The Flipped Classroom
By Mark Burkholz, Director of Technology, Mathematics
I have flipped out! That is, I have flipped out about the flipped classroom. If you haven’t heard about the flipped classroom, you will. As the Director of Technology at Lawrence Academy for 21 years and as a math teacher for 40 years, I have always been interested in the integration of technology in education. Starting in 2011 I wanted to carve out time in my math 3 class to create more student-centered activities. Sometime in October of 2011, after reading about the flipped classroom, I decided to “flip my class” to implement such an approach.
|Mark Burkholz is wired to make the most of the technology that makes innovative approaches to teaching material possible.|
Advantages to Flipping Out
What is the flipped classroom?
The definition of the flipped classroom is an approach where lectures are posted as videos (called “screencasts”) for students to watch online for homework, and the usual homework is done in class. This is a flipping of the way a traditional classroom is run. This simplistic definition does not do justice to how approach can dramatically change the way students learn. By creating screencasts of my traditional lectures (5-10 minutes in length) and uploading them to YouTube to be watched as homework assignments, I was able to free up enough class time to create a more collaborative environment.
How do I manage my class using the flipped classroom approach to teaching?
I now have the time to give the students in-class assignments that were designed to help them discover patterns, algorithms, and concepts in collaboration with their fellow students. Instead of being the teacher “feeding” information to the students (the “sage on the stage”), my goal was to guide them to discover much of the information for themselves with my role being the facilitator (“the guide on the side”). I divided the class into groups of three students who were expected to collaborate on these assignments. The students might do research, create, discover, do experiential exercises, debate, or do some form of lab work with members of their group. I wander from group to group guiding them if they need the help or assessing their understanding of the work. This perhaps is one of the biggest benefits I have found as a result of implementing the flipped approach; every day, I speak to each student individually. In a traditional classroom setting, this kind of interaction is rare.
The bottom line is that the students now have the time to immerse themselves in a dynamic learning environment where they are expected to take responsibility for their learning instead of the teacher funneling information to them.
How do I implement the flipped classroom?
I usually take one of two approaches. One approach is called the “flip-apply” approach. I might create a screencast (the “flip”) that gives information to the students, such as the definition of the “angles of elevation and depression.” In class (the “apply”), the students use this information to discover how to use it in a real world setting. Sometimes the screencast might be a straightforward description of some mathematical concept and associated problems that they need to practice in class the next day. A second approach is often called the “apply-flip” approach, where I have students working in groups at their seats or on white boards or somewhere on campus collaborating to discover a mathematical concept (the “apply”). Then for homework that night, I assign a screencast (the “flip”) summarizing what the students discovered in class.
Creating a flipped environment in a classroom is time-intensive and requires the commitment and support of colleagues and the department chair. During the 2011 winter term, a few math department teachers assisted me in creating screencasts, and this past summer all of the members of the math department, thanks to the support of Krista Collins, the math department chair, developed over 90 screencasts. Links to these screencasts are now embedded in the online textbook that the math department has been writing and editing for the past two years (itself a dynamic and creative project). In addition, both Krista Collins and Larissa Smith are flipping one of their math classes.
The bottom line is that the flipped approach to teaching has enabled me to find the class time to create a collaborative, student-centered learning environment. My role as a teacher has changed to one as a facilitator who assists students to take responsibility for their own learning. Students become more actively engaged, and I, as the teacher, have much more individual contact with my students. I, as well as my students, now truly have a student-centered state of mind.