check out the IT resources page for hot topics, guides, tools, and checklists.

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