Flipping classrooms

More and more teachers are making a fundamental change. They’re turning the traditional classroom on its head.

Instead of lecturing in class and giving the kids homework for after-hours, they’re assigning their kids lectures to watch at home on video, and then using class time to follow up those lessons with extra help or group activities.

This idea of “flipping the classroom,” popularized by the brilliant Khan Academy over the last couple of years, makes great use of the YouTube revolution: the availability to post videos cheaply on the Internet and the capability of anyone with a computer, smartphone or tablet to see them at their leisure.

It relieves students of the ageless struggle to fight boredom while listening to a teacher lecture, and instead uses classroom hours for more engaging exercises designed to cement their understanding of the material at hand.

Khan Academy’s founder, Salman Khan, has a terrific essay in the current edition of Education Week, in which he extols technology not as a replacement for teachers, but as a way to help teachers better pinpoint individual students’ academic weak points and devise ways to strengthen them:

When teachers have real-time data and a clear understanding of every child’s needs, they can use their precious classroom time more effectively and flexibly. When students are learning at a pace and level appropriate to their individual needs, they are less likely to disengage or act up.

The flipped classroom, which started in high schools, is catching on with lower grades, reports the Dallas Morning News. Officials from 10 north Texas school districts attended a regional conference on the flipped classroom in July, and an increasing number of classrooms are giving the technique a try.

Lisa Casto, the Dallas School District’s director of curriculum and staff development, told reporter Wendy Hundley that the concept is growing through the initiative of teachers, not from the top down. It’s catching on, she said, because it encourages a higher level of learning which is needed for the 21st century.

As students shift from a passive to active role, they acquire critical thinking skills, learn to collaborate and become independent learners.

“This lines up with the skills they will need,” Casto said.

Students told the paper they’re challenged more than in ordinary class set-ups, because the in-class exercises allow for sophisticated explorations of a subject. And they enjoy the freedom to watch lectures as they wish: re-running parts they don’t understand, pausing to take a break, or watching on their smartphones during a lull at soccer practice.  A teacher said test scores have risen up to 20 percent.

Some adjustments are required to make the concept work: teachers must be trained, administrators must be in support, and students must have access to computers or handheld devices.

But the pluses are formidable. It’s inexpensive, uses existing technologies that students are cozy with, increases social interaction and intellectual give-and-take, and creates habits for life-long learning.

Here’s the full Dallas Morning News story.

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Posted on October 2, 2012, in Reading, Teaching, Technology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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