Sunday, October 16, 2011

Flipped Classroom - Is It Really Innovation for Elementary?

We are hearing more and more about the "flipped classroom" lately.  As I started hearing this in various places, I thought I better learn about this new innovation!  Of course, I don't want to miss out on a great teaching and learning strategy that uses technology, right?  Well, unless I am missing something big here, I don't think the "flipped classroom" is very innovative at all for an elementary classroom....unless you are still teaching with lectures. I do, however, think there may be some uses of a modified version of this for elementary.

If you are using problem or project based learning or engage your students in a lot of hands-on activities, you will not find the "flipped classroom" as a radical innovation.  I can't remember the last time I saw a teacher actually deliver an all out lecture in an elementary classroom.  According to Jonathan Martin's February 13, 2011 post on 21K12 blog "For those educators who never use, nor feel the need to use, classroom time for lecturing,  reversing learning probably has little significance; hence, extremely progressive educators and practicioners of pure PBL may find this innovation a bit passe." 

From: User Generated Education blog
According to Jackie Gerstein, the flipped classroom should be part of a bigger model as shown above.  The "flipped" part is in the asynchronous individual sections for "what" and "so what".  It is not just students watching lectures, but they are responding and sharing their insights in what they learned.  You will also notice in her model, that there are hands on activities and project based learning.  I like how she has blended the pedagogies and used the aspects of hands on projects during class while the more traditional teaching and reflecting are done outside of class.  This makes sense to me because it has the teacher working with the students during the time when they will need the most guidance...during the hands-on activities and project based learning.

John R. Sowash, on The Electric Educator Blog, explains how he had been using "reverse instruction" or "flipped classroom" for his anatomy and physiology class.  As he notes, he does a lot of lectures in this course so this shift in pedagogy made sense for how he currently teaches his class. While he is pleased with his new pedagogy, is that the model of education we really want in the 21st century?  He has recorded the lectures for viewing at home and now kids do the "homework" in class with his help. While this might be an improvement to classic traditional instruction, is this really where we want to get to?  How about revising the course more to include some problem based learning?  He does do a great job of sharing tips and tricks for making the "flipped classroom" work.  Again, this is a secondary class that typically used a lot of lectures as the main mode of instruction.  Check out his You Tube video on skin and body membranes.

By using this model, John has figured out a way to save the precious class time for guiding his students.  I do think this is an improvement over traditional instruction, but I would really like to see this morphed into the model Jackie has explained.  By using the "flipped classroom" for delivering content and reflecting on learning, class time can be freed up for doing problem based learning.

While I know I have more to learn about this model of teaching, I do think it may work in a modified way in elementary. For example, I know that when I preteach the math lesson to my special education students for 10 minutes just prior to math class, they are better able to learn during the math instruction in the classroom.  While the math class is mostly hands on work including team work, manipulatives, and figuring things out together, there are vocabulary words and prerequisite skills that help students prepare for the lesson.  I plan to experiment with using a modified "flipped classroom" model where the students watch the prelesson skills in a video either just prior to class or at home the night before.  If that works, it would be great to have the students watch the videos at home the night before.  It would allow me to keep them in their regular classroom for those 10 minutes OR it would allow me to use those 10 minutes to catch them up on other math skills that they are lacking.

When we plan our problem based learning unit for this year, I want to see if there are places within the unit where we could use the "flipped classroom" concept for some direct teaching and student reflections. This would free up class time for students to work in groups on their solution.

I would love to hear from other elementary teachers who are attempting a "flipped classroom" model.  Please share what you are using this strategy for and how it is working for you.