"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Flipping The Classroom

Watch for this term, flipping the classroom, on many education websites. It is a concept that has been around for a while, just waiting for technology and public awareness to catch up. It refers to the practice of students listening to lectures outside the classroom and using classroom time for individual problem solving and tutoring help. The Khan Academy has fully embraced this concept, providing schools with video lectures to be used outside the classroom and software for use in the classroom that lets the students proceed through practice drills and problem solving exercises while showing the teacher exactly where each student is in terms of progress or where they are getting stuck.

This information on the flipped classroom is from The Daily Riff:

The Flipped Classroom is NOT
  • A synonym for online videos. When most people hear about the flipped class all they think about are the videos. It is the the interaction and the meaningful learning activities that occur during the face-to-face time that is most important. 
  • About replacing teachers with videos. 
  • An online course. 
  • Students working without structure. 
  • Students spending the entire class staring at a computer screen. 
  • Students working in isolation. 
 The Flipped Classroom IS
  • A means to INCREASE interaction and personalized contact time between students and teachers. 
  • An environment where students take responsibility for their own learning. 
  • A classroom where the teacher is not the "sage on the stage", but the "guide on the side". 
  • A blending of direct instruction with constructivist learning. 
  • A classroom where students who are absent due to illness or extra-curricular activities such as athletics or field-trips, don't get left behind. 
  • A class where content is permanently archived for review or remediation. 
  • A class where all students are engaged in their learning. 
  • A place where all students can get a personalized education.  
The flipped class may be a good interim step or permanent tool in moving education out of its current top down, one size fits all, high cost, inefficient model to something more locally focused that actually considers each child individually. Some additional things that the flipped classroom does and doesn't do: 

  • It does fairly significantly change the role of the teacher which should then be reflected in teacher education and state certification requirements. 
  • It doesn't address any of the concerns with Common Core Standards, as video lectures and software could only be produced (and mass marketed successfully) if there was an agreed upon set of standards. 
  • It is unclear whether the current school structure would be flexible enough to use it fully, allowing advanced students to proceed at their own pace and attending the level appropriate classroom instead of the age appropriate classroom. It is hard to imagine a school district requiring a particular grade level teacher to have the depth of knowledge necessary to help students at vastly different levels of proficiency. (Hard to imagine because it has been so long since that was the norm, that we no longer expect teachers to have such proficiency themselves.)
The classroom should be a place for the exchange of ideas and the fostering of creativity.  The flipped class provides the TIME for these activities, but common standards, accountability testing, and the inevitable approvals that video lectures will be required to obtain to be used will eat away at the above mentioned benefits and may just make the flipped class the fast track to uniform mediocrity.

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