If you are an educator who pays attention to current trends in education, you will most certainly have heard the term “Flipped Classroom” being thrown around a lot lately. I myself heard about it last March at the EARCOS annual conference. So what is a ‘flipped classroom’? Is it just another educational fad that is destined to live a short life or is it a real way of changing education for the future?
To learn more about the flipped classroom, I first visited the article Reverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s “Fisch Flip” on the Connected Principals blog. The article opens by saying:
As the Internet revolution continues to build and increasingly influence everything under the sun, so too it is going to have a massive impact on teaching and learning in K-12 schools. Educators who don’t anticipate this change and work to ride the wave will be subsumed by it, I fear.
I happened to be reading the article in the presence of a friend and teaching colleague and read the line aloud to her. She laughed and said, “Ain’t that the truth”. I think we all know teachers, and schools too for that matter, who have been slow to adapt to the rapidly changing nature of the job and therefore fail to adequately equip students for the world they are about to enter.
We live today in a world of content. In the past, you looked to teachers for information, but today, if you need to know something, you are likely going to head to the computer first before you ask a teacher for help. The article raises the question: If kids can get the content from the computer, why are teachers using precious class-time delivering content?I Perhaps, us educators should be ‘flipping’ our classrooms. Instead of using class time for delivering content/lecture, we should have the students to receive the content at home and then we should allow students to use class time to work on the assignments that we would have previously given as homework. If we do this, us educators will be there to “teach” our students when they encounter problems with the assignments. With the growth of the Internet, memorization of facts is becoming less and less important. The kids of the future are going to need to apply knowledge, synthesize information, and collaborate, so us teachers should give them time to do that in class, instead of making them sit and listen to us. They can do sitting and listening at home instead, and the added beauty of this is that if they miss something while listening, they can simply replay what we have said.
In the article Think-Tank: Flip-thinking – the new buzzword sweeping the US, author David Pink, talks about Karl Fisch, a teacher who has “flipped teaching on its head”. He has done this by uploading his lectures to YouTube for his students to watch at home at night and then getting them to apply the concept they learned in the lecture in class during the school day. After talking about education, Pink goes on to suggest how this concept of ‘flipping’ can apply not only in the classroom, but also to all kinds of professional organizations. For example, Pink notes, ‘flipping’ can apply to the publishing industry. Usually publishers first put out an expensive hardcover and then come out with a cheaper paperback later. Seth Godin, marketing guru and author, has proposed that publishers should put out the cheaper paperback first as “readers are more likely to gamble on an unknown author” if the book won’t set them back too much pocket money. Then, if the book sells well and gets some fans, the publisher could then sell an expensive hardcover collector’s edition.
Pink ends the article by saying:
“Here’s your homework for tonight. Ask yourself: what is one process, practice, method or model in my business, work or life that I can flip? We’ll work on your answers together in class tomorrow.”
I took Pink’s advice and started to think about what exactly I could “flip”. Unfortunately, nothing immediately jumped to mind, so I continued to do a bit more reading.
I decided to watch the video Did you Know/Shift Happens 4.0. It was fascinating, and I definitely recommend viewing it yourself. One quote from the video that struck me was: “The computer in your cell phone today is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful and a hundred thousand times smaller (than the one computer at MIT 1965)…what used to fit in a building now fits in your pocket, what fits in your pocket will fit inside a blood cell in 25 years.” Truly the world is changing. The message is clear – as educators, we must adapt.
I next visited a post called Vodcasting and the Flipped Classroom and watched two videos about Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, two pioneers in the ‘flipped classroom’ movement. The thing that Sams said that struck a chord with me was: “Now I walk around the class, and I help kids…” Isn’t that what we teachers should all be doing all the time? I stopped to think about my classroom. How often do I actually get to walk around the classroom and help kids? Honestly, I am sad to say, the answer is: “Not much”. I don’t consider myself an archaic teacher, but I still spend a lot of time directing the instruction. Maybe it’s time for me to ‘flip’.
