There’s a lot of misunderstanding about flipped learning. Some spruik it as a miracle cure for all educational woes. Flipped learning: upgrade your students, optimize your classroom! Others declaim it as an ineffective method of teaching, demanding that teachers spend hours developing skills to create digital resources that students may not even access.
Just like any other pedagogical method, flipping a classroom has its advantages and its drawbacks. It’s not going to instantly transform unmotivated students into diligent scholars, nor does it have to devour all of a teacher’s time and energy. Here are a few important things to remember when applying flipped learning to your classroom.
It’s Not As Basic As It Sounds
The concept of flipped learning is often distilled to a digestible soundbite: students learn content at home and do homework at school. This definition does the method a disservice, oversimplifying a flexible and potentially powerful educational tool. If students are absorbing all their content at home, why do they need to attend school in the first place? And if they’re just coming to school to complete homework, why do teachers need to be present at all?
Ideally, flipped learning should involve a great deal of interaction between teachers and students. The idea is that students absorb the basics of a topic at home, and come into class to strengthen that knowledge by putting it into practice. While students work, teachers are free to move around the classroom, filling in gaps, encouraging critical thinking and promoting discussion. Far from sitting at their desks ploughing quietly through worksheets, students (and teachers) should be engaged by methods such as problem-based and discovery learning, constructivism and collaboration.
Collaboration Is Important (For Everyone)
One of the greatest benefits of the flipped classroom is the opportunity it provides for collaboration. In class, students can work together in groups to share the information they’ve gained from the content at home. Just as the students in a group can fill the gaps in one another’s knowledge, the various groups in a classroom can also interact to share their learning. The teacher is available to provide solutions the class can’t reach collaboratively and provide a focus for discussion.
Remember, collaboration isn’t limited to students: teachers can also collaborate on their flipped learning resources. Flipping a classroom for the first time can be a steep learning curve, and help from your peers makes it an easier climb. Share advice, worries, skills and resources with the teachers in your school or network. Not a tech whizz? Find a teacher who is, and share your own area of expertise in return.
It May Not Work For You
Flipped learning isn’t all-or-nothing: you don’t have to dive in headfirst. Dip your toes to start with and see how you like it. Try teaching a flipped class two or three days a week, extending if it works, reducing if it doesn’t. Some teachers have found success exclusively using the flipped method; others use it intermittently. And plenty of teachers have found it doesn’t work for them at all. Like any teaching technique, it’s often a matter of trial and error.
As flipped learning can rely heavily on technology, it’s essential to consider how your students will access the content when they’re at home. Do your students have access to mobile devices? The internet? Computers? The answers to these questions will determine how you deliver content to your students, and perhaps whether flipped learning is right for your class.
Don’t Expect Miracles (Do Expect Accountability)
Of course, just because your students have an internet-enabled computer at home doesn’t mean they’re going to log on and diligently study everything you send them. Kids are kids, and flipped learning won’t change that: the students who avoid doing work in a traditional classroom are going to continue avoiding it in a flipped one. Where you can, keep students accountable by having them submit reflections or questions on the content before each class. Changing your teaching style may necessitate a shift in assessment style too: in a flipped classroom, small, frequent quizzes are a good way of keeping students focused and measuring their understanding.
One great advantage of flipped learning is that students can set their own pace. The whole class won’t be held up because one student is struggling: once they’ve studied the content, students can work at different levels in the classroom according to their understanding, with the teacher moving between the groups as needed.
Someone Always Has Your Back
In the Internet Age you’re never far from an educational resource – though identifying the good ones can sometimes be an issue! To kick you off, here are some excellent free flipped learning resources.
Khan Academy: short, YouTube-based lectures on a massive range of educational topics.
Matific: interactive, immersive and fun K-6 math gaming resource allowing students to direct their own learning.
Google Slides: easily create and collaborate on interactive multimedia presentations.
EDpuzzle: make videos (your own or pre-existing) interactive by adding commentary and questions, tracking student engagement and progress.
Animoby: create presentations by turning your iPad into an interactive whiteboard, recording your voice to deliver lessons students can access at home.
Nick Nedeljkovic is a freelance writer and blogger from Sydney. With a love of learning and more degrees than he can afford, he’s a passionate advocate for education in all its forms.