Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

How YouTube Is Changing The Classroom

Troy Cockrum, an English teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic school, helps a student having computer issues. Cockrum "flipped" his classroom this year, and painted the walls of his classroom with tech-savvy terminology to reflect the new change.

As long as there have been teachers, they’ve battled the same problems: How can they reach students of multiple ability levels at once, cover more course material in limited time, and find more time to engage with students one-on-one?

Some educators think they’ve found a solution to all three problems in, of all things, YouTube.

A small group of teachers nationwide is replacing in-class lectures with short online videos students watch at home. This flip-flop of homework and lecture — from which the model gets its name, “the flipped classroom” — leaves class time open for students to complete their assignments with their teacher standing by to offer one-on-one help.

Research backing the model is scarce, and some critics have dismissed the model as a gimmick. Still, a handful Indiana teachers — and top state education officials — are willing to give it a try.

The Indiana Department of Education is backing trials to see if the model can work in the state’s public schools. John Keller, the department’s assistant superintendent for technology, says state officials want Indiana “to be seen as a place where innovation happens in schools,” and is looking seriously at the flipped classroom as part of a broader push towards that goal.

(Read also: Why education technology may have to wait for the mainstream a bit longer.)

“We’ve heard about kids powering down when they come to school, and so any model that has a potential for increased engagement, for the relevance of school to increase for kids, I think that’s something that demands a second look,” Keller says.

Embracing ‘The Flip’

While the number of teachers across the country who have flipped their classrooms is hard to pin down, nearly 2,000 teachers have joined a nationwide online social network for those interested in embracing ‘the flip.’

“Several teachers I’ve talked to say they’ve run into the same problem: If you’re not prepared for it, you run out of stuff to do, because you’ve never been able to deliver that much content in a year.”
—Troy Cockrum, teacher who flipped his seventh grade classroom

One of those is Troy Cockrum, a middle school English teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas on the north side of Indianapolis, who first saw a video this winter — yes, on YouTube — of the two Colorado teachers who pioneered the flipped classroom five years ago.

“[The video] just struck a chord with me,” Cockrum remembers. He did some research into flipped classrooms, and decided this year to give the method a try.

This year, he’s flipped two of his classes, with the initial goal of finding a way to make the most of his school’s short class periods. He posts five-minute lectures he records at home to Google videos and his YouTube page, instructing students on how to write five-paragraph essaysidentify parts of speech, and use punctuation.

An example of a video Cockrum posts to his YouTube page.

Cockrum says the videos have enabled the dynamics of his class to change in several ways: He says his students can work at their own pace on writing projects during class, and he’s available to help them individually as they have questions or ask for an edit. Cockrum says he anticipates this will let him cover a lot more curricular material over the year, as well as immerse students in the writing process.

“Most people go into it thinking the biggest part is making the videos. But really, the biggest part is what you do with your class time now that you have that free time,” Cockrum says.

Cockrum adds this year has been his hardest since his first year of teaching — partially because he has to track each student as they work on their own projects, and partially because “the flip” requires a different set of classroom management skills.

“Admittedly, it can be easy to just sit back and relax because you know they’ve had the content at home. It could be easy to sit back and relax, but you’ve got to remind yourself to get out and keep talking to kids,” he says.

Measured Criticism & Measured Praise

Keller says the method is not likely to become a predominant educational method anytime soon. That’s because, he says, the flipped classroom is most effective in the hands of the right teachers and administrators.

Other educators worry the flipped classroom may not actually make bad teaching better. New York teacher and education blogger Frank Noschese criticizes the model as a rebirth of the filmstrip teacher — “except now the students just watch the filmstrip at home.”

Noschese says he likes how Cockrum runs his flipped classroom, praising his use of Google Docs on laptops in the classroom as “something [students] couldn’t do before.” But the YouTube lectures aren’t all that different from sending kids home with reading out of a textbook, Noschese says.

