Education Opinion

Rethinking Teaching and Time with the Flipped Classroom

By Justin Reich — June 20, 2012 3 min read
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I’m doing one of my favorite tasks today: I’m running a Flipped Classroom workshop today at Shrewsbury High School.

I love working with teachers about the Flipped Classroom, because it has a fabulous balance of pedagogy and technology. Specifically, it’s a little bit about some very easy screencasting technology, and the majority of our time is spent thinking about goals, pedagogy and learning.

For me, the Flipped Classroom is about one essential question: What is the best use of our class time? More precisely, how do we ensure that students do the most cognitively demanding work inside classrooms?

In general, educators agree that listening and receiving content is not nearly as difficult as applying new ideas and practicing new skills. Watching a teacher demonstrate the solution to a problem is less cognitively demanding than solving new problems. Kids shouldn’t go home to solve hard problems, they should do so in class with peer and mentor support. We can make that possible, by sending them home to watch content delivery.

Simple technologies, like screencasting, let us re-envision how we use our time as teachers. We can move content delivery to homework time (or individualized in-class times), so that the core of class time can be devoted to deepening their understanding and refining their skills. I love working with diverse educators to think about how the ability to produce (or curate) lectures and demonstrations on video lets them rethink how they use their time to meet learning goals.

The program for this workshop has been very fun. Participants started a week in advance of the face to face time by reading some articles and watching some online videos, and then participating in asynchronous discussion (we flipped the Flip!). Participants then jump into the first day ready to dive straight into pedagogy: why would you Flip? What subjects or topics make most sense to Flip? What are the challenges? What are the benefits?

We then show a handful of simple tools for screencasting and creating videos for lecture and demonstration: Screencast-O-Matic, Screenr, Quicktime, and Explain Everything. Teachers spend the rest of the first day building videos for an afternoon critique.

On day two, we create a kind of Flipped Unconference: we discuss what participants want to learn, set up a series of mini-workshops throughout the day on various topics, and then let teachers either develop new videos and lessons or attend the mini-workshops. We end day 2 with another round of video and lesson plan critiques. Teachers leave with new ideas for pedagogy, new technologies, and a whole bunch of planning work done. It’s a very empowering model. (The outline of materials we use in the workshop is here.) I’m teaching with Derek Pizzuto from Shrewbury, who maintains a fabulous blog of tech tips for Middle schools. Derek and some of the participants are teaching mini-workshops as I type, so I have a few minutes for blogging :)

Ultimately, I hope that all of our shared efforts lead us to deep thinking about how we meet our most important learning goals.

The most powerful argument for the Flipped model for me comes from the subtitle of Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams’ terrific new book on the Flipped Classroom (which I hope to review one day soon). The subtitle is “Reach Every Student in Every Class, Every Day.”

For Jon and Aaron, the best part of flipping class is that after eliminating the need to stand in front of class lecturing every period, they can commit to making time to check in with every student, every class, every day. How many teachers can say that a personal connection with every single student is a routine part of every class? To me, the potential for this kind of personal connection and relationship building is the most compelling reason for experimenting with Flipping class.

Note to reformers: if you try to use Flipped models to increase class sizes or supervise computer-using students with paraprofessionals, then you will miss out on the most powerful benefits. Let’s spend time-gains on deeper learning, not on making school cheaper.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my papers, presentations and so forth, visit EdTechResearcher.

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