Showing posts with label Flipped Classroom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Flipped Classroom. Show all posts

Friday, 11 May 2012

Beyond the Flipped Lesson

The argument has been made that the flipped classroom changes the role of the teacher from “a sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side” (The Flipped Class: Myths vs. Reality) but is this really the case? I agree that the teacher’s role during class time resembles the “guide,” as the teacher doesn’t lecture and is free to address the problems of individual students.

However, it is misleading to suggest that the flipped classroom eliminates the teacher’s role as a “sage” because it doesn’t. With the flipped classroom, the role of the “sage” is simply transferred to a video.

For example, a typical video from a flipped science or math classroom often involves the presentation of a new topic followed by several sample problems. This approach is identical to what has been done for years in a traditional classroom with the teacher imparting knowledge to students. There are definite advantages to using videos and pushing lectures outside the classroom as it enables self-pacing and frees class time for additional activities.

However, this approach is not a radical shift from traditional teaching and continues to reinforce the traditional role of the student as a passive recipient of information.

A similar argument was adopted by Frank Noschese who examined the limitations of the Khan Academy and stated that progressive education is not about doing things better (i.e. the lecture) but about doing better things. Furthermore, he states that students need to be challenged to solve problems and create their own knowledge both as individuals and in groups … and this is a belief I share.

Personalized learning gives students control of their learning and requires them to be active participants in their education. Passive resources such as videos represent potential obstacles to achieving these goals.

For me, the issue isn’t the flipped classroom - as this is a technique I frequently utilize and will continue to utilize - but how to better engage our students with both our face-to-face time and our electronic resources.

One approach that supports personalized learning and improves student engagement is Problem-Based Learning (PBL), a technique developed in the late 1960s at McMaster University. With this approach, students and student groups are given a problem and required to synthesize a solution without first being given teacher resources, such as lecture notes or instructions.

Learning through this self-directed, cooperative approach is a process involving building on prior knowledge, problem solving, using critical thinking approaches and reflecting. This approach can be used to improve face-to-face activities, electronic resources and the flipped classroom.

A valid argument in favour of the video and flipped classroom is that it frees class time to engage students and promote higher order thinking. This is indeed one of the greatest strengths of the flipped classroom.

However, we need to examine the type of activities that are replacing the lecture. Speaking from my experience as a science teacher, many essential science activities could be improved by a shift in focus. For example, most labs found in textbooks are written like recipes and can be conducted with little understanding of the concepts being investigated.

Lab activities can be greatly improved if students are only given the purpose for the experiment and it is their responsibility to develop the procedure. A good approach to procedure design is to use a co-operative learning structure called a Clue Design Lab. With this structure, students are required to develop the procedure - but are allowed to request clues if they reach an impasse. With a little thought, most face-to-face activities and concepts can be presented using PBL.

Electronic resources can also adopt a PBL approach. Simulations are a great complement to a video and many simulations are freely available (as an example take a look those available from PhET). Instead of directly presenting the theory to students, simulations enable students to develop an understanding of underlying principles by solving a series of guided questions and tasks. The big difference with this approach is that the instruction starts with a problem, rather than ending with a problem.

While the flipped classroom is a technique that has improved my teaching, it does not inherently promote higher order thinking or student engagement. In order for flipped lessons to be effective, videos need to be utilized carefully. The role of the video should be similar to that of a textbook and act as a reference supporting the more important course activities that are conducted both online and in the classroom.

Kyle Acres
Science Teacher

Friday, 27 January 2012

Using Blended Learning And Personalized Learning Simultaneously, Not Synonymously

As we talk to more and more people about what we are doing at Greenwood College School, I have noticed a misconception developing that personalized learning is synonymous with blended learning. This is not the case. Blended learning can be used to personalize a classroom. It can also be used as a tool in a non-personalized classroom. Personalized learning can be accomplished with or without the use of technology. However, many teachers find that technology is an incredibly useful tool for personalizing their students’ experiences. Hence, the two approaches are beginning to be thought of as one and the same.

Personalized learning asks teachers to get to know their students’ strengths and weaknesses. The teacher’s role is to guide the students towards challenge or support, depending on what is needed.

This can be done without any technology at all. For example, an English teacher might recognize that a student needs more support with writing an introduction and that another student needs to be reading a more challenging book. When the teacher acts on these observations, they are personalizing the experience for these two students.

Blended learning combines face-to-face teaching with technology-rich activities, such as online content videos and interactive activities. The “flipped lesson” is an approach being used in more and more schools. This approach has the students watch a video of the lesson the night before for homework and then complete problems or work deeper with this content while in class.  Most often, the students are all watching the same video lesson on the same day and then completing the same activities when in class. This is an excellent example of blended learning, but it is not personalizing the students’ experience.

The senior mathematics classes that I am developing at Greenwood College School combine the two approaches of blended learning and personalized learning. Blended learning resources are used as the tools to personalize how students move through the course material. All of the lessons are videos accessed online. Class time is spent working on problems and activities. The difference between this and the usual “flipped classroom” is that the students are all working at their own pace. This allows them to work through the material in a personalized manner.  Some students will work ahead and complete two courses in one year (Greenwood College School is non-semestered, so until now, students were only able to complete one course in a year). Other students will spend more time on certain topics, using their class time to get reinforcement from a peer or from their teacher.

Because technology is such an excellent education tool, more and more teachers are creating blended learning courses and courses that use the “flipped lesson” approach. Personalization is a way to meet the needs of and to motivate individual students. In the senior mathematics classes at Greenwood College School we are using both of these techniques simultaneously. We have seen that while blended learning and personalized learning are not synonymous, using them in conjunction gives the teacher time to work one-on-one with students and guide them in a direction that meets their individual needs.

Heather Rigby
Director of Personalized Learning

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Using the Flipped Lesson to Personalize Learning

The flipped lesson, or inverted classroom, is an increasingly popular teaching technique that replaces the traditional classroom lecture with a video or some other electronic resource. Students work through the video or resource at home which allows class time to be used for hands-on activities, practice and discussion.

The use of a flipped lesson enables students to learn how they want - and when they want - which are both important elements of personalized learning. For example, a student who needs time to process concepts can proceed through a lecture slowly, pause where necessary, consult their textbook or rewind to hear an explanation again.

The personalization of this approach can be further enhanced if the teacher does not require all students to be on the same lesson each day. Once a teacher makes this transition, students will be able to learn when they are ready, when it suits their schedule … and the classroom will be a space where students are working on a variety of different tasks simultaneously.

At Greenwood College School, the flipped lesson has become integral to our blended learning program and our personalized approach. As our experience grows, we are developing an understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

Here is a list of some of our best practices for the inverted classroom and our self-paced program:

  • Keep Videos Short. Rather than record the lecture that would normally be presented, create short concept videos and try to keep them less than 10 minutes.
  • Engage Students. Create a worksheet or notes template to accompany videos to ensure students are active participants.
  • Practice and Apply. Students are monitored to ensure that they are doing more than merely watching videos. Teachers ensure that students complete practice problems and work on more complex problems that promote higher order thinking skills and build on the content presented in the resource.
  • Vary the Resources. There are many other free tools in addition to a video that can be used to teach a concept.
  • Assess Frequently. As students become more self-directed and self-paced in their learning, it is essential to know their level of understanding and modify their program accordingly.
  • Cycle Back to Key Concepts. Through daily warm-ups, students are asked to revisit concepts that are key to the unit or course. Keeping these concepts fresh allows them to successfully build on these foundation skills.
  • Be Organized. If students are going to self-pace, resources must be well-organized and easy to access. Deadlines and expectations must be clear.

Kyle Acres
Science Teacher