“I get annoyed when I see bad pedagogy held up as good pedagogy only because it involves something bright and shiny like technology or online videos. It’s hailed as this revolution, and it’s more of the same stuff that hasn’t been working for kids in the first place.”
—Frank Noschese, science teacher and education blogger

“Some teachers use the textbook well as a supplement to their class, and then other teachers use the textbook as a driving force to their class, which is usually pretty disastrous,” says Noschese, a physics teacher.

He says if teachers want to engage kids in class, they should be thinking of activities to eliminate traditional classroom lectures altogether. Noschese also worries the model poses an “equity issue,” as not every student has the internet at home.

Cockrum says he knows a few parents who have had to upgrade their internet connections so their students could watch the videos, and he admits access may not be as large of an issue because he teaches at a private school.

But Cockrum says if access were truly an issue, he would send students home with DVD’s of the videos. He says the purpose of the flipped classroom is to free up time for direct interaction with the student — not to engage them through personalized YouTube videos.

“The key piece is the classtime and the one-on-one instruction I can do with each kid,” Cockrum says.

Comments

  • Jon

    If you want to join the conversation. Come to http://flippedclass.com.

  • http://mistermcintoshsays.org Philip Mcintosh

    Frank Noschese still doesn’t get it. His points are valid but limited in scope. He cannot seem to get a grip on the two (and perhaps only) things that make the flipped class concept one that needs to be further developed and implemented. (1) It frees up more time for the learner-in-chief (formerly known as the teacher) to assist those who need it most; and (2) it creates a learner-centered environment instead of a teacher-centered one.

    Bad teaching is bad teaching no matter the method so it is silly to slam the flipped class method because it might be done by a “bad teacher.”I believe, that in most cases, good learning in a flipped class is going to achieve better results (especially over the long term as it influences a person’s ability to learn new things in the future) than good teaching in a non-flipped class.

    One thing that I believe is needed to further boost the effectiveness of the flipped class is what is needed to boost effectiveness in any class–authentic, in-depth, project-based learning.

    • http://twitter.com/NancyW Nancy White

      Phil, I absolutely agree with you about Frank. Also – your thoughts on project based learning. I did some thinking about this and what some of the freed-up class time might be used for: http://d20innovation.d20blogs.org/2011/10/08/the-potential-of-the-flipped-classroom/

      • Rclegg

        My thoughts chiming in here:

        1. It’s like reading the text before class. That makes a whole world of difference.
        2. Computers track you to make sure you are on task.
        3. Computers remediate individually

        (I’m assuming the video being watched is integrated with computer aided instruction)

        I think these three basic elements “trump” good teaching alone.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Phil, thanks for your point. I’m curious why you believe “good learning in a flipped class will achieve better results… than good teaching in a non-flipped class.” Why do you believe this? Can you substantiate this point and enlighten me on it a little bit?

      • http://mistermcintoshsays.org Philip Mcintosh

        Note that I was very careful to begin that comment with “I believe…” :-)

        A thought experiment: let’s say two classes go through the same curriculum with the same learning objectives. Let’s go further and say that both classes achieve the same average overall result. Then on average, which class got the most out of it? I submit that it is the flipped class, because their skill and knowledge was more “owned” by the learners and gained from their own efforts more so than the efforts of the teacher. Not only will they have learned the skills and knowledge offered by the class, but they have the additional benefit of becoming more independent and confident learners, who are then able to learn other things in the future with less of a requirement for someone to “teach it to them.”

  • Rclegg

    Be careful, right now the content is really only a high tech version of the text book. So the teacher is still the expert. Wait until content and context begins to differentiate as students choose what works best for their interests and learning style. Then the teacher won’t be the expert and won’t be able to handle all the real differentiated instruction.

    For example: Imagine a child using a video game style simulation to learn math. Imagine that simulation has you running a railroad to improve efficiency or something. The problems are embedded within the context like a complex world problem.

