Flipped Learning….The next big thing
While on Twitter the other night, participating in #edchat, I made the statement that 5 years from now, flipped learning will be approaching the tipping point, and on the way to becoming mainstream. Having spent some time over the past 6 months learning about flipped learning, encouraging some teachers to attempt it, and thinking a lot about how technology will impact our profession, I’m convinced that teachers who can make the “flip” successfully will succeed, while those who cannot will become extinct.
For those of you who are new to the idea, “flipped learning” is when students listen (podcast) or watch (vodcast) a teacher’s lecture or lesson at home, then do what has been traditionally known as homework at school. I first encountered the idea at at workshop given by Alan November, who introduced us to videos featuring Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur. The video is below, and you can find out even more about his work at his website.
Naysayers to the idea have plenty to refute. Lack of access to technology, kids who are not engaged in doing their homework in the traditional model, and arguments about whether or not homework should be assigned are all common arguments against flipped learning. Some will point out that this idea works at Harvard, an elite institution, but question if it would succeed with kids who struggle. In addition, the very notion of completely changing how classrooms operate brings many far from their comfort zone.
In response, I’d offer the following points:
Access: Technology is growing smaller, faster, and cheaper every day. The increased capacity of cell phones has taught us that time and again. In the early 1990s, cell phones were large, cumbersome, expensive objects that were only able to make calls. When it came to connecting with others, my first cell phone was mediocre at best! In addition, there were very few people to call, as owning these items was not common. The phones of today (while some remain very expensive) are much smaller, and capable of far more. Internet access, cameras, the ability to make videos, download and listen to music, and even buy coffee at Starbucks are all possible. Cell phone ownership is at a record high, and continues to grow. Remember, my statement is that 5 years from now we’ll be approaching the tipping point of flipped learning, at a point when access will have grown beyond where it is now.
Homework: I am a homework skeptic. To give assignments to work on after school, I contend there must be some value for students beyond completing something that they spent time practicing earlier in the day. Homework should expand thinking, not replay the classwork that was done earlier in the day. In my work, I get the chance to meet with a lot of at-risk students, many of which don’t do their homework. More often than not, their lack of work completion comes from not finding value in their assignments. I’d argue that flipped learning does a meaningful exercise to be completed at home. At-risk kids care about performances. They practice for games, concerts, poetry slams, or art shows. Flipped learning, by making classroom activities about applying the ideas that kids watched or listened to at home, make 4th hour math a chance to perform a skill.
Teacher comfort: I believe that teachers are creative and want all students to learn and grow. I think teachers seek opportunities to better connect with students, and see the need to harness the capability of technology. When considering how online learning, Khan Academy, and iTunesU have become commonplace, it is clear that the “business” of education is undergoing a shift away from the traditional model to better engage students.
Kids who don’t go to Harvard: The argument against this is articulated by Sugata Mitra, an educator from India, far better than I could ever hope to. In his Ted Talk, he shows what kind of engagement technology makes possible in poverty stricken schools where teachers refuse to go.
I’ll close by sharing the amazing work of Aaron Sams and Jon Bergman, introduced to me by a member of my PLN @mmebrady, which shows what is possible.
Flipped learning is the way of the future, it will become commonplace, rewarding those who innovate, while pushing out those who don’t.