Thursday, August 11, 2011

Flipped in Clintondale

A colleague of mine sent me an a newspaper article about a local high school, whose innovative (and courageous!) principal was launching a "flipped classroom" design:
 Instead of students receiving instruction in the classroom and then tackling their homework at home where they don’t have teacher assistance, the students in Clintondale High next year will watch their teachers give instruction while at their homes and do their practice work in the classroom.
The teachers have already spent the last 10 weeks working on recording lessons and gearing up for next year’s change. The school has stations set up for the teachers to work on this new program.

'"Class time is spent developing critical analysis and higher-order thinking skills," the high school states on its website, www. “Our faculty are not only experts in their field, but exceptional facilitators. Our faculty assess the needs of each student through personal conversations and assessment tools, then we are able to create a personalized learning experience. . . . “It actually quadruples the amount of time that a teacher spends with their students and also allows more one-on-one time,” [ Principal Greg Green] said.

I really admire this venture in many ways.  As someone who has conducted a "bookless" class using Moodle, I am familiar with many of the strengths of this sort of approach:

* Having the "content" of presentations available for students outside of confines of a scheduled class period makes all sorts of sense, particularly for absence, tutoring, or review.

* Class time can be spent much more interactively.  The focus on the teacher as information dispenser is greatly reduced and time can be spent answering questions, doing projects, working with individuals.

* I think the approach contributes to a healthy shift in the perspective on what teaching and learning actually mean.  Principal Green hopes this leads to collaborations, critical analysis, and higher order thinking skills.  That is certainly possible and would be really cool.

On the other hand, I wonder if Clintondale can foresee how much heavy lifting may be necessary to effectively accomplish the "flip."  I was surprised how long it took me to turn some of my lectures into podcasts.  And what about the standards for these "lectures". Will they be straight audio or talking head video?  Often times today's lectures include slides.  Yes, "death by PowerPoint is a standard part of daily life in high school, but imagine extracting all visual representation from a dry lecture.  If visuals are to be included, suddenly the amount of time to accomplish a first class "filp" goes way up too.

Jackie Gerstein provides another general caution for "flipped classrooms" as well,
A major roadblock or barrier to the implementation of this model is that many educators do not know what to do within the classroom, what to do with that “whatever they want to do” time.  For educators, who are used to and use the didactic model, a framework is needed to assist them with the implementation of the Flipped Classroom.  In other words, the message to teachers to do what they want during classroom is not enough to make this transition.

I wish Clintondale well with their plan.  I think that the most important outcome which may come from the attempt to "flip," is a closer consideration of how class time is actually used.  I've concluded that "lecture" is perfectly suited to recordings that are available to the students 24/7.  But of course good recordings with supporting material will be more effective.  Then the big question becomes, how will the teachers' talents be leveraged in ways that promoted authentic learning at Clintondale High.


Ann Lusch said...

I've been interested in this concept, and in fact I am thinking of utilizing it for a couple of units in a class where the text has suddenly become unavailable and I haven't found a suitable replacement yet. They're not going to be fancy recordings right now, because I have plenty to do in my other preps; so yes, I share your concern about the amount of time involved.

But my gut reaction to the concept is that it's not entirely new. I try not to do very much straight lecturing as it is, but to discuss and to do activities around information students (theoretically) come to class with from doing their homework. The difference? They're supposed to get that information by reading.

I smile when I see comments that with recordings students can go back and listen to parts they didn't quite get. You can't rewind the teacher, after all. But hey, you can reread parts of books, too!

If we are in an age where students will watch videos while they resist completing reading assignments, then maybe this is a way to go. But in a case where all of a student's classes do this and she needs to spend large chunks of time watching or listening to recordings and trying to absorb the information she would have gotten in a seven-period school day, it's possible videos won't seem so fun, either.

Detroit Sports Dork said...

Good point. Some teachers spend a great deal of time "going over the book" in class using publisher provided slides. I wonder if they will review their own presentations the same way. For that matter I know that some teachers' "discussions" (many of mine, I suppose) were also vaguely fill-in-the-blank lectures.

I think a more blended approach (even using a book) has many,many advantages in terms of addressing differentiated learning styles and using less time where the teacher serves as dispenser of information.

Greg Green said...

Larry, I really enjoyed your post about my school. I think that there a couple of game changers when using this approach. When reversing our process, it enables us to eliminate the learning obstacles that students face at home. We suddenly quadruple our support and provide the necessary resources to process the material. This also enables an at-risk student to learn in the same supportive atmosphere as a more affluent one. Second, video allows us to streamline and resolve many of the instructional issues such as teacher expertise, subs, absenteeism and parent engagement just to name a few. For the first time, we can put the best teacher, with the best presentation in front of students at all times.

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