Friday, May 6, 2011

The Flipped Classroom

Flipping the classroom, or reverse instruction, has been quite trendy lately.  For those new to the topic, it means giving lectures or instruction to students over the internet and using the in class time to actually do work, discuss, or solve problems.  Teachers often accomplish this via podcasting of lectures or screencasting sample problems for students to use as a model. You can see examples of it on many educational blog posts and Youtube is increasely filled with more academic content than just Angry Birds tutorials.  I've been watching this trend and seeing some of our teachers begin engaging in it.

Salman Khan has a great TED talk on what has eventually developed into Khan Academy.  He has some interesting insight and thoughts that are fantastic for reflection.  He has found strategies to gather data to impact what is being presented back to students.  Take some time to watch the video if you haven't.

As I've watched the application of these ideas and concepts to the classroom, some educators have really used this with tremendous benefit to students.  Research has shown the benefits for students to be able to pause, rewind, and carefully take notes on a lecture.  Some teachers have given students a lecture to view at home and then use the in class time for discussion or to practice solving problems.  Aside from increasing the class time available for working with teacher assistance and student to student interaction, sending these lectures home gives students a finite time of homework.

On the other side of the coin, I have seen teachers put a lot of extra time on students because they now put every lecture up on Youtube.    It is important for teachers to retain balance in the work they send home.  I also think the art of the interactive lecture can be lost in this format.  At times, lecture is an appropriate way to deliver instruction (despite what I would call myths that this is never appropriate).  However, interactive lectures engage students and flex the content around the responses and reactions of the participants.  And I do mean participants.  To relinquish a presentation to one way video can leave out the interactive nature of teaching.  It's not all bad but something to consider within a flipped classroom context.

We need to be careful that we don't misapply the flipped classroom methodology so it overburdens students and removes an important element of personal interaction from students that is the learning and dialogue we desire in our classrooms.  As with so many things in life, we need balance.   I have seen some applications that take and mistakenly apply it in ways that just aren't helpful and really don't embody the same type of online education that Khan and others advocate.   I've approached this idea with caution because extremism can be dangerous in any trendy fad.

What do you think?  What do you see as the pros of the flipped classroom and the pitfalls to avoid?