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Flipping Out Over the Flipped Classroom!
I am talking about all those flipping out over the relatively new use of technology in the classroom. The term used is the ‘flipped’ classroom. Simply put, teachers can fairly easily create their lessons on their computers adding any audio or visual, and make the presentation available to students. Sal Khan, and his Khan Academy, is an example of how the videos can be used.
The general idea is to allow for each student, or groupings of students, to gain direct access to specific instruction at any place or any time. This could then actually allow the student to ‘learn’ the material at home, and then use the classroom, and access to a real live teacher, for questions, review or further discussion. Thus, the traditional model, of learning in the classroom and reviewing at home, would, in effect, be flipped.
The advantages are obvious. Gone would be the days when students would have to sit through classes either bored by the slow pace teachers may be forced to teach, or conversely clueless as to what was being taught due to the quick pace of instruction. Each student would get exactly the pace of instruction they require. Ease of access to instruction would make this type of classroom an educators dream, and redefine the value and meaning of homework.
Of course the critics were soon crying foul. What of the human interaction, both teacher-student and student-student, that is integral to real learning and deep understanding? Don’t our children already spend too many hours in front of computer screens, eschewing healthy social interactions that build emotional intelligence and form good character?
As always, the debate gets loud and hides the simple truth; both sides are correct. To teach only using videos, and relegate the teacher to learning facilitator and the classrooms to review-rooms, would be misguided. However, to reject the obvious advantages that such learning could provide would be equally foolish. Not realizing the vast potential this technology holds for differentiated instruction, to give just one example, would be incredibly shortsighted.
To be clear, flipped learning is a tool that should be part of every teacher’s repertoire. Finding when it can be best and most effectively used is no different than knowing when to change activities, when to use cooperative learning and when to teach frontally. The old proverb teaches; ‘Who is wise? He who learns from all men.’ He or she who is able to learn from all men, and use that knowledge to teach others, makes others wise as well. Isn’t that what good teachers do?