    1. If the teacher hasn’t played the game. they won’t know what to do
    2. If the teacher has no knowledge of the content area, they will really be lost

    Example: Do you know why railroad yards have through tracks on one side for both East and West trains? Where do you put outbound West cars? Should you cross over the east bound track while the iron ore shipment is coming?

    Now imagine 12 different games being played in the classroom for each child’s interest. Farming and gardening, space frontier, ocean exploration, railroading, NASCAR, …

    • Joan4change

      Teacher guides.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for all your insights! I want to remind everyone of our comments policy. We want people to engage each other within the comments section and use linkouts to build off evidentiary points made here. If all it is is paraphrasing something you’ve written elsewhere (like on your own website/blog), that’s cool. But per our policy, “shameless plugs” aren’t kosher: http://stateimpact.npr.org/indiana/tag/mailbag/

  • Robinson

    Presumably this kind of teaching is more to present information at a faster pace and to save money not to attempt to teach for understanding. Of course if you can fill in the right bubble and pass the exit exam it does not seem to matter if you really understand it or not.
    Mike Robinson

    • Rclegg

      Exactly Mike. That’s why people don’t really understand education reform vs. Innovation that will help us compete with India and China.

    • Joan4change

      Wrong!

      The information presented becomes the foundation for higher levels of thinking – hence the follow-up with assignments and learning centers – understanding becomes intrinsic (stored and used in the future for other learning and understanding) not transitory (good until bubble filled in).

      Your remark is insulting to teachers everywhere! Teachers work incredibly hard, are grossly underpaid, definitely underappreciated, many spend hundreds of dollars to suppliment teaching supplies and materials, and have to comply with too many regulations and requirements many of which are imposed by non-educators who think they know how to improve the educational system.

  • http://twitter.com/jbrogley Jessica Brogley

    I recently started a unit using a “flipped classroom” approach in with my college freshman. The results caught me completely off guard. Many of my students were upset because I wasn’t spoon-feeding them the material face to face. One student even said, “My teachers last year just stood up there and told me what to learn. This isn’t teaching!” Many refused to watch the vodcasts outside of class and therefore came to class unprepared. As a result, they felt unprepared for the time to work in class one on one and started skipping class. They were so acclimated to being fed lectures, they were entirely opposed to learning on their own.

    I’m gradually going back to the old-school classroom, I guess. Just this week I brought out worksheets and lecture and on Monday I think I’m doing the same thing. I’m pretty disappointed overall.

    Maybe I’ll revisit this, but the group has to be mature and committed to their education.

    The flipped classroom approach also widens the digital divide. My students with dial-up were unable to watch the videos and were unwilling to go to their public library or a friend’s house. I also have students with no internet at all.

    Overall, I love the idea of a flipped classroom and I see myself as a supporter, but the group of students has to be self-motivated and willing to access the internet when they can’t afford it.

    -Jessica

    • Anonymous

      Jessica, thanks for this interesting insight. Was it surprising to you that this model didn’t work out, especially when educational “maturity” is a word we would like to be using to describe college freshmen (at least stereotypically)? Also, wondering if maybe this was students who were struggling to acclimate to the college environment as opposed to high school? Your thoughts?

      • http://twitter.com/jbrogley Jessica Brogley

        Absolutely. Many, not all, of my students that are under 20 resemble that of a high school junior. Mixed in with those students I have mature learners — those above 25 and they love the flipped classroom approach.

    • Rclegg

      wow, great feedback. We all struggle with change. Just look at Facebook. How many people complained about the redesign.

    • http://mistermcintoshsays.org Philip Mcintosh

      Jessica, you have hit upon exactly why the flipped class and learner-centered education is what is so desperately needed. The teacher-centered system has created those poor learners you describe who have been trained to be completely dependent on others for their learning. We will continue to produce these “fill in the bubble and give me by grade” kids until we make some pretty dramatic changes starting in elementary school. It’s going to take years, but I have hope!

