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Education and on demand streaming: A look at flipped classrooms

flipped classroomsIn a quest to improve the education of every individual student, educators and administrators often turn to technology. The prolific use of video and easy Internet access has introduced many changes in education, including a trend toward flipping classrooms. The term “flipping” comes from the reversing of the roles of teachers lecturing in class and the students completing homework outside of class.

A flipped classroom involves a teacher pre-recording videos of lectures for students to watch outside of class. During class time, students complete homework, labs, or other hands-on activities. The goal is to increase student-teacher engagement which historically has been shown to improve student performance.

In order see if the flipping approach is actually working, The Flipped Learning Network and Project Tomorrow conducted a survey of over 403,000 administrators, educators, and students. Based in the US, the study looks at the use of flipped classrooms throughout the pre-university educational system and all age brackets (ages 5- 18). The “Speak Up 2013 National Findings” revealed several interesting trends in the use of flipped classrooms.

Students prefer it

If you spend anytime around students, particularly teenagers, you’ll certainly have heard them complain about sitting in a class while the teacher drones on and on. So it isn’t that surprising that the survey results showed just under 75% of the 180,000 high school students (ages 14-18) said they agree flipping the classroom is a good way to learn. Almost a full third of the students responded that they strongly agreed with the concept.

Whether it is because students prefer talking with their teachers rather than being talked at, there’s some evidence that more teacher interaction improves student performance. And the benefits can go beyond increased test scores. Here is what the ASCD (a leading US education organisation), has to say about student teacher interaction in a flipped classroom:

“Studies have shown that having teachers who recognize and respond to students’ social and emotional needs is at least as important to academic development as specific instructional practices are, and this is especially true for at risk students (Hamre & Pianta, 2005).”

It appears that flipping a classroom offers the opportunity for a teacher to get to know the student as a whole person, rather than just a body in a chair learning a specific subject and nothing else.

Teachers know they need to get better at it

While flipping the classroom sounds simple enough, it does come with some technical challenges. The survey reported that 16% of teachers have “learning to flip my classroom” on the list of things they would like to learn in the coming year. Administrators also reportedly recognized that teachers would need proper training in order to effectively flip a classroom. In fact, 41% say that people looking to get their teaching certificates should learn how to use a flipped classroom before becoming certified so they can apply the skills once hired.

The main technical challenges are the creation of a high quality video for students to watch prior to class. These on-demand video lectures don’t have to have a high production cost, but they do need to be created in a way that the students can and will watch. For example a teacher can simply use the webcam and microphone on their laptop computer to record a lecture. This might be adequate, or it might be horrendous. There are basic principles a teacher should learn before creating even a simple video with a webcam:

  • Ensure proper lighting
  • Make a clear audio recording
  • Incorporate images, illustrations, additional videos, etc. when needed

Poor lighting or noisy audio will not help students absorb the material before class. Students may be so distracted that they won’t even watch and the benefits of a flipped classroom can be lost. The Speak Up study revealed that many are turning to librarians or media specialists to help assist teachers in this digital portion of the classroom.

Flipped learning is being used throughout the education systems of many countries. Are you a teacher or educator that has used, or wants to use the flipped classroom approach? Please share your stories or questions with us in the comment section.

Oliver Burt

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