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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Moving Technology Out of the Classroom - Thinking about flipped instruction

I attended a workshop last week on the flipped classroom model of instruction.  The basic idea of flipped instruction is that the students get the lesson at home, usually in the form of a video, and then they work on activities or assignments in class (instead of having them as homework).

It is getting a lot of attention lately.  In fact, in the four years that I have been doing this ed-tech job this is certainly the most promising trend I have seen.  My own experience with it has been limited, but very positive.  (I just used video for instruction and I wrote about it in this project.)

I think the strength of this teaching method stems from the fact that it allows both students and teachers to put the technology to use for what it does best.  For teachers, it takes the most inhuman part of the lesson, the lecture, out of the classroom.  I found while making the video lessons that I was becoming a better communicator.  I started to enjoy making lessons again.  I could present the material exactly as I wanted to in video tutorials without being distracted by things like individual questions or classroom management issues.  ("Ryan, are you listening?" or "Girls, can that wait until after I'm done?", etc.)

And almost all evidence I have seen personally and read about indicates that the students really enjoy learning from the videos.  Every student I have spoken with expressed how helpful it was to be able to watch parts of my lessons over until they understood it.  No longer did a struggling learner have to raise a hand and stop the lesson for the entire class if he or she missed a step in my solution to a math problem.  The videos don't have to be terribly exciting, just clear.  (Case in point - the man who is probably most famous for simple video lessons)

Of course, the materials that a teacher creates or points out in a lesson do not have to be limited to video.  Beyond just recording lessons, by delivering the instruction this way at home, a teacher can provide a wide range of tools that allow students to learn in the way that is best for them.  And maybe best of all for later success, students will find that they can learn many things without the teacher being right there to bail them out.

Technology is best when it makes things fit.  The pioneers of the flipped classroom model have found that it can be used this way to better fit the needs of learners.  The results are classrooms where learning is taking place.  And more importantly than technology doing its job, teachers can now work with individual students and can more effectively develop human relationships one on one with students in the classroom.  In the end, the technology will go to the sidelines and this will prove to be the real advantage.

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