      • Rclegg

        I’m not so sure these are poor learners. What might also be happening is a reaction to the appearance that this is not the “value” they are paying for. I can see myself reacting thinking, what the heck, I might as well buy this course for $30 online not $500 a credit.

        Which is also an interesting direction this is headed. Cost savings. Will we have kids learning on their own who then check in with a consultant once a week on progress? Can teachers handle more students? Can online tutors handle questions?

        • http://mistermcintoshsays.org Philip Mcintosh

          Okay, I will substitute “passive” learners for “poor” learners.

        • http://twitter.com/jbrogley Jessica Brogley

          It’s funny you mention that — This week I had a lot of kids skip one day. A great kid said, “Yah know what’s weird? This class is pretty much an online class, but we show up to do stuff together. They’re just choosing to do it on their own”

          I replied, “So I guess I have to quit front loading everything on Blackboard.” Another student piped in and said, “No!!!! Don’t do that!!!! I can’t get everything done when I’m in class. I need it to finish later!!”

          I absolutely have kids treating it as an online class.

          • Joan4change

            Immature students is the answer. If the have asssignments to bring to class, they should be there. In class discussions are invaluable and should be part of their grade. What you are doing is so much better than on-line classes.

            We can always hope that those who are not “getting it” will grow and mature and someday “get it”.

        • Joan4change

          I think you are missing the point, in fact a few of them. Also, the original article refers to K-12 education, doesn’t it?? Also, I have yet to see a college accredited course on-line for $30.

      • http://twitter.com/jbrogley Jessica Brogley

        It is entirely painful to endure now! Ha!

      • Cmflyer

        You nailed it, Philip: student-centered learning. They are not prepared for it. I’m trying flipped-classroom model with 9th grade Earth and space science, along with a quarter of project-based learning. Even in the 9th grade they are already programmed to feed and regurgitate. I stopped “lecturing” long ago favoring inquiry activities followed by discussion, so I thought it would add something if I recorded little content demos and notes to serve as an enhancement to learning, rather than primary learning. Combined with standards-based assessment, it seems to be working.

      • Kara Clayton

        Can you please address Jessica’s concern about widening the digital divide? I agree that our students are coming to class wanting to be spoon fed and they need to become more self-directed learners. The digital divide issue is one that still concerns me, however. Thanks!

    • Deanna73158

      I wonder if you can retrain these students to appreciate and engage in a different way of doing school? How will they make the change necessary to become self-starting, lifelong learners if we don’t persist in showing them a different way.

      • http://twitter.com/jbrogley Jessica Brogley

        Maybe I’ll try it again, but with a different unit.

    • teachcommitted

      Makes me wonder. Did or will these students do the work, even if it is traditional, outside of class that is required to be successful in college? I think all college education requires a degree of independent learning. My take is don’t give in because it doesn’t help education or society to have college graduates that whine and then get their way.

      • http://twitter.com/jbrogley Jessica Brogley

        In thinking about this group of students, I don’t believe they would do most of the homework given anyway. We all have students that lack maturity and fail to see the urgency. I hear you entirely — not giving up is the right call, but I’m not sure if I have the stamina to hang in there. :-)

    • drinking the kool-aid

      I feel that students are used to “playing school” instead of GENUINE LEARNING.
      Students like to tell instructors “just tell me what I need to know” instead of actually taking part in participating their own education.

      • Rclegg

        “Playing School”. I like that, well said. It’s the same thing that happens when they graduate and can’t find a job or don’t know what they want to do. They’ve been playing school instead of learning real work skills.

        How many kids do you know that graduated with a degree in psychology, history, or english and now don’t know what to do with it.

    • Steppenwolfe

      Jessica, you need to turn your students attitudes around.

      I teach a beginning algebra class at the community college level. When they arrive in my class most students dislike math, some even hate it, and all think they are not good at it.

