Flipped learning: A response to five common criticisms

First, schools should provide opportunities outside of the standard school day for when the school library is open, allowing students to use school computers. In addition, there should be a loaner program in place where devices can be checked out for an evening’s use. This loaner program might include smaller, less expensive devices such as iPod Touches and various types of tablets. And while on the topic of smaller devices, while many students do not have computers with internet connections at home, we do find that instead, many have other digital devices that connect to the internet using cell towers.

Taking these ideas a bit further, audio and video material can be burned to DVDs so they can be accessed on students’ home DVD players. The price of these players have come down so much that they are in almost any home. Furthermore, schools might work with local libraries and community centers to make access to this material very easy for students. We can agree that it will be quite important for teachers and school leaders to understand their communities and think creatively about ways to create equitable environments for learning.

Where is the accountability? How do I even know if kids are watching the videos?

There have always been concerns about students not completing the work they need to complete at home. Flipped Learning will not be the magic potion that fixes this issue. However, if we look again at Dr. Mazur’s method, he does have accountability built into the process. He requires every student to submit reflections, questions, and concerns before each class period. Teachers should be posting thought-provoking questions that guide students as they explore the at-home material. The work at home should not be without some sort of focus. Additionally, in class, there should be a tremendous amount of interactivity among students as the teacher circulates around the room. If the teacher sees there is a student not taking part in the conversation, this can be easily addressed.

To continue, we would guess that a large majority of students who do not do their work at home are not doing it because they are either bored and feel like the work is there simply to keep them busy, or they are struggling and do not understand the work. So to address accountability, teachers also must think through these issues.

If students are bored, they need to be presented with resources to explore at home that go deeper into the topics the class is learning. They need to be given more advanced issues that require them to make connections with others outside of the school building and around the world. The teacher, who we already said will be more important than ever, is going to need to individualize work for these students. The teacher also should provide more opportunities for these students to create additional resources for the rest of the class to use that might further assist those who are struggling. The key to motivating students who are bored is to honor the knowledge they have, challenge them to dig deeper, and not hold back their potential. If you take a look at Khan Academy, you will see that students can chart their own path through curriculum and receive instant feedback from problems they tackle on the site. This real-time, self-directed journey through curriculum certainly can help some students with boredom and frustration.

Students who are struggling require a different approach, and as Greg Green, principal of Clintondale High School, told us, “[The Flipped Learning method] eliminates the learning obstacles that all students face when they are practicing without an expert.” Struggling students need to be offered safe places where they can ask questions and share their confusion anonymously and without ridicule from peers. This type of environment can be set up within different social response tools, like EdmodoSchoology, or Nimbus (powered by Schoolwires). They also need more time and individual attention to learn material. With the resources created for the Flipped Learning method, students can watch or listen over and over again while pausing the content, working a bit, and then playing more. Then, as students do their “homework” at school, teachers can immediately address problems as they are walking around and listening to conversations. Teachers know the students who are struggling, and they can give these students the attention they need. Through this process, as students see success, their confidence and work ethic usually skyrockets.

As a teacher, I don’t have the time or the expertise to produce all of the videos required to teach like this.

Schools are going to need to be very smart about how they address this concern. In our opinion, not all teachers should be making these videos for their classes. School leaders need to find those who have the highest abilities in combining the subject knowledge they have with their ability to present this knowledge in the most creative, engaging ways—even if these teachers are not in their own schools.

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