Flipped Classroom: Beyond the Videos by @CTuckerEnglish

Last week, I read an interesting blog post by Shelley Blake-Plock titled ”The Problem with TED ed.” It got me thinking about the flipped classroom model and how it is being defined.

As a blended learning enthusiast, I have played with the flipped classroom model, seen presentations by inspiring educators who flip their classrooms, and even have a chapter dedicated to this topic in my book. However, I am disheartened to hear so many people describe the flipped classroom as a model where teachers must record videos or podcasts for students to view at home. 

There are many teachers who do not want to record videos either because they don’t have the necessary skills or equipment, their classes don’t include a lot of lecture that can be captured in recordings, or they are camera shy.

Too often the conversation surrounding the flipped classroom focuses on the videos- creating them, hosting them, and assessing student understanding of the content via simple questions or summary assignments.

I wish the conversation focused more on what actually happens in a flipped classroom. If we move lecture or the transfer of knowledge online to create time and space in the physical classroom, how are we using that time to improve learning for students? What is our role as the teacher in the flipped classroom? How are we maximizing the potential of the group when students are together to design collaborative, creative, student-centered activities and assignments? This is the part I want to hear more about!

For me, the beauty of the flipped classroom lies in the simple realization that instruction can take place in different mediums. We are no longer limited to a class period or a physical classroom. We have the opportunity to match the instructional activity with the environment that makes the most sense. Ramsey Musallam, defines “flip teaching” as “leveraging technology to appropriately pair the learning activity with the learning environment.” This flexibility is why technology has the potential to be so transformative in education.

The goal of the flipped classroom should be to shift lessons from “consumables” to “produceables.” (Okay, I realize I just made that word up, but I hope my meaning is clear.) Students today must be generators and producers. They must be able to question, problem solve, think outside of the box, and create innovative solutions to be competitive and successful in our rapidly changing global economy.

Blake-Plock makes a strong point when he says we learn by “doing.” He points out that many of the lessons students are given are “consumables” and this is my concern about the current language being used to describe the flipped classroom. Too often the flipped classroom requires students to watch videos, which is passive learning, but what are they asked to do with this information?

 Often the homework described in the flipped classroom model only engages the lower level thinking skills described in Bloom’s Taxonomy – remembering and understanding. The application, analysis, evaluation and creation are rarely engaged at home. There is an opportunity to get students thinking at a higher level at home if we pair content with extension activities that require that they think critically about what they have viewed. The important element is to connect students online outside of class so they have a support network of peers to ask questions, bounce ideas around with and learn from. This is why I am such a big supporter of integrating online discussions into the traditional curriculum. 

 In my presentations on the flipped classroom, I’ve advocated for 3 things that I think would make this model more appealing to most of educators:

 1. Take advantage of the ready-to-use content available. There is so much ready-to-use content on the web that teachers shouldn’t feel pressure produce videos (unless they want to or it works for their subject area). Let’s use what is out there and save time when we can.

I hate to limit the potential of the flipped model by telling teachers they have to record their own video lectures. Instead, I encourage teachers to flip all kinds of ready-to-use media.

These are sites are great resources for media ranging from documentaries, interviews, demonstrations, tutorials, primary/secondary sources, articles, biographies, photography, graphs, artwork, etc.

 If you are wondering…can I really flip my class with photos or images? I say yes. If students have time to really sit and appreciate the nuances of an image or graph and think deeply about the details, they will get much more from that then if it is projected for 3 minutes as a teacher talks. There is not time in class for students to control the pace of their learning. This is a clear advantage of moving information that needs to be “consumed” online.

For example, consider the example below that presents a painting, then asks students to analyze the different aspects of the painting to select the art movement they think it was produced during. Students have time to evaluate the various elements of the painting then articulate an explanation supporting their position. They also benefit from reading what their peers have said.

*This topic is available in the Collaborize Classroom topic library, click here to view

2. Don’t just show them. Make them do something with that information that requires higher- order thinking. I encourage teachers to wrap the content presented at home in dynamic online discussions, debates, and/or collaborative group work. This way students must think critically about the content, engage with their peers, and produce something (an argument, a clear analytical explanation, formulate questions, synthesize information from multiple sources, etc.).

I agree with Blake-Plock’s assertion that ”It is perfectly fine to watch a video. It is perfectly fine to view a lecture. It is perfectly fine to quiz yourself on what you remember from the video or the lecture. It is perfectly fine to write a brief response about a big question. But let’s not call that a lesson. That’s just a starting point. Lessons come from doing.”  So why not pair the content with an activity that gets them “doing” then imagine where you could start the actual class activity?

For example, consider the debate question below. Students are asked to view a Khan Academy tutorial then debate whether or not they think Napoleon could have successfully won the Peninsular Campaign. This forces students to think critically about what they have watched, articulate a position and support that position with information and analysis.  

*This topic is available in the Collaborize Classroom topic library, click here to view

3. Use the flipped model to create a student-centered classroom. Focus class time on getting students practicing where there is a subject area expert in the room. Get students actively engaging in the learning process. Do more:

      • labs, experiments, and fieldwork
      • creative writing assignments 
      • collaborative research projects
      • acting, dramatic readings, tableaus
      • project based learning
      • art work
      • reenactments
      •  debates
      •  model construction

 

By Jens Rötzsch (Jens Rötzsch) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

The class period has the potential to shift from a space where students are passive observers and consumers in the learning process to a space where they’re actively engaged in a dynamic learning community.

I’d love for other educators to share the innovative things they are doing inside their flipped classrooms! How are you using your class time to build on content presented at home?

About @CTuckerEnglish

@CTuckerEnglish I am a Google Certified Teacher and CUE Lead Learner. I teach 9th and 10th grade English language arts at Windsor High School in Sonoma County. I spent the 2011-2012 school year on leave from teaching while I finished writing my first book titled Blended Learning for Grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create a Student-Centered Classroom (Corwin Publishing). I am an advocate for a teacher-designed blended learning model that encourages educators to engage students in active learning online using a range of Web 2.0 tools to complement traditional instruction.

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