      My job the first class of the term is to turn them around, to get rid of their negative feelings. I ask them to write down what they want out of life, their goals. I ask how many want to be successful. Then I talk about success and how this math class is not really a math class – it is a class in success training, and skills they learn in this class will help them be successful when they leave school.

      I talk about people who have failed but didn’t let that stop them. People like Winston Churchill who failed 5th grade. Thomas Edison, whose teachers told him he was too stupid to learn anything. Walt Disney was fired by his editor because he had “no good ideas.”

      I talk about one of the best math teachers I know of, Coolmath Karen, who failed algebra not once, but twice. She’s so good because she knows what problems students have with algebra. Many of my teaching ideas are based on her ideas.

      During the quarter I bring in success quotes to keep the students directed. The first quote is from Michael Jordan, “I’ve missed 9000 shots. 26 times the game winning shot has been trusted to me, and I’ve missed. I’ve lost over 300 games. I’ve failed over and over and over again, and that is why I have succeeded.” It’s okay to fail, you learn from it and grow stronger.

      There’s more, of course, but the whole idea is to get the class working with me, not against me. After all, this is their life I’m talking about, not just a math class. Now students want to do the homework.

      I have been following (a little) this flipped class thing. Sal Khan of Khanacademy.org has produced tons of math videos, and some teachers have been using them to flip their classrooms. From the little I’ve actually heard, they have been hugely successful. You might want to check them out.

      And as to internet and even computer access, I’ve had students who have lacked both, but since now they see how this class can lead to their success in life, they find a way to get that internet access, whether it is at the school, at the public library, or they find a way to purchase it.

      As a side note, I am still developing my ideas, and would welcome feedback and ideas from other teachers. My email is steppenwolfe@excite.com.

    • Anne Greene

      Jessica, I hope you don’t give up on the concept. Having a class Facebook page where videos can easily be posted has worked well for me this year. Perhaps your students need to be told the expectation on day one and in the syllabus that they are responsible for the video lectures.

      If you have college freshman who are refusing to do work outside of class and being combative in questioning your using technology to teach, I am sorry to say that I doubt those students ever become college graduates. That attitude will not bring them success in school or in the work place.

      Stick to it and continue to innovate. Don’t let this immature group deny you the professional growth or deny your future students the chance to learn in a different and engaging way. You aren’t teaching out of the box – you are teaching in the 21st century.

    • Joan4change

      There is no way you should let your students dictate how you teach – ESPECIALLY at college. You are responsible for covering course content (as you see fit); the students responsible for learning. It is their responsibility to be/become mature and to be committed to their education. College is OPTIONAL education – they should get with the program or go home.

      Students have choices – drop the course and switch to a different teacher or different class. Being unprepared or skipping classes is their choice. Doesn’t your college have computer labs where students can work? College is not about spoon-feeding.

      If you change the way you teach you are enabling your students to be irresponsible. You sound like a wonderful teacher – please persevere!

    • http://www.facebook.com/kjcaufield Kristin Caufield

      Yes, that spoon fed mentality is really hard to get around – it seems more so in the intro classes as well as at the junior college level vs a 4 year. I split my classes in half. One half I’d lecture, they other is a project a movie or something else to try and drive the point home. In addition, since people’s attention spans are about half of the time a class runs, this helps reset their brains :) Oh, another proff I know who does something similar to this flip advertises it as a hybrid class. Those who don’t want that type of format can go to the ‘sages.’

  • Rob Mccallum

    I think this system works better than you realise. My kids are in New Zealand and I saw them watching a science lesson forwarded over facebook. The lesson was on youtube and was from an American school. I’m not sure what school or teacher created it.

  • LawRaw

    In my district, there are 1/3 of families without internet connection along with no access for adults to drive their kids to libraries. So flipping the classroom would flip many out of an education.

    • Rclegg

      Fascinating, so this implies that this process really does make a significant difference and that those without access are deeply disadvantaged.

