I just attended the Flipped Classroom conference yesterday and it gave me a chance to think carefully about how we might approach flipping instruction at SMU. Most of the attendees were K-12 teachers using free tools to flip their own classroom, so it’s a different proposition to try and recommend a set of tools and a preferred workflow that might potentially be rolled out across the university. This post is my attempt to synthesize my learning on the subject, and it’s released as a work in progress….
Bergmann said that this model works best when it’s “bottom-up, not top-down” and it depends on teachers who are committed to rethinking the way they do instruction because they believe it will result in better retention, engagement, and access than traditional lecture/test models.
One important thing to reinforce is that Flipped Classroom is not something you can just buy. EdTech vendors like TechSmith, Echo360, and Tegrity may provide good tools to help you create videos, but recording your lectures does not mean you have successfully flipped instruction. There are three main considerations to address when you flip:
“What’s’ the Best Use of my Class Time?”
If you believe that listening to a 2-3 hour lecture is the best way students can access your course’s content, then Flipped Classroom is not for you. The idea is that students consume content independently– this could mean listening to recorded lectures, reading, or watching videos. They don’t need the instructor to be there physically while they are consuming learning materials. They need the instructor’s attention so they can ask questions, apply their learning, or examine multiple perspectives.
In this model, they come to your class meetings to apply, synthesize, and create artifacts that deepen their understanding and retention of the content. It’s especially helpful for teachers who need to do targeted interventions with students who don’t appear to be “getting it”. While most students are working independently, the instructor can do small-group instruction with students who need more attention.
I’m expecting that instructors who flip will start spending less time preparing and delivering lectures once they have recorded enough to reuse. They will then be freed up to engage in activities that correspond to improved learning such as targeted interventions, individual consultation, and supporting active learning.
Flipped Classroom facilitates student-centered pedagogy when it empowers students to learn at their own pace, makes them responsible for their own understanding, and frees them to move beyond regurgitating facts to making meaning. Students can choose when and how they will access the information– Bergmann even allows students to choose their own sources to study in order to meet his content requirements for high school science. If they want to watch YouTube, read the textbook, watch his videos, or read Wikipedia, he just makes them responsible for knowing the material so they’re prepared for class activities.
Another feature of the Flip is that students do not move on until they have mastered each piece of content. In a teacher-centered class the lecture happens on one day only, and if you missed it, you missed it. All the students have to move through the course at the pace the teacher sets so everyone can “stay together”. In fact, this approach leaves many students behind. By focusing on each students’ actual progress and comprehension (usually using computerized data collection) the teacher can tailor instruction to the needs of the students.
Stimulating Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)
The traditional classroom is based on the idea that knowledge can be “transmitted” from teacher to student– like pouring water from pitcher into an empty glass. The teacher talks… the student hears… the student picks the right multiple choice answer on the test– learning achieved, right? Not so fast. Research shows that this approach to instruction produces poor retention and poor engagement, and it does not move beyond the most basic levels of comprehension according to Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Students who merely consume lectures seldom move beyond the Knowledge and Comprehension levels. To develop critical thinking skills, they need to move into their Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) such as Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. These areas are best developed through active inquiry, creation, and discussion. Successfully flipping your classroom means you must develop active learning activities for students to use their HOTS, not just watch your old class lectures on their iPads.
To me the most exciting thing about Flipped Classroom is how it makes mastery-based learning easier to manage. If you’ve never taught for mastery, the logistics are challenging to say the least. Rather than swiftly “covering” material and moving from one topic to the next, Mastery learning involves making students repeat the same assignments until they have demonstrated that they’ve mastered the concepts. While some students will master a skill or concept in a day, it may take another student weeks of intensive interaction with the teacher to fully demonstrate that they’ve learned it. Flipped Classroom gives us a vision of how you could keep the “mainstream” and “advanced” students busily learning while giving your full attention to students who need a little extra help.
On the Technology
It’s tempting to simply equate flipping classroom with making video screen captures, but as we talked technology I realized how many great tools there are for capturing lessons for online delivery– and how many different approaches people have to teaching.
My tool of choice is Snagit because I record my screen to demonstrate computer tricks. However, many teachers simply wanted a tool to let them record their handwriting (a la Khan Academy) or annotate student papers.
The session was sponsored by TechSmith, and they graciously presented all attendees with a free license to Snagit and Camtasia. I had been using Snagit already and finding it to be a very capable tool for recording screencasts, taking screenshots, and annotating them with drawings, diagrams, and effects.