Tips and Ideas / Nov 03, 2016

Is This What Classroom of the Future Looks Like?

Imagine a school environment that’s interactive and personalized; one that stimulates discussion and critical thinking. Imagine being able to address individual challenges of a struggling student without worrying that the rest of the class is falling behind. What if you could achieve all of this and save time on grading endless tests and papers? It’s possible in a flipped classroom.

Flipped classroom is a new approach to structuring classroom learning activities.

Instead of homework intended to deepen the knowledge of new information given in class, students are expected to review the material before the class. This home-based learning can include lecture videos, reading assignments, or other materials. Now, student arrives to the classroom prepared, allowing teachers to dedicate more time to deeper learning — interactive discussions, assignments and activities, which can be assessed in real time.

When done right, flipped classroom unleashes potential of teachers, students and families, with the ultimate outcome being increased student achievement and happiness. Let’s look at the benefits of experimenting with the flipped classroom!

For teachers

One could say that flipped classroom environment is more demanding for teachers. They have to address student challenges individually and come up with variety of ways to make sure that all the students grasp more complex concepts.

On the flip side, gone is the nagging guilt about endless piles of coursework and papers waiting to be graded. Because teachers can focus on interacting with students during school time, they can provide much of the feedback students need on the spot, reducing the need for extensive written commentary when marking the homework. Other methods of testing, such as automatically graded online quizzes are massive time savers and motivate students to complete the assigned home learning.

While many teachers decide to record screencasts and video lectures, the truth is, neither original content nor being tech-savvy are required to get started. If you’re just looking to explore the opportunities that flipped classroom can offer,  readily available resources such as YouTube, the Khan Academy and Coursera can provide the home learning materials you need. Many educators successfully dive into the concept of flipped classroom without using technology at all, relying on written materials and textbook reading.

For students

In a flipped classroom environment, students get a chance to familiarize themselves with the core content of the lesson before the class.

For best results, learning tasks are often associated with points or linked to online quizzes. In many cases, this system allows for grading for completion rather than effort, as in-class activities will now provide students with the kind of feedback that before could only be provided by grading for accuracy.  

Because student comes to school equipped with a basic knowledge of the topic, classroom becomes the place where the real (teaching) magic happens. Teachers can focus on interacting with individual students, encourage discussion  and problem-solving and help students overcome challenges with a much more personalized approach.

“There is something powerful about moving the teacher away from the front of the room, something that changes the dynamics of the class,” says Aaron Sams, one of the founding members of the Flipped Learning Network.

For parents

Drastic changes to the way learning is delivered in class can cause parents to question this new methodology. “A few of them thought that I was no longer teaching, and it took a bit to dispel this notion,” admitted Brett Wilie, one of the teachers experimenting with the flipped classroom. Sams believes that flipped classroom can be a valuable tool for parent involvement, eliminating these frustrating times when children come to their parents  with homework they are unable to understand. Having left the school decades ago, parents might struggle to grasp the concepts themselves, leaving them discouraged and worried about not being able to support their child.

For parents, the beauty of the flipped classroom lies in increased access to the curriculum. Now, they can watch videos with their children and follow the way the teacher presents a topic. This empowers them to support their son or daughter’s learning.  

“If you are a parent and all of the sudden you have access to instructional video, it just opens the world up for you to parent your kid better”, explains Randy Brown, a third-grade teacher from Monroe. She isn’t the only one achieving great results with this method.

“I have had very positive feedback from parents. Flipping the classroom has enabled parents to help their children because the parents are watching the videos too. They began to see how much more I was working one-on-one with their children with this method,” says Wilie.

There are still challenges with this new model of teaching – providing equitable access to technology is the possibly the most important one. Overall though, we are very intrigued by the flipped classroom model and believe it can significantly increase students’ academic achievement, as well as allow for a deeper parent engagement.

So, have we tempted you to try the flipped classroom concept? Get started with this introductory video, explaining how to flip your classroom in a limited technology environment – it’s surprising how little is needed to get started.

If you’re already using these techniques in your classroom, let us know! Comment below and share your experiences with other teachers, school leaders and families.

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