I have to admit that I was sold on the idea at first explanation. I even wondered why nobody had thought of this concept before? It is so simple. Instead of lecturing during class time and assigning complicated homework that students struggle completing on their own, have the students listen to the lecture (in the form of a homemade video) at night and come ready to partake in discussion/activity/challenging problems on the information when they arrive to class. This notion is known as the flipped classroom or better known as reverse instruction. The idea started with two teachers (Johnathan Bergman and Aaron Sams) in the tiny town of Woodland Park, Colorado. It began unexpectantly, as with many great things, with a teacher simply starting to video his lectures through the use of new technology (Vodcasting) in order for students who miss class to watch and keep up with the work on their own. Word got around, and more and more students began asking for the videos for enhanced explanation of a newly introduced concept. And voila, there you have the flipped classroom. For a more in-depth visual explanation of the flipped classroom, check out the flipped classroom infographic. Johnathan Bergman also has his own blog with up to date information on how to flip a classroom for those interested.
Even after further research into the idea, I couldn’t see why everyone wasn’t introducing this model right away. There were soo many positive outcomes to this:
- Less class time spent on initial “yack time” by the teacher
- Ability to begin class delving into application of concepts and not introduction of concepts
- Ability to spend more time with those students in class who struggle
As a Special Education teacher the idea of reverse instruction just made sense. Who wouldn’t want to set up more class time for creative exploration of an idea, possibly allowing for more inquiry based instruction, or allow students more cooperative learning time? As for the concept of providing the content teacher with more time to differentiate and help those who need it, that is basically what I advocate for daily. When I took a look at the article from the Daily Riff “The Flipped Class: What it is and What it is not” all of the benefits easily seemed to outweigh the shortcomings, and it was clearly identified what is and was is not reverse instruction. It seems as though many teachers are afraid that videos will replace teachers. That is not what reverse instruction is about. In fact, the overarching majority of testimonials of those who have indeed “flipped the classroom” have been positive, as shared by those on the Flipped Network. There is even a pile of research on the Flipped Learning Blog that has been done, supporting the practice. So why do I still feel hesitant? Not resistant mind you, but hesitant.
Part of the reason I want to awkwardly shy away from flipping my own class is for selfish reasons, and I openly admit this. I believe that it will take quite a bit of time creating Vodcasts of my “lectures”. Also, honestly I just shy away from the camera and feel that videos or recordings of myself to be abhorrent. I am not a bad teacher and my students do learn and are actively engaged. I just don’t like the limelight (or listening to my slightly valley girl voice intonations). I do of course realize that it is not about me, but what is best for the students, but this is where my issue stems from. I am all about the flipped classroom concept. It is simplistic and beautiful. But I think we are forgetting some fundamental basics about what good teaching is all about. Honestly, any teacher that gets up at the front of the classroom and lectures for more than 10 minutes at a time (or even worse most of the block), and then straight away asks students to answer questions or solve problems, isn’t necessarily following best practice. These are not effective teaching strategies. Effective teachers are those who engage the learners AND are able to incorporate new content and new academic terms without lecturing in front of the class. I think what the flipped classroom has done has simply supported what best practice teaching should be all about anyways.
I imagine that many of my SPED students may watch an online 10 minute vodcast of new material and still have nearly no retention or solid understanding of what it was about the next day in class. What the flipped classroom has done has either prefaced new content with the basics, or supported content with additional knowledge. There are many ways of doing this. As a Special Education teacher, it is crucial that instruction be differentiated and given in multiple modalities to support a wide array of learning styles ( and multiple intelligences). The visual and perhaps auditory learners may do very well with watching a video the night before, and then ideally the kinesthetic learner can then “do” an activity in class the following day that relates. I believe that the flipped classroom is a good model, hell even a great model, but let’s not get stuck in any one model. Yes, the old “sage on stage” model should be obsolete, but I hesitate to think that every student will now go home and watch their teachers lecturing at home, to come back to class and do the same ole’ thing. Flipping it any direction isn’t necessarily the answer, the answer is in improved instruction techniques all around, and I do sincerely believe that both Johnathan Bergman and Aaron Sams understand this.