Flipped classrooms: Turning learning upside down

Trend of 'flipping classrooms' helps teachers to personalize education

Published: Sunday, Nov. 25 2012 10:35 p.m. MST

Cator can spot a few potential problems with classroom flipping, though.

She sees a need to ensure that student privacy and information security is maintained online and that students are kept safe from inappropriate websites.

She is further concerned that classroom flipping and other technology-driven trends might leave behind students who lack Internet access and computers in their homes. The teachers at Franklin said almost all of their students can access the Internet outside of school. The teachers make their classroom computers available before and after school for those who can't, and they let students use school computers during class time if needed. For students with computers but no Internet access, the teachers burn DVDs of the lectures.

Success story

Principal Greg Green found a way to improve achievement of students at Michigan's Clintondale High School through the flipping model, even though 75 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, a poverty indicator.

In a January 2012 CNN story, Green described his school as a place where students were disruptive, unwilling to do homework and often absent. Failure rates were "through the roof," Green said.

The school secured a grant from a technology company and started flipping its classes in 2010. Some lectures for home viewing were recorded by teachers, others were accessed from websites such as Kahn Academy, a free online repository of educational videos. Early results at Clintondale are remarkable.

A survey of Clintondale students showed 82 percent could access the videos outside school, Green said, often via smartphones. Teachers also replayed video lessons while taking roll at the beginning of classes.

Larger studies of classroom flipping don't exist yet, Cator said, and the number of schools flipping classes isn't known. What is known is that classroom flipping is catching on in college classes, too.

College flipping

On Oct. 17, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that California's San Jose State University replaced in-class lectures with videos for a difficult electrical engineering course and found median midterm test scores for students using the flipped format were 10 to 11 points higher than scores for students taught traditionally.

At Utah State University, statistics professor Camille Fairbourn tried flipping a basic statistics course after noting that students who took the class online were outscoring those who attended class in person.

Fairbourn's videos for home study include interactive quizzes that let students try problems until they get them right.

"It's meant to be a low-stress, low-stakes assessment that takes the panic out," she said.

Facts about flipping

In a flipped classroom, students watch lectures and do interactive activities online, getting introduced to course content outside of class. In-class time is devoted to discussion and problem-solving. Students often work together or with the teacher.

Mini-lectures and tutorials, viewed online or on mobile devices, introduce new concepts and reinforce old ones. Students view them when it is convenient for them.

Students can view lectures multiple times, pausing as needed. This feature is especially helpful to English language learners, students with attention deficits and students with listening disorders. (Parents of younger students can view the videos, too.)

In-class activities in flipped classrooms let students learn by doing and support development of academic and social skills.

Instructors can individualize learning for each student more easily in a flipped classroom. Class time is freed up so the teacher can move from student to student while ensuring that concepts are understood.

Teachers can create online materials for home study by simply videotaping themselves giving lectures at a whiteboard, or they can use software that combines slides, photographs, video, music, animations, quizzes and other interactive features. Software choices include Camtasia, Captivate, Softchalk and others.

Teachers are not replaced in a flipped classroom. They become more important as their interaction with students increases.

Source: Adapted from the University of Utah Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence

email: cbaker@desnews.com

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