Classrooms Continue to Flip To Enhance Learning

The "Flipped Classroom" formula is not a new teaching method. Barbara Solow reports in an article for the Daily Hampshire Gazette that two Colorado teachers, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, started posting lessons online back in 2007 to help students who missed class. The innovation caused their teaching to be more interactive. The two dubbed the method the "flipped classroom."

Here's how a normal day plays out. Students watch video lectures and peruse other materials on their teacher's website. When they get to class the next day, they spend time conducting experiments, solving equations and working on group projects. Shawn Sheehan, a teacher at Easthampton High School in Amherst, Massachusetts, is sold on this method. He discovered the idea at a workshop he attended. This method has been successful in K-12 and is spreading into higher education.

The digital technology component of this teaching style is what makes it accessible for teachers and students; without this component, at home learning would be impossible; but technology is also a barrier in some cases.

For students who have no computer access the method is most surely not workable. Sheehan provides a flash drive containing the lectures. He can also check in on students to see if they are viewing the materials with an educational software. Still students without the technology needed for this method will be left out.

Michael Morris, director of evaluation and assessment for the Amherst Regional Public Schools says:

"Given that a significant portion of our middle and high school students do not have high speed Internet access in their homes because of lack of access in Leverett or Shutesbury or other reasons, it does limit the potential for this trend in our district."

From the teachers' points of view, "flipping" helps students who need a little more time to absorb lesson materials. Many students are helped by knowing what is going to be discussed in class the next day. Some teachers say it allows them to go more in depth with study topics and allows for more interaction between teacher and student.

Students say they spend less time taking notes and more time doing hands-on activities. For students who are wary of asking questions in class, they are able to review the information at home to get their questions answered.

In Western Pennsylvania, Megan Harris, writing for Trib Total Media, tells about Janet Adams, an area physics teacher, who has found that over a school year "there's a lot more free time to learn". North Allegheny chemistry teacher, Mark Anticole says:

"We all get more out of it. More out of class connections and a much higher level of understanding. I don't have to wait until the test to figure out if they're getting it or not."

And, in St. Louis, Mia Pohlman, reporter for the St. Louis Review, explains that lectures, instruction, and explanations are watched at home on video, and students bring what would have been homework into the class in order to receive input from the teacher for clarification. Classrooms are noisier because student are working collaboratively to learn the material, or do the experiment, or share the microscope.

However, math teacher Don Steingrubypoints out that there are some flaws, one of which is loss of interaction during material delivery. And, in St. Louis, the same downside mentioned by other schools is brought up by educators; some students do not have Internet access. St. Mary's High School overcomes that problem by providing access to the school's Internet connection before and after school.

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