      What are the stats on those homes having an xBox or Playstation? I know in minority homes that’s extremely high.

      Also, how many of those homes have cable. On Demand could be a delivery mechanism. With Cable already run to the home, I’m wondering if an “educational internet portal” could be set up. Comcast could be a good partner.

      • http://twitter.com/jbrogley Jessica Brogley

        Many of my students live in rural areas without cable. At some point I hope high speed internet becomes a standard utility like lights, water, and heat.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roger-Markussen/100000717893427 Roger Markussen

      Why not let them download alle of the videos at school (as a .zip etc..)?

      • http://twitter.com/jbrogley Jessica Brogley

        I agree Roger, but most of them do not own flash drives large enough. Most are bitter about book charges, so they’re not entirely open to buying a large flash drive.

    • Joan4change

      These students, more than any others, need access to technology to be sucessful in their lives. Also: How many of these students to homework? Sugesstions: First: try for grant money or some other way of funding the technology/access? or an extended day program (with transportation home)? How about a community outreach program? Second: How about using a modified model – maybe have students watching the lesson instead of going to centers or working in small groups? What about study periods in computer labs?

  • KCParker

    I am located in NC teaching 8th grade math and algegbra and am currently using the flipped classroom model. I love it. My students love it. My students’ parents love it. The biggest complaint I get from parents is that they want to help their student with the math homework, but they just don’t remember how to. The flipped classroom eliminates the home frustration of not knowing how to do the math and in a way invites the parents to my classroom without having to physically be there. The students in my classroom work in centers and I sit with about 8 students at a time while the others practice in different ways(i.e. puzzles, games, challenge problems). This really lets me see on a daily basis who is getting it and who is not.
    And as for the the equity issue, I burn DVD’s for the students without internet. There is no way around notes in math. They are completely necessary, however checking homework, teaching a lesson and waiting for students to copy eats up entirely too much time. Especially when I only have 55 minutes with each group. The kids don’t mind so much getting on the computer or TV for homework. I check their notes off as their homework grade and we complete practice in class. I use daily exit quizzes to track progress. This holds students accountable for working productively at their centers while I have carpet time with the small groups. The students are also required to fill out an activity log and learning targets for the week with reflective questions about what activities helped the most and what topics they are still struggling with. The majority of the students say that carpet time is their favorite and most beneficial activity. If I weren’t using the flipped classroom model there is no way I could offer this small group learning environment that they so obviously crave.

  • http://utubersity.com Lfp

    You are totally correct.

    Case in point: http://Utubersity.com which presents the best educational videos available on YouTube in an organized, easy to find way to watch and learn.

    They are classified and tagged in a way that enables people to find these materials more easily and efficiently and not waste time browsing through pages of irrelevant search results.

    The website also enhances the experience using other means such as recommending related videos, Wikipedia content and so on. There’s also a Spanish version called http://utubersidad.com

    This is a project that YouTube should embrace themselves, with curated content from academics and maybe using a different URL (Youtubersity?) so it won’t be blocked by schools.

  • Robin Reads

    I have been teaching for 34 years and from the beginning my philosophy has been “Guide on the Side not Sage on the Stage. I have my masters in public speaking and am considered a good, entertaining speaker, but the idea of lecturing to my class for more than a few minutes is horrifying. I have always preferred that they engage in conversations about what they are learning, discuss answers with each other while I am able to move from group to group offering assistance and encouragement. I try to teach to each learning modality so that different types of learners will have the opportunity to succeed. We do textbook work, view a video, play some sort of inter active game, work together on worksheets and conclude with some sort of project. I also use foldables (google this if it is unfamiliar) which they all enjoy. I do 2 lectures a semester when I am teaching the reproductive organs. These two lectures are infused with stories and humor and to my delight many of my past students who visit, will remember the story from way back in 8th grade. Time savers are wonderful, new technology is great, but we must be interesting, interested participants in the classroom to help our short attention span students learn. And finally, in the extremely high poverty, low education area where I work, sadly, very few families would give up DVD time for their child to watch a teacher made video. I hope this new “Facebook” idea works and brings our students an additional way to learn. Helping young people to move forward in their education is an honor and I am glad to see so many new ideas being brought forward.

