The idea of the flipped classroom materialized in 2008 with two Colorado chemistry teachers, Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann. In the subsequent four years, many teachers have adopted the practice, resulting in flipped classrooms that increase in number every year. But in education, four years is a mere blink of an eye in terms of measuring something’s worth. Is the flipped classroom working?
According to a survey of 453 flipped educators conducted last June, 88% reported improved job satisfaction, and of those, 46 percent reported a significant improvement. Well, that’s outstanding to hear that teachers are happier with their jobs, but what about the students? Don’t worry, there’s good news there as well. 67 percent of teachers surveyed reported their classrooms had higher test scores.Let’s quickly revisit the concept to any new readers. The flipped classroom uses online videos and social media to deliver instruction and course material to the student at home, while classroom time is spent working on assignments and allowing the teacher more freedom to engage with the students instead of lecturing.
A recent article in the Orlando Sentinel highlighted a few Florida educators who adopted the practice. Kevin Franklin, a young world history teacher, is taping QR codes to the classroom door and asking students with mobile devices to scan them to immediately know what the agenda is for the day. From there, the flipped classroom is in full effect. Class time is spent making podcasts, designing “digital collages” on a visual social network called Glogster—never heard of that one before—and allowing Franklin to roam the room and engaging students more than if he were to spend the period lecturing.
Critics of the process state the obvious: The flipped classroom doesn’t work for students who don’t have personal electronics or internet at home. It’s a valid concern, and it reminds me of an article on MindShift:
… anecdotal evidence suggests that flipping classrooms is a more popular practice in wealthier suburban communities where nearly all students have internet access at home and schools are more likely to have computers in classrooms. Some skeptics say flipped classrooms still rely heavily on lectures by teachers, which they argue are not as effective as hands-on learning. Still others worry that the new practice—so dependent on technology—could end up leaving low-income students behind and widening the achievement gap.
The article continues to talk about a lower-income high school in Macon, GA that received a federal grant that provided netbooks for all the students. As a result, a number of teachers chose the flipped classroom approach, and in chemistry class, passing rates went up from 30 percent to about 75 percent. That sounds like excellent news, but not all lower-income areas have the privilege of being granted netbooks for every student. I encourage you to read the rest of the MindShift article to gain a better understanding of this complex issue.
I don’t fully know if the flipped classroom will catch on and become as mainstream as pioneers Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams want it to become. What is important is acknowledging what can be learned from the process. Like we’ve always said, the presence of technology in the classroom is not the sole agent of motivation and student success. Teachers will continue to be the main influence in a student’s education, and it’s there where we see the fundamental strength of the flipped classroom. Its primary objective is to not simply introduce technology into a student’s life, it’s to make the teacher more available to that student. So the question teachers should be asking isn’t, should I flip my classroom or not? The question should be, how can I be more available to my students?