Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why I Bothered To Flip My Classroom

My motivation to begin flipping my classroom was not born out of a need create the second Khan Academy.  Just so that we know we are speaking the same language, in my opinion and many others, the popular YouTube remediation video channel is not an example of a flipped classroom.  

To me, to be a truly flipped classroom, students take the content presented the night before via podcast or videocast and apply that content in dynamic, interactive groups, applying their learning to some kind of higher level analysis or synthesis of the information.

A flipped classroom matches my basic teaching philosophy because, with the flattening of the world via technological connectivity, using class time teaching students discrete facts is a waste of their time.  

Why do I need to spend fifty minutes having students take notes from a PowerPoint  on literary devices?  

I asked myself that question last year. Yes ladies and gentleman, I have sinned.  I have spent precious hours talking at my students about concepts they could have learned with a few keystrokes in any half-decent search engine.  All I can say is there was a time in my technological development as a teacher that PowerPoint was embraced with awe and fascination.  

So, now I have the students take notes at home through a videocast that is focused on a specific objective, like metaphors.  The next day students come in and analyze a poem, a short story or excerpts from the literature textbook using their content learning from the night before.  Students work in groups, choose text that meets their interest or bring their own books and use those.  I don’t care.  All I want to be able to do in class is bring students together, have discussions and make connections.  The skill is constant and I differentiate by having the students choose the material they analyze and then demonstrate their mastery of the concept by being producers not consumers.

That is where Khan Academy falls short.  At no time, as far as I know (I could be wrong), do the students watching the video interact with each other and stretch their thinking in collaborative group settings.  Khan Academy does help with remediation but in the end the student is still trapped in their own development.  

As teachers, where we will always excel over any computer program, is in our ability to connect to students, get to know them and push them from one area of development to another.  

Videocasting in itself does not grow students, what it does is give me the time to get away from the lecture, get out into the class, to interact, to stretch, to grow the students in my class.

Good teaching is good teaching, good technology integration should allow us to spend more time with our students.  If the technology that you are using does not allow you to do that then it is not worth using.

Right now, a flipped classroom, buzz word or not, is something that works for me and seems to work for most of my students.  As always, I will not be content with doing the same ol’, same ol’ and will look to improve everything I do.  In the months ahead I will probably look at my first videos and cringe in horror much like I do when I open my flash drive and see stacks of PowerPoints just waiting to step onto the SmartBoard one more time to show off their fancy transitions and cool effects.

To see my first “flippings” go to my class website @