Does a flipped classroom encourage this?

Or this?

Last week I read Lisa Nielsen’s post “Five Reasons I’m Not Flipping Over the Flipped Classroom.” I had to check with a friend what exactly a flipped classroom was. I had been hearing about it for a while and the definition I formed for myself was a classroom in which students take much more ownership of their learning than in your typical, rows of desks, chalk and talk classroom.

Well, I was wrong. In fact, a flipped classroom is not so much flipped in the role of student and teacher, but rather in the functions of school and home.

I’ve learned that in a flipped classroom, students view lectures or videos at home. This is essentially the classwork part of the flip. The next day, they come to school and do work around the lecture or video. The teacher is there to consult if needed. This is the homework part of the flip.

I received an email last week asking for my opinion on the flipped classroom. I want to share my response here, expand on it, and open up a dialogue because this is a topic I can certainly learn more about.

I wrote:

I have only recently started learning about flipped classrooms, and as currently constituted, I am not a fan. Watching videos is as passive as reading a textbook. Think of inquiry based learning, where a student is actively engaged with others, solving problems, moving around, and then think of a video at home, where he is probably doing other things simultaneously (eating, texting, etc.) I imagine, in reality, there are few students who benefit from independently watching a video. And if class sessions are just homework based on lecture, then all a flipped classroom is is a non student-driven classroom. Clearly that is not something I support.

Over at The Innovative Educator, I offered this thought as an option instead of video lectures:

What if the topic was presented with a menu of possible ways to learn about it independently? This work would be done at home, allowing the student to take ownership of the learning (rather than have the teacher’s lecture try to impart it) and then back in school, the students can come to the teacher for support.

I am concerned by the opinions of some that a flipped classroom can be as effective or more effective than an inquiry-based room. As I alluded to above, isn’t a flipped classroom just a passive room by another name? Plus, while some undoubtedly learn effectively from videos (you might if you watch a documentary or visit YouTube to help you learn a song on the piano), I can’t imagine this approach being enough for all learners. Where will we draw the line? Maybe in a flipped classroom, the teacher as we know it – who guides and inspires – will be rendered obsolete.

I am asking for you to validate or confront my understanding. The flipped classroom has become a hot topic on Twitter and a flashpoint for controversy with the Khan Academy’s ascension to greater prominence. Help me understand why the idea is awesome and why it stinks. I look forward to your perspective.


2 responses to “Flipped-a-Dee-Doo-Dah

  1. To begin with, I believe that there needs to be balance in education–no one way is the best way. However, I have been dabbling with the flipped classroom notion, and a colleague has been using it more. One of the most convincing points so far for me is the idea of preview and review. My colleague noted that when children have the chance to preview a concept prior to the lesson, they bring an enhanced schema for learning to the classroom lesson and activity. Also, I’ve noted that with video assignments children are able to watch and re-watch a video to gain understanding–this is especially wonderful for children who need to see something many times, and for many English Language Learners who are new to understanding English. So the idea of watching a film as part of home study can work very well. Formative assessments in classrooms will inform the overall menu of activities and learning endeavors as those will allow teachers to see what’s working for student learning and what’s not.

    • Enhancing the schema does not require videos from home as it can easily be done with an engaging beginning to the lesson that gets minds ready. As for watching/re-watching, why can’t we flip that and have the video follow the lesson? One of my colleagues is considering just that, having videos at home to follow the lesson and reinforce it, rather than be the content delivery prior to the lesson.

      Also, all of my students are ELLs, but only a few have internet at home. So that means anyone who doesn’t have it is left out.

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