    • Joan4change

      Thank you for the wonderful job that you do.

      • Deb Gardner

        Ditto!

  • Anne Greene

    I use mini-lectures posted on Youtube in my sophomore English class and post them to the class’s Facebook page so they are easier to access and comment on. This has been a great addition to the class. Also, we have begun using Skype to bring in guest lecturers. This has worked out very well. I wouldn’t say I have flipped the class, but Youtube and Skype certainly have enhanced it. I also post links to interviews, podcasts and news stories to the Facebook page for the students, and they can do the same.

  • Plebus

    This actually makes a lot more sense to me. I usually need far more help with doing homework than I do with listening to lectures. When I need the teacher is when I’m doing my homework to clarify things. It is application where knowledge is obtained–not instruction. It makes more sense for teachers to be there during the application phase of the learning.

  • I.P. Freely

    I teach Chemistry, and I really like to be able to ask questions and clarify student understanding WHILE lecturing…. I’m not sure how this could happen in the flip method….

  • http://rutherford.stillwater.k12.mn.us/Wayne_Feller.html Wayne Feller

    In Stillwater, MN, we are flipping 6 classrooms of 5th grade math in 5 different schools, then comparing performance data with control classrooms. Would you like to view our processes and the results?
    Go to our 100 day Featured Blog at Promethean Planet
    (http://community.prometheanplanet.com/en/user_groups/flipped/default.aspx)
    to read and comment.

  • John Davenport

    This looks a lot like what I was doing in my middle school social studies classes last year. Unfortunately, parent complaints about “too much tech” prompted my administrators to pull the plug on my program (pun intended). My district then took half of my students away from me and assigned them to a “traditional” classroom, claiming that they were providing parents with “choice.” Schools are often less open to innovation than one would think.

  • http://profiles.google.com/seejayjames seejay james

    I love the idea. And yes, it needs to be implemented well, which is something we’re still learning. I don’t believe this is similar to sending students home with a textbook. It’s very different—even if it covers the same thing, it’s a totally different medium, and each has its pros and cons. The Internet is not a textbook, videos are not textbooks…and as we know, students typically don’t engage with textbooks much.

    But they DO engage with the Internet, and for good reason: nothing in history has transformed information as much as the Internet. Printing press? Yes, it was revolutionary. But the change that occurred when text became searchable is far more profound, not to mention allowing bottom-up publishing, social networking, rating, and the millions of other things we use the Internet for. Knowledge (and what kinds of knowledge are important to know) is changing radically, and schools need to keep up.

    The teacher in this case still has an incredibly important role in the classroom: one-on-one help, seizing learning moments to show the whole class, grouping students appropriately so they can learn most effectively, providing encouragement and overall focus, etc. etc. It’s not anything like an online course, and comparing the two is totally inaccurate. If this frees up valuable class time for these kinds of engagement, then it’s a huge improvement over lecture-based classrooms. Pure lecture really can be replaced with videos. Nothing wrong with that, especially if the lecture is good—but watch them at home, and draw from them at school.

    Good to hear people addressing the digital divide concerns. Be sure everything is available on DVD or flash drives (they are dirt-cheap already and will only get more so…if needed, schools provide them for students). Of course, students with faster access will have other videos and materials they can watch to supplement, but this shouldn’t stop us from using this method, especially if the core materials are provided to everyone.

