Would Your Kid Be Lost or Liberated in a "Flipped" Classroom?

 

Would a "flipped" classroom help your children or students improve their learning?  Or it just another passing, overhyped fad in education?

Parents today want instruction customized and individualized to their children's learning needs and styles, and they are increasingly aware of kids' short attention spans and media sophistication.  So are flipped classrooms the answer to these trends?

Flipped learning -- also known as reverse teaching or interactive learning -- is a popular buzz word in education news.  It's a provocative concept, turning the traditional learning model on its head: instead of class time used for teacher-directed instruction, such as lectures, time in the classroom is reserved for the application and practice of concepts taught through videos.  Teachers create short videos of lessons that students watch on laptops or smartphones, either at home or -- for students without internet access -- at the library or at school.

Critics point out several potential pitfalls of this model:

  • Kids can still be taught by bad teachers.  If a teacher is not effective at delivering instruction in class, then why would their teaching be any better in a video?  As a Washington Post columnist Valerie Krauss explained about teacher push-back to this model: "Experienced educators are concerned that when bad teaching happens in the classroom, it’s a crisis; but that when it happens on YouTube, it’s a “revolution.”  To me, this is the most convincing argument.  If a teacher can't explain to kids effectively in person how to complete a math problem or how to construct an essay, why would that teacher's instruction improve through a video format?
  • Not many teachers are tech-savvy enough to create their own videos on a regular basis.  When I stopped teaching several years ago to go back to graduate school full-time, I still knew plenty of teachers who had trouble using their e-mail accounts effectively.  The idea that these teachers might be expected to record and upload videos is tough to believe.
  • Not all kids have access to computers outside of the school day.  Yes, libraries and computer labs have public computers available, but unless we want to increase dramatically the number of computers and lab hours, many kids' access would still be limited.

While I know that the evidence is not there to make huge inferences about the future of this technology, I still think that it is worth trying for many schools and classrooms.  In the traditional model of instruction, kids are mostly just passive recipients of knowledge.  And lots and lots of them are not receiving anything; they are disengaged and not paying any attention at all.

It's clear that technology engages kids.  (My toddler's obsession and advanced skills with the iPhone  are evidence enough of that for me.)   Kids have short attention spans, and short pieces of content can tailor instruction to students' individual needs and pace. Some can move ahead quickly, others can spend more time on a topic without feeling embarrassed in front of their classmates.

Teachers have time to spend with personalized, one-on-one instruction.  They are able to motivate and engage students face-to-face.  Physics professor Eric Mazur has been researching and using this type of instruction for more than 20 years.  He argues that what really works for students' understanding and retention is practice, lots of practice, and peer interaction.  And that lectures and explanations by a teacher in class are not nearly as effective.

Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman were two of the leading pioneers of "flipped learning."   Here's a short video of Sams explaining why he "flipped" his classroom:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H4RkudFzlc

Do any of you have experience with "flipped" classrooms?  Do you think they offer more potential or peril for American schools and kids?

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