Every student is different.
Teachers have known this all along despite an educational system that repeatedly attempts to force all students to fit into the same round hole, no matter what shape they actually are. Audio learners are lumped together with visual learners, in a one-size-that-fits-all classroom where the fast students surge ahead while slower students fall further behind.
How can you optimize the learning potential of a classroom where there are a variety of students who all absorb material differently? Is it even possible to create a learning environment where students can move at their own pace, while maximizing the instructor’s classroom time, so that the focus is shifted from instruction-based to student-based?
There is; it is called the flipped classroom!
What is a flipped class?
Conceptually, a flipped classroom is simply an educational model that reverses, or “flips” the traditional structure of classroom lecture and homework elements to create an environment that is more student-centric.
So, how it works?
In this type of classroom structure, the students view brief video lectures prior to coming to class, and then classroom time is devoted to discussion, projects, or exercises. Typically, the lectures are either recorded by the teacher or instructor, or are selected from a repository of videos already existing online. The videos are usually considered to be the primary catalyst in the flipped approach.
While video is the predominant media for these purposes, other types of media including audio files and podcasts, as well as other formats could also be used. Video has come to be the most-often used format associated with the flipped model mainly due to its accessibility across a wide range of devices including smartphones as well as laptops and desktops. It is this ubiquitous nature that makes it a natural, effective choice for the flipped classroom.
Benefits of a Flipped Classroom
#1 Learning is Student-Centric
Because the flipped classroom approach takes the teacher from lecturing in the front of the class, to a position that places them in the classroom and teaching, the model is appropriate for nearly all students regardless of how they learn. It creates a rich learning environment where the focus is on the student rather than on the material that is taught.
#2 Students Learn When They Are Most Productive
Students are able to work at their own pace. Instead of trying to capture and process a lecture in class, they can view the videos at their leisure, re-watch portions that may require more thought, take notes, and take the time to process the material. In a traditional classroom, the students must listen to the lecture, take notes, and devise questions all while sitting in the classroom. That’s a lot to take in at once. When the student can view the lecture while away from class, and they have control over that video, they can fast forward, rewind, take notes, and process the information. This gives them time to formulate questions that are more relevant and better facilitate learning.
#3 It Fosters Practical Learning
One of the most often cited benefits of a flipped classroom is that it allows students to take the material that they learned in the lecture and learn how to apply it to real life situations while placing a good portion of the “homework” in the classroom where they can get teacher supported assistance. Many times students are left to ponder homework in an environment that is absent of strong educational support. Parents may not be adequately equipped to help their children with homework or the child may lack parental support, which is not conducive to learning. Essentially, the child is only receiving half of the intended educational experience.
#4 It Promotes Student Success
The flipped classroom frees up the teacher so that they can get off the podium and move into the classroom, offering one-on-one assistance to students. It is a student-centric approach that is structured to promote student success.
How to Flip Your Classroom
As an educator the idea of a flipped classroom may sound like a great way to reach students, but actually flipping your classroom might seem too difficult or time consuming to actually implement; however, making the shift from traditional classroom to flipped class is easier than you may think. If you want to shift your instruction a to learner/student-centered model and spend class time differently, all you need to know is how to flip your classroom.
#1 Create a Video
You will begin by delivering the material you want to teach via a short video. Try to keep the length to between 5 and 7 minutes. You can film yourself explaining the material, use a presentation software with voice-over or screen capture, or use audio files.
#Tip: Though video appeals to the visual and audio sensory learning, which enriches the experience and maintains the human element but you will need to get creative and develop content that engages students, inspiring them to embrace learning. The length should be appropriate, in order to keep students interested.
Consider your audience – As you create your video, think about your audience. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. Use humor, anecdotes, and real life examples to strengthen your lessons and provide a richer learning environment for your students.
#Tip: Break up your instruction into digestible bites, so keep that in mind as you plan your lessons. Find logical starting and stopping places for your videos and decide if they will be distributed to your students one at a time or as a unit, allowing students to move through all of them at their leisure.
Understand the equipment – For instance, if you are teaching outside you probably don’t want to use the microphone that is on the camera. It will pick up all the noises around you, making it hard to hear what you are saying. Even a gentle breeze can create so much mic noise you won’t be heard. A handheld microphone is a better option in that situation. Pay attention to lighting and you may want to tape off the area you will be, so that you won’t walk out of the frame.
#Tip: If you have someone else operate the camera for you, make sure that they know how to shoot video otherwise you may wind up with shaky video or dizzying, distracting transitions. A good tripod will keep the camera steady, and a good video editor will help ensure your finished product is high quality.
#2 Share the Video with Your Students
Once your video is created, it is time to share it with your students. Once they have it they can watch it at home before coming to class. This allows them to digest the material in the way that is best for them. They can watch it on their own or they can watch it with classmates. It also allows them to watch the material with their parents, which could potentially encourage parental involvement in their child’s education.
What’s more, they can view the video on their preferred device, whether it is a smartphone, a computer, or mobile technology. They can rewind and review the content, even research and read supporting material. Time is not a factor since they are not bound to the constraints of learning between the bell to start class and the bell that signifies it is over.
They can take as much time as they need to view the video, listen to the message, to think about what they are learning, and to construct appropriate responses that enhance and strengthen their learning experience. When they come to class they are equipped with questions, ideas, and observations based on the knowledge they have obtained from the video lecture.
#3 Spend Your Class Time in a Different Way
Since your students have viewed the video and digested the material prior to arriving to class, you can spend your class time in a different, more productive way. You can now spend it helping your students apply that knowledge in ways that are practical, engaging and collaborative. You are now free to create learning experiences that are personalized for the students and tailored to their needs. It allows you to move through the class helping individual students, providing one-on-one support, or you can break them into small groups and work that way.
When you flip your classroom, you shift the culture from “sit and learn” to “experience and learn” – making time in the classroom more productive, more engaging, and more fun. The videos can be shared among teachers in the same school or in several schools across the district, city, state, or even the world.
It also sends the message to your students that you are interested in helping them learn, not just stuffing them with information that will be filed into short term memory and promptly forgotten once they have taken their exams. Because they are applying their knowledge in relevant ways that speak to them, the information is actually being genuinely retained and they have a better chance of recalling it over the long term.
Conclusion: Your students want to learn. They want to come to your class and walk out feeling like they learned something – especially if they can apply that knowledge to real life. Often the barrier to students learning material is that they can’t see that it is relevant. It is not delivered in the way they learn. And they feel that they are spectators in their educational experience as opposed to being active participants.
A flipped classroom removes all of those barriers, showing students that the material they are learning is relevant. It is delivered in the way they want to learn, at the pace they are comfortable with. Finally, they are no longer spectators of their educational experience. They are empowered, active participators in how, when, and what they learn. An empowered student is a better, more satisfied student.