One thing I have noticed, however, about ‘flipping’ is that some subjects seem to lend themselves better to it than others. If you look for great examples of reverse instruction or ‘flipped classrooms’, you are sure to find a plethora of Math and Science examples. Bergmann and Sams, the pioneers of the movement, are both Science teachers and Fisch is a teacher of Math. Being a teacher of English myself, I sometimes struggle to know what exactly flipping would like in my classroom.
After a bit of searching, I did manage to find an example on the Vocasting Ning (or The Flipped Class Network) called Example of an English podcast. During the 9 minute podcast, a teacher goes through a student’s essay, paragraph by paragraph, offering feedback on how to improve it. I assume that this podcast was created during the teacher’s time and given to the student to view as homework. One commenter posted a reply to the podcast saying that it was a great idea, but noted that it would take him/her 16 hours and 30 minutes just to give the first level of feedback on one paper to her 110 students. I must admit, I was thinking the same thing. I guess the advantage here of doing a podcast rather than a live conference with a student is that the student can play back the podcast whenever he or she needs, and therefore, the teacher can avoid having to re-explain himself/herself. In that respect, perhaps it would be worth making the time investment.
I decided to do a search for Middle School English to see if I could find some more examples. After a little digging, I found ADAM FACHLER’S BLOG titled ELA and Social Studies Vodcasting. There he states:
I would love to start a conversation with some peers about fleshing out how an hour-long class period might be spent using this model as well as best practices for vodcasting for Language Arts or any humanities teacher. I know people might respond by saying “Use it however you would spend class time normally,” but the Atwell/Graves/Caulkins middle school workshop is a purposefully versatile structure and requires a truly diverse range of mini-lessons and workshop possibilities. One idea I have had is to frontload by creating a whole library of vodcasts for a unit and allowing students to move through the progression (i.e. how to write a feature article/short story or how recognize the elements of an unfamiliar genre) at their own pace while I formatively assess and coach students through the material.
Since I too use the Lucy Calkins Reading and Writing Workshop models, which advocate teaching reading and writing using a workshop approach that includes mini-lessons and active engagement time, I decided to sign up for the Ning and connect to Adam. The best way to learn is through conversations with others.
I next visited The Flipped Class Blog and read The Flipped Class Revisited. Here, the author addresses some fears people have of flipped classrooms including fear that the flipped class will lead to less engaged students who simply look at videos, fear that the flipped class will lead to huge classes with little engagement, fear that the flipped class is just bad lecture on video, and fear that the flipped class hurts students who have limited access to technology. I thought that the point about the flipped class being just bad lecture on video was particularly interesting for two reasons. First, I think there is some truth to the statement. I have looked at number of videos made by teachers on the web, and yes, there are a number of examples of bad lectures out there. That said, however, I have come across more good examples of flipped classrooms than bad ones. Secondly, I think if teachers were to record their lessons on video, they would think more carefully about the quality of them. I know that if I am going to record myself teaching something, I am going to think a lot more carefully about the quality of my lesson than if it is just a one-time spiel that I give in the classroom. Therefore, I think getting teachers to record themselves giving lectures/lessons would actually improve the quality of the ones that are given. After all, you are going to be “publishing” your work if you are recording it and giving it to the students to view outside of the school, and people often put more effort into the things that they publish.
I next viewed a video of Aaron Sams presenting the Flipped Classroom model to the American Chemical Society meeting. In the video, he states that the idea of giving students content to view at home which will be discussed later in class is not really all that new or revolutionary. English teachers, he says, do it all the time when they ask students to read a story at home and then discuss it the next day in class. Hearing that as an English teacher, who often gets students to read things at home, made me feel a bit better.
