By Marcus A. Hennessy, Continuing Education Administrator, ret.
In spring 2007, two teachers at Woodland Park High School in Colorado decided to post some of their high school chemistry lectures on YouTube to augment their in-class teaching. Little did they know that this clever adaptation of technology would contribute to one of the fastest-growing educational trends in the country: the flipped classroom.
Today, in addition to their regular teaching duties, Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams maintain a busy schedule of conferences, book-writing and blogging to promote the development of more refined flipped classroom models.
In recent posts, Bergmann has tried to address both praise and criticism of the new teaching dynamic, and offers this updated definition of the flipped classroom paradigm.
What It Is:
- It’s called the “flipped classroom” because what was formerly classwork or lectures has become online video presentations that students view outside of class; and what was formerly “homework” is now classroom interaction with the teacher and students.
- Video lectures replace direct instruction and give students more time in class to work with teachers on key learning activities.
- The teacher is not the “sage on the stage” but the “guide on the side.”
- Personalized contact between students and teacher increases, and blends direct instruction with focused learning.
- Students assume greater responsibility for developing their own learning track.
- Students can miss class due to activities or illness and still stay current with lectures and content.
- The videos can be archived for review.
What It Isn’t:
- An online video-fest or YouTube immersion.
- An online course.
- Students creating their own curriculum as they please.
- A movement to replace teachers with videos.
- Students working in an unguided, unstructured environment.
Some Notable Advantages
According to Bergmann in some of his recent blog posts, “One of the greatest benefits of flipping is that overall interaction increases. Since the role of the teacher has changed from presenter of content to learning coach, we spend our time talking to kids. We are answering questions, working with small groups, and guiding the learning of each student individually. …Since the role of the teacher has changed, to more of a tutor than a deliverer of content, we have the privilege of observing students interact with each other. As we roam around the class, we notice the students developing their own collaborative groups. Students are helping each other learn instead of relying on the teacher as the sole disseminator of knowledge.”
Some Constructive Criticism
Not everyone views the flipped classroom with the same admiration and awe, however. Educational blogger Andrew Miller has raised some interesting points in his guarded support of the new format.
- Just because something’s recorded on video, does that mean students will want to watch it? After all, it’s still just a lecture. And what about reflectivity? Will students actually think about what they’re watching as they watch it?
- Is this approach beneficial without the underlying support of a classroom learning model such as project-based learning (PBL), game-based learning (GBL), understanding by design (UbD), or authentic literacy? Shouldn’t we establish this infrastructure first before embarking on a flipped approach?
- What technology supports the flipped classroom? And are there accessibility issues that might hinder or even prevent its successful implementation?
Bergmann has tried to address these and other concerns in subsequent posts. He believes that student engagement improves in the flipped classroom, and that students are motivated to view and understand the videos in anticipation of their in-class one-on-one’s with the teacher, and for group interaction. As for the technology itself, he contends there are now numerous options to access the online lectures such as computer labs, DVD recordings, flash-drive transfers and even via smartphones.