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'Flipped Learning' Turning Up in More Schools
January 28, 2013

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Modern technology is enabling teaching possibilities that turn expected education models on their head. One example is "flipped learning."

In direct opposition to the traditional method of class time consisting of teacher lecture and instruction and out-of-class time consisting of homework, some schools across the country are proceeding with a different model, in which teachers use class time to focus students' learning on the lecture that students have already watched online before class. Teachers make and upload videos of their lectures, some as simple as a whiteboard presentation before a static camera, others as complicated as time and technological knowledge allow. Then, students view the videos online in their own time and come to class with questions that are answered by either the teacher or by other students, in small group discussions.

The "flip" is the focus. The lecture has become the homework, and the homework (further study) gets done in class time, where teachers can focus their efforts. Adherents say that benefits include more detailed question-and-answer sessions during class and, in the case of science classes, more lab time being spent on labs, not lectures.

One online community, the Flipped Learning Network, already has 10,000 members and features training workshops across the U.S. Lectures were initially done by high school teachers; now, middle school and even elementary school teachers are signing on.

Aware that Internet access varies, providers have made provisions, including DVD and flash drive versions of lectures. Students who lack computer access outside of school can watch the videos in class. The lectures don't fill a class period, so students have time to watch the lectures and to participate in Q&A time. Some teachers take this approach, combining the traditional classroom lecture approach with the advent of new technology.

The focus on more active learning for students has paid off for some schools, which have reported drops in attendance and failure rates.

The "flipped learning" approach isn't for everyone and certainly has its opponents. Many teachers report evidence that the only learning their students do is in the classroom and that class time should consist of a broad approach in order to ensure achievement opportunities for all students, not just the ones who have the desire to watch videos outside of class. Others worry that students who lack motivation or out-of-class viewing opportunities might be at a disadvantage.

What is certainly true is that the rise of the Internet has enabled a wide array of new possibilities for teaching and learning.

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