What is “flipped” teaching and how is it changing classrooms today?

Brian Unruh, AEA 267 Technology Consultant

Everyone can relate to the experience of sitting down to do their “homework” after school each evening. You tried to find a place that was quiet and began working through the sets of problems your teacher had assigned during class earlier in the day. The assignment probably involved repeated practice of the skill introduced during class. You might refer back to your notes that were taken during class or maybe you called a friend to compare what was covered in class to see if you were doing it correctly. The next day, assignments were handed in hoping it was done correctly, and the teacher started in on the next topic in the textbook.

But what if your homework assignment needed to be done before class instead of having it assigned after class? Some teachers are trying to utilize their time with students better and more effectively by “flipping” their teaching. Although not an entirely new idea, this approach has become more popular with schools—especially those that have one laptop, tablet or other computer device for each student. These devices allow videos and other electronic content to be accessed outside of class and create an efficient way for students to ask questions for further clarification.

One common misconception of flipped-teaching is that the teacher just records his or her lectures for students to watch before class or utilizes videos already created from outside websites such as Khan Academy. Even though this might better use the students’ time and provide more individualized instruction by the teacher during class, it misses the complete power of what flipping the classroom can provide.  In true flipped-teaching, the roles of the teacher and students change from a traditional model.  Instead of the teacher being the sole source of information, they now can organize students to work through similar questions in small groups and guide learning more individually. This approach also lets students take more responsibility for their own learning.

To determine what information to use in the flipped-teaching approach, teachers look at the standards that need to be taught and find the ones that are “rewind-able”.  What information can be best taught in a video or screen capture of the teacher’s computer so the student can pause, rewind, replay, and understand the content at their own pace and as many times as needed? The instruction is then always available whenever the students want to go back and revisit what was taught. This flips whole group, basic knowledge instruction to the individual level outside of class, and provides time during class for group discussion and application of the information in activities that require higher levels of thinking. This allows the teacher the opportunity to prompt, challenge, and have students apply their understanding in class.

Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEA) have been working together to support school districts that have gone or are thinking about moving to a “one-to-one” approach to learning. (“One-to-one” refers to providing one computer, tablet or other electronic device per child for their use as a student.)  AEA’s are offering a growing number of learning opportunities for area teachers and school administrators both face-to-face and via online classes to help understand how to maximize student achievement through the use of technology and transform their teaching . In addition, state wide and regional conferences are offered year-round, and many of the AEA’s offer individualized help based upon the specific needs of the district.

It is an exciting time to be in education! Teachers are being more creative than ever in how they utilize their time with students and technology is extending learning well beyond the traditional school day. Iowa’s AEAs are pleased to partner with local school districts to explore and harness the positive impact on students.

Brian Unruh is a technology consultant with Area Education Agency 267. He is based out of the Cedar Falls office and can be reached at 319-273-8240. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 65,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.

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