A big thanks to my disruptive friend, Amanda O’Connell for supporting me in this effort.
Thanks also to Leigh Hynes who sent me some resources to read through around flipped learning for this project as well as some other work I’ve been doing.
Digital technologies have enabled teachers to develop new pedagogical approaches and teaching practices in order to increase student engagement and achievement. One of these new approaches is that of flipped learning or the flipped classroom.
Flipped learning or the flipped classroom is a method to teach students. Put simply, the flipped classroom is a “model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed” (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, 2012). The idea is that rather than spending in-class time teaching or explaining concepts and ideas, the teaching is delivered through video that students watch during their traditional homework time. Class time is then used to develop the ideas and concepts and apply what has been learnt from the videos.
Video sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo are already providing plenty of learning opportunities. For example, if you want to learn to play the guitar, you don’t need to necessarily pay for lessons. Instead, you can do a quick search on YouTube and learn through video. Why not use this same method in formal education?
Of course, in-class lecture is not the way us Kiwi’s teach in general. Homework time is moving away from worksheets and textbooks with practice material. We also don’t want to see our students sitting in front of those same worksheets or textbooks in class repeating practice exercises, or watching 50-minute videos for homework. We want to see the development of all the key competencies. We want to see, among other things, higher order thinking skills developed, with students collaborating and contributing to solve complex, ‘wicked problems’ (Hipkins, Bolstad, Boyd & McDowall, 2014).
How can we re-think what flipped learning is for us in New Zealand? How can we also ensure that flipping the learning doesn’t simply take away the responsibility from the teacher to teach their class and give students more work to do at home? How can we ensure flipped learning is equitable as some students don’t have internet access or digital devices at home?
The Flipped Learning Network defines flipped learning as:
a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter. (Flipped Learning Network, 2014)
This means that students watch the direct instruction on their own through videos, and then develop and apply the concepts taught in the classroom group situation. By taking this broad definition we can rethink what flipped learning looks like and ensure that our approach best meets the needs of our students.
We can think of flipped learning approaches along a continuum. On one end of the continuum, we have the true flipped classroom model where the teacher records themselves teaching a particular concept or idea and posts it online for the students to learn in their homework time. They then come back to school to demonstrate their understanding through discussion with peers, practice and application. On the other end of the continuum we might have rewatchable learning such as recording your teaching, modelling, explanations as they happen in class, and posting these online allowing students to rewatch and review what they covered in class, or learn what they missed if they were absent. Both of these allow for students to rewatch their learning as often as required.
In between these two extremes, we might have students creating flipped lessons by teaching their peers through online video. These can then be used in future years as well, bringing the students into the picture in creating new ways to explain a concept or idea. Of course we can mix it up a little and have different lessons approached in different ways.
In order to ensure we’re not just using up students’ homework time (or free time!) when employing such a model, we need to be sure that the videos are succinct and relevant. Teachers love talking. They can talk a lot. Videos of concepts or ideas need to be short, no more than three to five minutes long where possible. Think about your own online video viewing habits. Many of us switch off after less than a minute unless it’s highly engaging (Shout! Communications, 2014). You might also need to record different ways of explaining concepts. Don’t keep reinventing the wheel though. Use what others have created already.
Don’t forget that relationships are important too. Your students need to see you or hear your voice, otherwise are YOU really teaching them! Make sure that class time is used carefully to develop deeper understanding of concepts through a variety of ways.
Keep considering what will make learning equitable to all and accessible to all. Flipped learning doesn’t have to require students to watch videos at home. What about spending the first minutes in class allowing students to watch? They might need to re-watch them during class time too. What about ensuring devices are available at lunch time or after school for those who don’t have access at home? You could even add subtitles to your videos or include the transcript.
Used with other pedagogical approaches, the flipped learning model could help support a move to developing deeper discussions in-class in order to increase understanding. Through the removal of a lot of in-class direct instruction time, students can ask questions, think more deeply, and consider real-life global examples and problems. It is a model that is worth considering as digital technologies become more prevalent in school and the day-to-day life of our students.
EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2012). (7). Things you should know about Flipped Classrooms. EDUCAUSE Creative Commons. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7081.pdf
Flipped Learning Network. (2014). The Four Pillars of FLIP™. Retrieved from http://www.flippedlearning.org/definition
Hipkins, R., Bolstad, R., Boyd, S., & McDowall, S. (2014). Key competencies for the future. New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) Press.
Shout! Communications. (2014). Online video viewing habits – what latest figures tell us [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.shoutcommunications.co.uk/blog/online-video-viewing-habits-latest-figures-tell-us/