Monday, December 3, 2012

Not Flipping for Flipped


Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a flipped classroom workshop. As many of you know, I have been fairly critical and skeptical of the flipped classroom model. I was engaged in a conversation with some folks on twitter about the model and was extended an invite to a workshop so I could see firsthand what it was all about. I wanted to attend this workshop to either prove myself right or to put my foot in my mouth and I was very much open to both possibilities. For those not familiar with the flipped model or flipped classroom, there are plenty of articles out there explaining it…just google it.

To get things started there was a keynote that highlighted the evolution of the flipped classroom. Right off the bat, I was not buying what was being sold. The basic flipped classroom takes the homework component and puts it into the classroom. Then the direct instruction or lectures are videotaped and sent home to be watched prior to coming to class. For me, this is not sound practice as I am not a believer in homework and mandating learning happening outside of the school. I am not saying that all teachers are using it this way but a majority of them are and that truly is a flipped classroom as it was originally defined. In this type of a model, it's no different than assigning homework to be done at home in terms of a teacher still impeding and infringing upon family time which is something I disagree with.

Moving through the morning, the phrase “it is not about the video” was referenced and cited several times. Yet, every person that shared experiences talked about their videos. If I was keeping track, I would say a majority of the people that asked questions from the audience were asking about the videos as well. In addition, a large portion of the day was dedicated to making videos and using the video software. Clearly, the flipped classroom is about the videos. Many of the video fans were talking about the transformative element of a student being able to pause and rewind. Yes, that is good for some kids, yet not for all. Some students need the interaction that a discussion or in class lecture provides.

As many people have said, there are lots of different ways the flipped classroom is being interpreted. For me, the flipped classroom is bad. Period. With that being said, I think the flipped classroom idea has allowed some people to move out of a comfort zone. It forced some teachers to look at their practice with a critical eye which is a good thing. Some of those teachers just started videotaping their lessons and sending them home which, as I already mentioned, I view as poor teaching. Yet, some of the teacher’s classrooms evolved into a mastery model or PBL or other forms of teaching models that many view as good practice. As these teachers move to these more advanced models, I don’t see that as a flipped classroom anymore yet some still do. You can have a mastery model classroom without any videos or homework and the same can be said for a PBL setting. Myself, I screen-capture reviews and lectures and post to a YouTube channel for students to view at any time for review or re-teaching. It is never required but simply another resource for students to use and I don’t think of that as “flipping” anything.

My final thought on the phenomenon that is the flipped classroom is it is not good teaching. Flipping a classroom and pushing videos homes is not something I can vote in favor of. Yes, there are examples of teachers where flipping their classrooms has led to other instructional changes that have been for the better. They started with the videos at home and moved towards a mastery model or just simply created a bank of video resources for students to use as needed. The keynote address even described these changes in the opening remarks and I think teachers who have evolved in this way are tremendous. Unfortunately, the hype of the flipped classroom is overlooking what a flipped classroom truly is as opposed to what good teachers should be doing naturally.

I have talked with teachers that are firmly on the flipped bandwagon and will tell you their teaching has been transformed for the better. They have shared how they have increased engagement and their students are achieving at a higher level than ever before. Yet, when you talk further with these people, they are not operating a flipped classroom and pushing lectures at home. They are simply evolving their teaching to meet the needs of the individual learners and are using a plethora of tools and resources to do so. In my book, this is not flipping…this is teaching as it should be.

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