Flipped Classrooms: Why And How To Flip Education?
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Flip Education: Turning Teaching Upside Down

The development of technology is gradually entering into school reality. The desire to convert this trend into tangible benefits is a key determinant of many experiments and innovations in education today. One such project is the flipped classroom – a method well recognized around the world. Its main characteristic is the fact that students learn before class from materials prepared and shared by a teacher. The creation and distribution of these educational materials is aided by new technologies (internet, eLearning platforms, etc.).

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However, the flipped classroom is based not only on such superficial principles. This method represents a paradigm shift in the approach to teaching. It constitutes the transition from an education process focused primarily on the teacher—Sage on the Stage, to the one centered on the student and his or her needs, where the teacher is the guide leading students through the twists and turns of knowledge—Guide on the Side. The flipped classroom creates a more personalized experience of learning. Therefore, it is what a school should provide pupils regardless of technology, by default.

The Origins Of The Flipped Classroom And Its Benefits

This method does not have one creator or a common model. The flipped classroom initially functioned in different forms and ranges as an experimental method conducted on individual university courses. Academics provided their students with printed materials before the classes to be able to proceed immediately to a substantive discussion during the next gathering.

Then, thanks to the increased involvement of technology in everyday life, all materials gradually became digitized and distributed through email. The use of ICT devices enabled sharing not only the usual texts but also videos, audio files, or illustrations in high resolutions. Pioneer initiatives were established such as OpenCourseWare of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2001) and Khan Academy (2006), which offered free access to high-quality resources and educational films.

The flipped classroom is assumed to have been officially established in 2007 by two American teachers: Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams. They recorded their lectures  and shared them on the internet with students unable to participate in their classes for various reasons. They quickly observed that these recordings were very popular beyond their own student base, and that the digital form significantly increased their impact.

One of the most spectacular examples showing the benefits of using the flipped classroom method was the case of the American Clintondale High School in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. Its students’ results placed them in the ranking of the worst 5% of the state. The effects of the evaluation carried out in 2010 by teachers at the end of the first year of school education (grade 9) showed that the percentage of subjects failed by the students was very high.

As many as 52% of students did not pass English classes, 44% failed mathematics, 41% had problems with natural sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), and 28% did not pass social sciences (economics, history, psychology, social studies). In addition, an increasing truancy rate indicated that there would be no improvement.

This situation forced the headmaster of the institution, Greg Greene, to seek unconventional solutions that would change his students' attitude to learning and improve their results. A 20-week experiment carried out by a teacher, Andy Scheel, who was leading two groups of students: one in the traditional manner and the other through the flipped classroom method. It turned out that the results of the second group were so good that they decided to turn education upside down at this school.

With the help of the company TechSmith, the school developed useful methods for registering teachers' presentations and distributing them among the students. The system introduced in Clintondale assumed that at-home students would get to know the materials recorded and shared with them by the teachers and their previous homework assignments would be solved during classes under the teacher's supervision.

Thanks to this process, the amount of time teachers spend in direct contact with their students has quadrupled. After one year of classes conducted in this form, students' performance has changed significantly. The percentage of failed exams at the end of the first year of studying English has fallen to 19%, mathematics to 13%, natural sciences to 19%, and social sciences to 9%. The school still uses the system, which has gained fame among both teachers and students.

The case of Clintondale High School is described in detail on the school website, where you can find more information on flipped education based on a specific example, the opinions of students and teachers about the method, and, most importantly, the materials created by teachers. This gives you the unique chance to read through the well-proven way of teaching through the flipped classroom method, or to adapt the ready-made materials to your lessons.

How To Flip A Classroom

There are many opportunities to start working through the flipped classroom method because, as mentioned before, there is no officially accepted model, which would impose the tools or ways of changing the education process. It is possible to freely adjust the method depending on groups' needs, preferences, and teachers’ abilities.

The flipped classroom is commonly associated with short video films and tutorials prepared by the teacher, in which he or she presents important issues for students to learn and understand before the next class meeting.

The advantages of using video films for this purpose were already noted in 2004 by Salman Khan when he conducted and recorded math tutorials for his niece. He explained that by using a film we give students an opportunity to stop at any time and rewind the material to a chosen point and, what is most important, we give them a chance to return to the material at any time. Another advantage is that the film distributed via public and free services such as YouTube or Vimeo can be used by other teachers in their classes.

In addition, it is assumed that creating and using educational materials in the form of multimedia is much more attractive for today’s teenagers and better appeals to their lifestyle. However, the film itself is not the most impressive and effective asset to be used in the flipped classroom. Currently available tools give teachers the ability to integrate video, audio, animation and dedicated interactive exercises in order to engage students in learning to the greatest possible extent.

How can the flipped classroom be executed by a teacher? Learnetic’s mCourser eLearning Platform, where highly interactive content packages can be deployed and assigned to students, can be a great aid in this respect. A teacher registered in the platform can select a particular digital lesson or other part of available eContent and instruct students to go through it at home. They can then either get acquainted with the material at home using the platform or even download it to the dedicated offline mLibro application and comfortably prepare for class anywhere they want. Working in class can later take a form of discussion or focus on the difficulties and further questions from students.

Operating such platform is also a good way to conduct effective repetition classes. A teacher can provide selected repetition lessons before class and then analyze the results via the platform and diagnose students’ difficulties. Moreover, students can view their progress reports, identify their weak points and ask a teacher relevant questions later on. School classes can mainly focus on helping students in their problematic areas.

Summary

The main advantage of the flipped classroom is the possibility of making students more independent. The ability to manage their own learning process is the basis for making future efforts related to self-education, which in the era of web resources is becoming increasingly important.

In the flipped classroom, students review the material before the classes, and therefore they can adjust the speed of acquiring new information to their abilities. The teacher, on the other hand, is relieved of the obligation to present new material in class, and the time thus saved can be used for creative discussions or solving problems. Moreover, thanks to a more frequent teacher-student contact and with the help of eLearning platforms, an educator is now able to read a detailed report on specific problems faced by particular students.

Applying the flipped classroom method with the use of such tools allows students to learn not only by reading texts previously prepared by the teacher or watching his recorded presentation, but also through solving interactive exercises. This way of learning is more engaging, helps the learner acquire new information, and gives him or her a chance to create a well-established and multi-tiered knowledge.

If you want to learn more about how technology affects practically every aspect of education, including teaching and learning materials and methodologies, download the eBook To Be, Or Not To Be? The New Challenges Of Educational ePublishing.

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