Has Your Child’s Classroom Flipped

A flipped classroom isn’t some adolescent prank of turning chairs and desks upside down to create temporary classroom chaos.{{more}} Instead, a Flipped Classroom is a new educational model that is being used in many school districts across the country.

Essentially, “flipped” means the student watches traditional classroom instruction at home via videos and podcasts and works through traditional homework while in the classroom, many times in a small group setting. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects have been the most frequently utilized for flipping, but other subjects have also followed suit.

In-class problem solving has many advantages for teachers. They can observe whether a student is mastering a concept before testing. Students have many more opportunities to ask questions and receive feedback. Hands-on activities are also frequently used during the small group learning.

Flipping the class also has the potential to fully leverage the wealth of educational resources on the web. Khan Academy’s founder, Sal Khan, is a well-known advocate for the flipped classroom. You can almost imagine publishers providing school districts with the online lectures to go along with their traditional textbooks. In fact, Educational publisher Pearson recently purchased a company-Learning Catalytics-to help them gain a foothold in this space.

Like any new idea, however, there are also some drawbacks. Some teachers have found that 100 percent flipped classrooms were not as effective as a hybrid approach of using the flipped approach for some concepts and traditional in-class instruction for others. Also, the burden of recording the lecture currently rests on the teacher. This can be very time consuming, perhaps two to three times longer than planning a traditional lesson and will cause difficulties for teachers who aren’t as proficient with technology. A flipped classroom requires students to work more independently which, of course, can be problematic for students who have trouble focusing or working in group settings. Lastly, flipping assumes that all students have access to the internet and a computer; thus accentuating issues caused by today’s digital divide.

The pros and cons of the flipped classroom will, no doubt, transform it from what it is today to something quite different in the near future. However, the flipped classroom, in some form, is an educational model that appears destined to stay.

So parents, don’t get confused when your teenager’s homework is consists of watching videos and their homework is actually done at school. It won’t be April Fools Day or a parallel universe, just merely a new, and hopefully better, way for them to master their curriculum.

Mark Ahrens is Center Director of Mathnasium, a math-only learning center. He can be reached at 203-783-1490 or milford@mathnasium.com.