Sams suggested that ‘flipping’ a classroom means that “the kids that need the attention get the attention”. For example, the kids that understood the lecture and now knew what to do could simply get to work and the ones that needed extra help could get it. In every classroom, there are students that demand the teacher’s attention. Often, these are the children that are quite engaged with your lessons and not needing of extra support. Unfortunately, it is often the kids that are struggling the most that do not ask for attention and wish to appear invisible. Having a flipped classroom means that you have time to move around the classroom because you are no longer stuck at the front of the room lecturing, thus, no child should be able to slip through the cracks.
During the video, Sams provided a chart that showed possible breakdown of a traditional 90 minute course. What is notable from the chart below is that the students get a lot more guided and independent practice time in class in the flipped model.
|Warm Up 5 mins||Warm up 5 mins|
|Go over previous night’s homework 20 mins||Q and A on podcast 10 mins|
|Lecture new content 30-45 mins||Guided and Independent Practice/Lab Activity 75 mins|
|Guided & Independent Practice/Lab Activity 20-35 mins|
Near the end of the video, Sams gives a great analogy and if you have been reading my blog for a while now, you know I love a good analogy. He says that he sees assessment like a GPS. If you are in a car and you turn the wrong way, the GPS will say “redirecting” and then reassess your location and offer a new set of directions. Sams says, “As a teacher, I need to be the GPS. You made a wrong turn here. I need to redirect back to where you need to go.” What a great example of ‘differentiation’, another one of those educational buzzwords. Because you are constantly interacting with your students in a flipped model, you are able to differentiate your instructions for each of them.
After I finished the video, I wanted to learn more about Bergmann and Sams, so I visited learning4mastery and clicked on the news tab. I decided to watch one more video and chose to view Flipped/Mastery Education Model: Student Impressions to see what students thought about flipped classrooms. Each student interviewed seemed to really enjoy the Flipped Classroom model. One quote I especially liked was “You can get more help on the assignments when you are at school, rather than struggling with them at home because you don’t have the teacher help at home.”
How often do we get students coming into our classes saying they didn’t do the homework, because they didn’t understand it? I get it often enough. Usually I reply by telling them that they should have come to see me before the assignment was due. I also sometimes get parents emailing me and asking me questions about certain assignments. Perhaps if I flip my classroom, I can be the one helping my students with their assignments instead of having the parents do it, and I should be able to avoid the “I didn’t understand it” excuse.
I think the best thing about the Flipped Classroom model is that you can sometimes have students working at their own pace. Once every two weeks, I devote time to teaching grammar concepts. Sometimes my students understand the concept right away, but some need extra explanation. Unfortunately, all of my students have to listen to the extended explanation when not all of them need it. Sometimes I can even see the brightest kids in the class yawn and stare off into space. If I recorded the basic explanation and my students watched that for homework, I could give the students the practice exercises in class and then work with the ones that were having the most difficulty without having to hold the brightest ones back.
I know I could also use the flipped classroom approach with my Writing Workshop lessons. For example, every year, I teach my fifth graders how to punctuate dialogue. I also teach my sixth graders the same thing. Even though I taught the sixth graders how to punctuate dialogue in fifth grade, many of them completely forget how to do it correctly over the summer holidays. A small handful of kids, however, remember how and do not need to sit through a whole lesson on the topic again. Currently, however, I make them. Perhaps, I could video my lecture on punctuating dialogue. Kids could watch it for homework. Then, I could do a quick assessment the next day to figure out which kids have got it and are therefore ready to move on and which kids still need help. Then, I could let the ones who were ready to move on work with each other in a peer revising workshop, while I would with the kids who need more explanation on how to properly punctuate dialogue.
My brain is churning. I am starting to look at everything I do in the classroom and ask, How can I flip this? Thank goodness the Christmas holidays are coming up. Maybe I can do some experimenting and recording over the break and try out some samples in the new year. I’ll make it a resolution. :)
Note: Even if you have been using the flipped classroom model for a while now, I still strongly suggest you view Sams’ video – most especially the final section as he talks about how he is now taking the flipped classroom to the next level.