Flipping the Classroom………

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In my previous post, I made the point that in the education sector,  we have not (yet) seen the radical technology-driven advancement that has characterised other industries in the last quarter-century because rather than allowing technology to liberate us from the limitations of yesterday, we have typically rejected technologies that don’t fit our existing model and instead put our resources into tools that support the old, comfortable way of doing things.  We’ve replaced whiteboards with interactive whiteboards, text books with texts on CD ROM, Encyclopaedia Britannica with Wikipedia, and pens with Microsoft Word.  In themselves, these tools are all good – but they are good tools that don’t require us to change our pedagogy.

What then, would make a significant change?   One example, I think, is the flipped classroom model.  The “Flipped Classroom” is a term first used by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams some time ago but has started to gain traction in 2011, following Sal Khan’s TED talk.

At it’s simplest, flipped teaching involves using podcasts, (whether audio podcast, vodcast, screencast), to teach students at times when they would normally be on their own doing individual homework. This frees up class time for exercise work that would once have been set for homework, while the teacher is there to act as a personal tutor.  (hence the term ‘flipped’).

In my own experience (I started flipping my classes in 2005 – well before the term was coined),  it also makes time in class for more discussions, debates, role-plays, modelling activities, experiments and group work.  Each of these requires people to be together.  A lecture does not.   It’s not just about doing more online.  It’s about considering what works best online, and what works best face-to-face and curating each of these to make our precious class time more valuable.

This is not just squeezing technology into an existing structure.   It’s allowing technology to break us out of a model that served us before we had the Internet and when the only times teachers had to talk to their students was four class periods a week.

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