An Introduction to Flipped Classrooms

flipped apples

These apples have flipped their classrooms, have you?

“Hey, I just flipped my classroom.”  Ever heard this from another teacher?  Or are you that teacher who is already on the edge of the curve and flipping your classroom already?  In this post, we’re going to examine how this new teaching approach is getting students engaged and bringing technology into the classroom in a new way.

First, some background: let’s define some terms.  A 1:1 classroom is a learning structure in which each student has his/her own device. With the introduction of the device comes blended learning, which is when students use a combination of technology-enabled learning and teacher-led instruction and activities.  All these terms can be confusing, we know!

Flipping a classroom is a technique which turns the ordinary way of teaching upside down.  Instead of the traditional format where a teacher lectures in class, and students do independent work on their own at home — in a flipped classroom, introduction to new material is the homework and class time is spent focusing on the problems (like tricky concepts) in class.  Did we lose you?  We hope not.  Once you get used to the idea, it can make a lot of sense.

The three main benefits/arguments for flipped classrooms are as follows:

  1. Students are engaged by technology.

  2. Students spend class time as active learners instead of passive receivers.

  3. There is a distinction between teaching and learning; Both grow more intuitive and adaptive, depending on the student. No more blanketing a lesson for 20 different students.

In Nevada, Gradeable’s own Kattie taught in a 1:1 classroom and used some flipped classroom techniques.  She found that it came in handy when teaching capillary action to 6th graders. In the past, she would have 45 minutes to explain the material and demonstrate the process, 30 minutes to explain and 15 minutes to show. In the flipped model, students learned the material at home and came to class where they addressed their questions and then got to see capillary action, well, in action.

Through the hands-on learning, students built relevancy and context to what they read. They discovered the lesson coming to life as they watched water travel up a plant’s stem. Class time was fun and engaging compared to sitting at a desk for a half hour+ trying to stay awake during a lecture (hey, we’ve all been there). The trouble, Kattie related, came when not all the students did their homework. In the past, students who didn’t do their homework just got marked down. Now, the lack of preparation hindered her ability to participate and learn in class even more.

The main challenges/arguments against flipping your class are as follows:

  1. Irresponsible students are responsible for their own learning; lesson plans are dependent on students who are not always reliable.

  2. Teachers are skeptical, reluctant to change their lesson plans that are already working.

  3. Technology is much faster than infrastructure. When the wifi at school can’t support all the students logging onto the system, it causes headaches and only makes reluctant teachers more reluctant.

Additionally, most people, especially at a young age, see tablets as social and entertainment devices, not educational. So when put into a sterile environment and told to do something boring, most people (children especially) are going to give it their best shot to make it fun (interact with their friends). So you are faced the problem of putting up a firewall (virus protection) that is too severe or dealing with distracted students using their devices for something else. It will take some time for the culture to change.

It takes a lot of initiative and a bit of creativity to make the best of technology in the classroom. And while it’s natural to resist change, I encourage everyone to stay curious about new technology, but be critical. Don’t jump on app everyone else is using or the first web service that comes up on your Google search. Experiment with basics like Google Drive and Evernote to see what works for your teaching style. If those don’t work for you, go back to physical folders and Post-It notes, but don’t stop exploring. There is a World Wide Web of teaching resources out there for you. Don’t know where to start? Follow us on Twitter or message us on Facebook. We’re ed tech junkies.

Speaking of ed tech junkies, eduCanon, our neighbors at LearnLaunchX, are developing a platform to embed questions into video. Used in a flipped setting, eduCanon’s tool is one way for teachers to see if students are grasping concepts of what they’re watching. Now, instead of movies being nap time, students are actively engaged.

Some things to keep in mind when going flipped:

  1. Is your infrastructure ready?

  2. Do you have a help desk ready so there’s no reason for anyone to believe they can’t do something, throw their arms up and quit

  3. Is your community involved? are parents buying into this model? will they take responsibility for digital citizenship, and the very real problem of cyber bullying?

  4. Flipped classrooms are not one size fits all, are you ready to put the work in to make technology work for your classroom?

Whether your school is full-blown 1:1 or you’re just starting to incorporate computers in the classroom, technology’s role in learning is gaining momentum. Here at Gradeable, we encourage a thoughtful embrace of educational technology.  All these new education technology ideas will succeed only if there is student buy-in, teacher preparation, and the support of administration. Remember, technology is just a tool that comes to life depending on how we make use of it. Make technology work for you, not the other way around.

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