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Jan 28

THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM: Will this give me educational vertigo?

Some rights reserved by cdw9

I was a gymnast for 10 years while I was growing up, so flipping was a natural part of my life. Maybe that’s why I was a little confused when researching this topic. I immediately started to evaluate my own classroom. Do I have a flipped classroom already? Even though I’ve never podcasted any of my lectures, how does my teaching style already work into this model? And then I realized it had nothing to do with my gymnastics coaches and everything to do with my supervising teacher, Doug Grant, at French Prairie Middle School in Woodburn, OR. I learned how to teach middle school math and science under Doug’s supervision. His classroom was set up in groups of 4 desks. There was never a time with the students weren’t collaborating. Whether it was a science experiment or math manipulatives, much of our time as teachers was spent roaming the room and “putting out fires” or “stoking the fires of learning” going on between peers. Sometimes we’d stop and refocus attention to the front of the room, but not so that we could teach; it was so that a fellow student could show their work on the document camera and explain it to the class. I remember making the comment to Doug: “This is not how I learned math”, and I realize now, he flipped my idea of a classroom then and there.

Even though I don’t teach math or science today, I used that model for all of my religion classes. My students sit in groups. I do lecture, but often it’s of the Socratic method, a much more question-based, interactive type of lecture. In fact, I’m not sure I could even podcast my lectures. Often the direction of what I teach is determined by the students’ questions, or their answers to questions posed. Without the students, my “lectures” are far less stimulating.

Even if my lecture style may not work with podcasting, I have been thinking about the other side of the flipped classroom. How can I make the time during class much more interactive, collaborative while using technology to achieve this? I have the unique teaching position to really allow students to create in class, and therefore, use those higher level skills we teachers so desperately want to see developed.

I need to search out ways to bring the current worldwide events and situations into the class, and then ask the students to create solutions together. I believe we might even have some ideas generated from my young, tech-savvy, and idealistic students that “experts” in the field have not considered. Additionally, I could have those “experts” from around the world Skyped into my class to talk about the issues with greater authority. For instance, during our Economic Ethics unit, the classtime could be spent collaboratively researching with Googledocs the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.  They would need to understand the issues, the demands, and then decide if they agree or disagree. Finally, they would need to work with people in the class to come up with a creative solution for at least one of the group’s demands that fits their ethical framework. In this situation, I would not be the best expert to help guide these students. We might be able to get, Haywood Carey, OWS’ accounting organizer, to Skype with us and answer student questions.

This is exciting and inspiring for me as a teacher, but it is also VERY different skill sets than what I thought I’d be doing when I got my masters. I can see how this idea of a flipped classroom intimidates my peers. How much time might one spend creating podcasts, or in my case, setting up peer and expert collaboration opportunities? The learning objectives might be the same, but the products would be vastly changed. Does this mean I have to recreate all of my units all over again? I understand the need, and I even agree that we need to change to “ride the wave or be subsumed”. But when am I going to do this? I still have to teach on Monday morning.

3 comments

  1. Kim Cofino

    I’m still not 100% sure of how I feel about the flipped classroom model myself. To me, your classroom sounds engaging and interactive and rich with opportunity to delve deeply into course content. Does that mean you have to switch that all around to meet a fad of delivering content outside of class time, I’m not sure. I haven’t yet been convinced that the flipped classroom (or at least my understanding of it) isn’t just another way to create a teacher-centered classroom environment, and asking even more of the students in their homework time. I think you’re right to question, and to find answers that work for you. Every model isn’t a perfect fit for every teacher.

  2. Napatthorn Bel Laoboonchai

    I can see how the thought of a flipped classroom might seem like an intimidating approach. It is unorthodox and presents challenges when it comes to preparation. After all, teachers are settled in their routines. It seems the difficulties people have with a flipped classroom has to do with a broadcasted lecture given by the teacher which students are expected to passively listen to, acquiring knowledge of the content independently. I can understand the hesitation with this part of the system.

    However, I believe the flipped classroom to be exceptionally student-centered. The flipped model maximizes student/teacher contact time by shifting their teachers’ role as a lecturer to a learning coach. Through this role, the teacher is able to differentiate her students by grouping students within the classroom according to needs, much as you were describing through your experience with Mr. Doug Grant.

    Perhaps the largest shift in this teacher/student/classroom dynamic is that of teacher and student “expectations”. In this model, planning well in advance becomes absolutely essential. In addition, student expectations are set high. Students must exercise independent learning skills. It has been proven time and time again that the high expectation for students breeds high achieving students. However, flipped classroom might not be the technique suitable for all teachers and may favor teachers of some subjects over another, and there are surely various ways to flip your classrooms.

    Like Kim Cofino said, there is no one solution or teaching technique that fits all. It is good to learn what other teachers are doing to keep you inspired of how you can conduct your classes differently, and if there are stuffs or techniques you think might work well with what you teach; you can just try them out. 

  3. Avatar of Jessica A Hale
    Jessica A Hale

    I tend to agree with you Jennifer. I tried to completely flip a unit in my senior economics course and I am afraid it did give me vertigo :) Some students loved it others, (the lazier ones) did not. As you said, there are some great elements of the flipped classroom that are very valuable tools to increase student learning. Some that I found:

    -making connections: through skype or social media, we can ‘bring’ the classroom to them! Make the student feel more connected with the material they are learning
    -vodcasting: can be a great tool to use for review or missed classes, regular integration of this can create more time in class for discussion and assessing for understanding

    You are right, it is not for every teacher. However, we can take a look at the model and see what parts of it will work for us teachers and our individual learners.

    Great post!

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