Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Blending or Flipping?

The rise of technology in the classroom has given impetus to two major trends in the average or above average (depending on your point of view) classroom or lesson.

The question is how to make this change effective?

At a recent conference I (briefly) presented a talk on flipping and blending the classroom, during the preparation for that talk I did a bit of research on the exact definitions of the two models. The conclusion of most of the sites that I visited was that the change must happen and is happening in many schools and tertiary institutions but that there is not really a common consensus on what both models are or how best to use them.
Picture from Wikipedia

Lets start by looking at the blended classroom:

This type of classroom combines 3 types of learning to try and achieve a model of learning that allows different types of learners to access information in a way that they are comfortable with. In other words, "The goal of a blended approach is to join the best aspects of both face to face and online instruction. Classroom time can be used to engage students in advanced interactive experiences."(http://weblearning.psu.edu). It further allows students to access information at their own convenience and at their own pace.

To help explain I found a great little video.

I, personally, love the idea of a blended learning model and see many benefits for students in an institution that has the scope to provide the material in various ways. The video describes it as a cheaper way to educate people but that, i would guess, depends on the quantity of people who access the material (UNISA are you reading this!)

And then the Flipped classroom:

I love this explanation! Watch it and you will understand why I am not going to say any more. PS I don't just use video's to explain things in my classroom.

The flipped classroom lets the students gain 'content' at home and then arrive at school to develop that knowledge through teacher facilitation.

In other words we take the cognitive development aspect of learning out of the parents hands and put it back in the hands of the people who are trained to do it. This might also, hopefully, lead to a recognition of the true skill of an educator. Their ability to engage a disparate group of kids and make them want to learn.

Finally the question must be: How do we use these models to enhance learning in our own classrooms?

Some teachers who have been doing this longer than me gave the following tips (Commentary by me):


1) Use existing technology to ease faculty and students into a flipped mindset.

Don't expect every teacher to be immediately comfortable with using either of the models. Encourage then to try it in a controlled way. Baby steps...

2) Be up front with your expectations.

The more honest you are  the more successful the change will be. Use examples to show how it works and, maybe most importantly, let them know that it won't work properly every time!

3) Step aside and allow students to learn from each other.

Probably the toughest part of the process for the 'traditional' teacher. We need to step back and allow the learners develop their own knowledge through debate, discussion and reflection with their peers. There are great examples of teachers who have managed this and seen incredible success in transforming the way the kids approach their lessons. We, as teachers, need to step aside and allow the students to make the decision on how to approach the application parts of learning.

4) Assess students' understanding of pre-class assignments to make the best use of class time.

Use quizzes that are completed at home (we use Edmodo at our school) to lead you in how to approach the content in the classroom. There is still space for a lecture now and again, especially for more complicated idea's, however don't expect the parents to have to develop the understanding of a topic. That is the teachers job.

5) Set a specific target for the flip.

Make sure the pedagogy is in place to enhance the learning experience, use the correct technology to support that pedagogy and finally, let the student decide which part of that technology suits them best.

Use critical thinking along with Blooms taxonomy to help plan a 'flipping' route for your own classroom.

6) Build assessments that complement the flipped model. 

The traditional assessments have their place but it is important to allow other, more cooperative ways of assessing the development of knowledge. Use sets of questions that can be answered in pairs or groups. Use   online quizzes and allow Google (research skills are vital). Use a debate. Make something up that suits you.

The most important thing is to use the technology available to enhance and drive your teaching. Do not use the technology for technologies sake but rather use it to transform the way you teach!

Good luck.