Why the Flipped Classroom Can Rock!

The flurry of activity over the value of the Khan Academy videos also raises the issue of the flipped classroom model, as developed by Bergmann and Sams.  In this model, traditional teaching models are inverted, delivering instruction online out of the classroom and moving homework into the classroom.

Many educational bloggers have stated that using Khan Academy videos means students are simply watching videos, in a lecture format.  I could assign a Khan Academy video to my students, or a video from MIT’s iTunesU site, and use this as the basis for classroom discussion the following day.  Most students in my class would find this boring.  Moreover, is this any different than having the students “read the textbook” the night before?  Ask your students how many of them browse it, but don’t really interact with it.

The key aspect of the Bergmann/Sams model is not necessarily the video and online lecture.  Its the discussion between peers and the discussion between students & teacher that occurs afterward.  There is a really great summary of the flipped classroom model at http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/

Students need some form of interaction and discussion after watching the online lecture.  Otherwise, its the same as reading the textbook.  The questions need to be developed so that students challenge their own assumptions, development their own understanding and work through concepts with their peers.  The questions cannot just be simple Level 1 “What Is” or “Define this” kind of questions.

This approach raises some important concerns:

1. What about students without internet access at home?

2. How long is the video or online lecture?

3. How do you prevent the same students from posting first every time?  (My suggestion: assign “first posters” and “followup posters”)

4. Are teachers really going to create all this content and do we have the time to evaluate all the other content?

5. Do we “teach” our entire courses this way?

6. How do we relate the online lecture to the activity the following day?

There is a lot of potential for the flipped classroom and many of us have been flipping our classroom for years.  I would hate to see the flipped classroom model (as well as other models such as blended learning) become the fad of the day and then disappear.  As long as we make sure we match our “activity” with our learning objectives, we will be ok.


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