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What to consider when flipping the K-12 classroom

Flipped learning is not without its challenges–most notably, access to devices and the internet.

Flipping the classroom is one of the top trends in school reform, with more and more teachers trying the approach in an attempt to boost student engagement and achievement.

The concept is simple: Teachers create or find online short videos that explain a lesson or concept, and students watch the videos at home. Students then come to class the next day prepared to complete “homework” during class time.

Supporters say the flipped classroom model works because students aren’t struggling to finish assignments at home without the help of a teacher should problems or confusion arise. Teachers are able to spend less time lecturing and more time helping students.

Start off slow—one or two things at a time,” advised Gwynn Loftin, an educator with Highland Park Independent School District in Texas, during a Texas Computer Education Association 2013 conference session. “You are going to have bumps and bruises along the way, but it is so very much worth it.”

For more coverage of TCEA 2013, see:

New ed-tech products abound at TCEA 2013

How one school district deployed 10,000 iPads in five weeks

Tips for using Pinterest in the classroom

Even the most pro-flipping educators may experience some discomfort with the process. “The teacher’s role changes; you’re not the center of attention anymore, and for some of us that’s hard to get used to. You become a player on the side,” Loftin said.

Loftin’s district has flipped lessons about the planets, poetry, and social studies, using a website or tool such as Moodle or Edmodo to house videos, blogs, and assignments; and video creation tools or video sites such as YouTube, Brain Pop, Khan Academy, or LearnZillion.

On the other hand, flipping the classroom presents challenges for students who might not have access to internet-enabled devices, or the internet itself, at home, and who therefore encounter obstacles when they try to watch their teacher’s video.

(Next page: How one district overcomes access obstacles)

Some schools make computer labs available before and after school, as well as during lunchtime, for students who need them.

The South Berwyn School District 100 in Illinois, with a high number of low-income students, has sustained a flipped learning model with the help of a one-to-one device program that gives students access to iPads or laptops during school hours, and students have the option to take their devices home if they do not have internet access or a device at home, said Lindsey Lahr, an SBSD 100 instructional coach.

Students without internet access download their flipped lessons before leaving school, a process managed through eChalk, which the district uses as its instruction and communication management platform. Teachers upload the videos to their eChalk class pages, and students download them for later viewing. Also, SBSD 100 works with Comcast’s Internet Essentials program to help connect low-income families to high-speed internet for $10 a month.

Lahr said the district’s flipped learning model, which has been operating since the beginning of the school year, is customized depending on student and teacher needs—for instance, younger students may need a modified approach, special education students sometimes need additional videos or guided notes, and pre-made videos may not always be suitable for a certain group of students.

Other important flipped learning considerations include:

  • Required investment: Finding or creating videos and resources for flipped learning takes time, and educators may have to change their lesson at the last minute if students don’t understand.
  • Knowing what works for students: Different approaches work with different students, and part of making flipped learning a success is knowing which approach to use.
  • Keeping students on track: “If you’re providing the resource, and they’re not watching it, you may not be aware that you aren’t teaching half of your class,” Lahr said. Asking students to complete short questions or solve problems based on the video is one way to gauge participation.
  • Informing parents: Many parents are not aware of educational trends, and getting parents on board and increasing home support can go a long way.

See also:

How a flipped classroom flipped a student’s perspective

Four steps to flipping the classroom

Flipped learning: A response to five common criticisms

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Laura Ascione

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