Monday, July 11, 2011

The Flipped Classroom: Exploiting the Best of F2F & Screens

The Flipped Classroom inverts the typical way teachers and learners engage: lectures are delivered via video podcast; class time is spent in collaborative problem solving.

As you watch this video overview, ask yourself two things:  1) why was the Flipped Classroom was borne of collaboration, not by one teacher alone?  2) How does it exploit the unique properties of F2F learning in the digital era?

Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams are high school chemistry teachers in Woodland Park, Colorado.  They create video podcasts of their lectures which students watch outside of class via laptops, mobile devices, tablets or DVDs.

This means that students can access the lectures on-demand.  They control the pace of information delivery, which they can't do F2F.  Crucial: screens allow MORE student participation in their knowledge acquisition, not less.  This is obvious to many of us working in the field, but remember that we are still a tiny subset of educators.  High school students in my local school district are FORBIDDEN to bring any screens the classroom: there's still a deep distrust of screens as portals to distraction or cheating, and the false but abiding sense that occasional distraction is inherently a bad thing.

In the Flipped Classroom, students come to class primed to do the applied problem solving, what we typically call the "homework." Instead of struggling in isolation, learners work the problems in small groups.  Peer-to-peer  engagement in quite natural in this setting.  The teacher, as master tutor, wanders around answering questions and sparking further engagement in the problem solving.

Maybe "homework" no longer means that "work you do at home," but "the work" you do IN CLASS that drives the concepts "home."

The takeaways for the superiority of hybrid learning environments are pretty obvious:

  • Screens are better at conveying lecture-style information 
  • Screens are ubiquitous and permit learners self-paced knowledge acquisition
  • F2F is better for problem solving (more on this later, when I write about what I've learned, done and observed as a post-doc Fellow at the WSU's Mobile Technology Research Initiative)
  • The social dimension of learning F2F doesn't suck time away from knowledge acquisition.  It doubles the learning.  Social in tandem with screen cements learning ways previously unavailable in the pre-digital era.  

Silent work in a F2F classroom punishes learners for their natural inclination to share and collaborate.  It mistakes the animation of collaboration and its occasional "distractions" as barriers to serious knowledge acquisition, rather than the bursts and rests of how we think/work in real time.  Ever get up from your screen to go make a cup of tea?  Even looking up from your screen and staring into the far distance for a minute can refresh your attention and enable greater focus and retention.

Thanks to the folks at DML Central for surfacing this today!  See this to join the Flipped Classroom social network. Here's a Colorado Springs TV news affiliate describing the Flipped Classroom: useful to be sent to local school district admins in your neighborhood.

Why do you think the Flipped Classroom was borne of collaboration?  Drop me a comment and I'll tell you what I think too!

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