Does it pass the innovation sniff test?

When I first heard about the Flipped Classroom, I kind of scratched my head at first wondering why it was considered so innovative.  Now that I know more about Reverse Instruction, I’m still not convinced that it is so cutting edge.  It smells a lot like something I’ve come across before in education.  Anyone that has been involved in Project Based Learning will recognize the whiffs of its

key features of learning content at home and applying that content in the classroom.  With the availability of screen casting and virtually limitless cloud storage for things like videos, this type of instruction can be more widely applied.  But there have been plenty of educators in the past that asked students to do some or all of the learning of new content outside of the class.  This was how my organic chemistry professor 20 years ago taught- read the chapters before coming to class, be prepared to work on problem sets in class.

There is, however, a big difference with the flipped classroom which is the fact that the lectures and content can be archived on line and therefore accessed at any time.  This is certainly a huge advantage for students and it makes the reverse instruction model more intriguing and because of the reliance on technology (screencasting, online video sharing, etc.) this is certainly putting a modern, tech based twist on this type of classroom structure.
In reflecting on my own teaching practices, I have used aspects of the reverse instruction model at various times over the past 2 years but it’s time for me to do more.  I teach at a 1:1 laptop school and I therefore know that my students have access to the technology needed for this type of learning.  I have asked my students to learn new content via video casts and other on-line resources.  However, there are a few aspects of the current genre of reverse instruction that I need to improve on for effective implementation in today’s classroom- formative on-line assessments and doing my own screencasts.
I have not found a way to do the formative assessment that some teachers in content courses such as math, physics, etc. are able to effectively implement to show that students are progressing on their own.  Some of the resources that I have used with students have their own quizes at the end but I am not able to track that my students are indeed using them.  I have to find a way for me to track their acquisition of new content using on-line quizes or such.  I have only just recently looked at Quia and this might be a possibility.
Another thing to overcome is my lack of skills doing screencasts and my aversion to being on camera.  I know that just doing the first screencast will be the big leap and then after that, more will fall into place.  Finding the time to do this will be a big challenge for me these days but my goal is by the end of the year to have done at least one.
So, to answer the question about whether this type of instruction passes the ‘innovation sniff test,’ I would have to say that no, it does not.  However, if it is done correctly it is an effective strategy for increasing learning in a classroom.  In my opinion reverse instruction should be a part of any teacher’s skill set and at least some of their curriculum can and should be delivered in this way.  It is my goal to improve on my delivery of this strategy in my classroom and to really plan it and execute it with more care and attention.
Some resources that I came across:

3 comments for “Does it pass the innovation sniff test?

  1. Avatar of Ivan Beeckmans
    March 3, 2012 at 4:56 pm


    I like the way you think. Indeed, the idea of reverse instruction is really not that new. Heck, isn’t show and tell a version of it? But this makes me think that instead of getting depressed about how we ‘have it all wrong’ in education, perhaps we just need to up-skill some of the good things, ideas, and thinking that has worked in the past.

    Regarding your aversion to screen-casting, I have one suggestion for you ScreenR. It is an incredibly simple application to use and its main limit is actually a benefit. Your free screen-cast can only be 5 minutes long. This forces you to compartmentalize. Think about what you really want the students to know. Often to get one idea across, 5 minutes is all it takes. Don’t worry about being perfect. Look at this one I did in one take. I was rushed but I just wanted to get it done. Imagine trying to explain Idee without the screen-cast.

    Quia is a great tool for monitoring quizzes. I have used it at NIST for assessing over 100 students at a time, often needing the results within a 24 hour period (the students needed to get 90% on a quiz to get their laptop). Without Quia, monitoring that would have been a nightmare. If you need some help setting up, I could make a screen-cast for you :)

    Thanks for this post. Makes me want to go back and look at all the great lessons I have witnessed and see how I might be able to ‘digitize’ it for today’s world.

    Cheers, Ivan

    • Avatar of Paige Prescott
      March 4, 2012 at 8:05 am

      Drat! Now I have no excuses! Thanks for the suggestions and the nudge. I’ll let you know the triumphs and failures.

  2. March 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Paige. I share most of your thoughts on the flipped classroom. My take is that it is an old way with a new spin. It can come across like homework or like you say, 20 year old plus teaching methods. The benefits of archived accessibility is an advantage. I guess what I would like to see now is data that this method actually outweighs the unflipped classroom. I have read many posts from educators who rave about it but student feedback, raw data scores of students who have experienced this approach is now of interest me. I worry sometimes that new approaches are adopted with haste and is there actual research to support it. Maybe it’s the scientist side of me talking but my question is – does this approach work long term? What do the participants say? I’m not opposed to flipping a classroom, I would like to give it a go but only if serves to improve the learning of the students.

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