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Flip your classroom with your eyes wide open

By Sam Di Sano on 4 October 2018NSWstaffroomFlipped learning

So you want to flip your classroom but are not really keen on making videos? I know how you feel. In essence there are probably four things to consider when thinking about a flipped classroom:

  1. Getting your head around a whole different approach to teaching and learning
  2. Undoubtedly you are going to have to do some research and training
  3. This is all going to take time, which you are sure you haven’t got
  4. Everyone says it saves you time in the classroom for more engaging activities for your students - something else to think about

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea

I get why many people aren’t won over by the whole idea of flipping your classroom. I also get why many people baulk at the idea of creating videos for pre-learning, but the more I got my own head around the whole idea, the more I understood the rhetoric that it is not all about the videos. It is actually all about what you can achieve in your face to face class time once you unburden yourself of being your students’ sole content delivery service.

Most educators probably have their own thoughts about what a flipped classroom is or isn’t. I like this definition by educator Jonathan Martin:

‘Flip your instruction so that students watch and listen to your lectures… for homework, and then use your precious class-time for what previously, often, was done in homework: tackling difficult problems, working in groups, researching, collaborating, crafting and creating. Classrooms become laboratories or studios, and yet content delivery is preserved.’

Empowering your students

The big advantage I experienced was that my students were able to control their own learning according to four key factors - path, place, time and space. In brief:

  • Path - students can work out for themselves whether they need to reinforce their knowledge through repetition or go looking for alternate or additional information resources.
  • Pace - students work at their own pace, suiting all speed types and giving them an opportunity to seek reinforcement or extension and where possible, team up with others.
  • Time - students are not locked into learning content only during the face to face class time and can choose to view video resources at any time.
  • Place - increasing mobility means students can access their source material from any location.

Two things to consider

Knowing what to do with class time is a great challenge for flip educators. The temptation to replace like with like will surely be met with pushback from students, as will the necessity to watch long boring videos or presentations in their own time, so the emphasis must be two-fold:

  1. Provide simple, succinct and clear videos for their pre-learning outside of the classroom. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just engaging.
  2. Open up the classroom group learning time space for the application of newly learned skills with hands on, active authentic learning experiences.

The homework conundrum

The flipped model gives educators a new way of approaching homework. If we think of homework traditionally as the primary domain in which to put to use or practice what is learned in class, there are always challenges when students present for the next lesson without having completed their homework. In a flipped environment, many teachers immediately point to this as an initial roadblock - if I set my students a video to watch or some other form of pre-learning and they don’t do it, in the same way they don’t do normal homework, how can I proceed with the lesson?

My answer to the homework conundrum is to urge educators to flip their philosophy of homework too. At the end of the day, if the whole emphasis of flipping a classroom is actually more to do with a student’s ability to control their own learning according to path, place, time and space, there is no reason why they cannot watch the video or do the pre-learning in class, albeit segregated from others. In fact the nature and layout of your classroom will probably also be called into question as, if your experience is like mine, students will be at different stages, so it is more conducive to all if you deconstruct your classroom space and create differentiated learning hubs instead.

For the educator there is then the opportunity to think carefully about exactly how to reconfigure the classroom allowing for the various activities you inject into your learning space.

Conclusion

I read recently that a well executed flipped classroom is testament to the fact that teaching in the 21st century is different and harder but more rewarding.

Where possible, abandoning the burden of a content-ladened delivery allows for opportunities for your students to collaborate with others, broaden their understanding, practice harder skills, develop good problem-solving techniques and engage with their learning.

One caveat I will endorse - use it sparingly. It doesn’t suit every teacher, as indeed it may not suit every student, every subject or every class. Where it does however, it is worth the investment.

Want to know more about the videos and content we offer to help flip your classroom? Let me know!

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