    On the issue of spoon-feeding: yes, don’t let the students dictate your teaching based on their frustrations! Spoon-feeding is necessary for babies—they can’t feed themselves. But college kids (and actually, kids all through K-12) are perfectly capable of learning on their own. In fact, they NEED to learn on their own, or their “learning” will be other-directed and outside their locus of control. This isn’t helpful for their development at all—in fact, it’s detrimental. They won’t get a love of learning from this kind of education. They’ll always be asking “will this be on the test?” and worried about their grade over all other concerns. And yes, we should address the whole issue of grading as well, but that’s another thread…

    At our tutoring center we have a pretty simple philosophy about how we tutor: we try to answer all student questions with other questions. Every time you give a student the answer, you’re not giving them the chance to figure it out on their own. This robs them of that essential “grappling” which is necessary for real learning. It also spoon-feeds them…giving a fish rather than teaching to fish. Yes, many students are frustrated by this, but the vast majority of them eventually “get it”. Just work with them to help them discover the answers on their own…you can provide parts of the process to help, just not the whole thing at once. If they’re expecting to be told everything they need to know, flip that on its head as well…tell them right up front what kind of engagement you will provide, what you’re expecting from them, and most importantly, WHY you’re doing it that way. There’s plenty of learning-theory research to back you up (see Bandura, Deci, Dweck, Weiner, etc.)

    Of course, there are limits: modeling a correct answer or process can be very helpful. But it should only be done after students have tried a number of approaches, and ideally, figured out where they made mistakes. If they haven’t figured it out by then (and they often have), you can go ahead and provide the answer. The problem is that we do this ALL THE TIME, so there’s no discovery. It becomes passive, “fill me up with information” learning. It doesn’t stick and it doesn’t inspire. It’s not just useless, it actively undermines intrinsic motivation for real learning…”education” becomes a grade, a performance, a game of “guess-what-the-teacher-wants”. Is THAT what we want our education to look like? We can make it better—but we have to expect a lot from our students. And yes, one could classify the videos as the passive kind of learning described above. But there’s a difference: it’s preparatory material for the real engagement in the classroom…it’s not the whole course.

    A simple way to address concerns that students won’t come to class if materials are online: grade on participation in class. In fact, this can be your entire grade. If they show up prepared and give the work an honest effort, they should get a good grade. Tests? Have three or four throughout the semester, covering the standards etc. that your course may need to address. DON’T GRADE THEM. They are diagnostic only, and also serve to show progress using the flipped classroom method. If students wind up performing reasonably well, then you’ve been successful. And it seems like these classrooms are typically more engaged than comparable, lecture-based ones. That alone is a huge triumph.

    I’m fascinated to see where this is going!

  • Bates Mt

    As with all new educational methods, careful and thorough research–productive of empirical data–is clearly called for to determine whether the flipped classroom improves teaching. There is in education, as in society generally, a pervasive belief that “technology” (as broadly understood) is automatically a boon. Well, it may or may not be. It isn’t simply by definition. How many teachers both use, and require of students, PowerPoints today–and yet have no hard data to confirm or not whether they actually improve, say, critical thinking skills (or may even retard their development)? I suspect that “technology” may be assumed to be all good because it’s novel, whereas, at least for some students, “old school” technologies (the traditional book, the hand-written portable notebook) still remain the best means of achieving “old school,” but still fundamental, pedagogical goals: skills of analysis, skills of expression, skills of interpretation. That the flipped-classroom provides value-added in the achievement of these enduring goals remains, at present, hypothetical; evidence of value-added appears to be impressionistic and anecdotal. Research, controlled studies, data-gathering: these things are essential, and currently, from what I have read, sorely lacking to bolster the case for a wholeheartedly embrace of this practice, by school systems wherever they might be. At the very least, such studies should be run concurrently with a measured adoption, and a solid metric to measure results impartially and objectively needs to be developed.

  • s

    thats my teacher, whoa!

  • s

    i just want to say that mr cockrum is my teacher and the flipped classroom is something that really works and i think has really helped me learn this school year and last, it allows us to get help from the teacher or another classmate and when we are at home, learn the material in an easy and less boring way

  • nazzy

    nice write up,visit unn.edu.ng for more information

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