Last year, a former colleague of mine, Brian Bennett, shared with our staff his efforts to model his chemistry class in as a flipped classroom. I was intrigued and excited by his efforts. I had been trying to implement more student mastery learning in my social studies classes over previous years, but lack of technology or a complete vision had held me back. As I listened to Brian explain his classroom activities and student learning, I attempted to process what a flipped classroom really looked like. Sure, in a science classroom the concepts he brought up seemed to work, but I was puzzled over how the same processes could be used in the social studies arena. I still am a bit puzzled.
From what I understand about the flipped classroom, students gain content information–via podcast or reading–outside of class, while spending class time working on mastering skills and getting personal or group attention from the instructor. Instead of students listening to an in-class lecture, they would watch a podcast or read a website about it and be prepared to complete tasks and demonstrate understanding during class periods. This does sound ideal, but I’ve been a bit skeptical. I’ve tried doing similar things in the past. For two years, I gave the students a choice of small projects to complete throughout the quarter, allowing them to go deeper on issues that most intrigued them. My efforts didn’t come to much, accept students forgetting to complete the assignments until the last possible moment and me ending up with a lot to grade the last few weeks of the quarter.
My concerns and interest in the Flipped Social Studies Classroom have equally grown, but am finding comfort in the fact that I not the only history teacher who has these concerns. I found this thread comparing the “flipped classroom” to the normal social studies classroom, where most the of the student homework is reading portions of a text and being expected to discuss the information the next day. This idea comforted me, since part of what I’m doing in class is already a version of “Flipped”. At least two of my lessons a week are based on students completing a reading assignment, then the class working through some sort of activity to prove the students have grasped this information. Comprehension-Understanding-Modeling-Creating.
The idea of podcasts still intrigue me, but I don’t think I could ever replace full class lectures with them. Sometimes, you need to lecture, but I do see the value of creating short podcasts to help students understand key topics or summarize lengthy information. This year, I’ve been finding podcasts made by other teachers to embed on my website. Currently, I just don’t have the time, funds, means or knowledge to invest in making all of my own podcasts. Perhaps soon though.