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Phoenix Forward

Could the “flipped classroom” method revolutionize teaching?

Could the “flipped classroom” method revolutionize teaching?

Lisa Highfill is flipping her classroom. Her students do their homework at school and get their instruction at home.

She believes the method gives her more quality time with each student. “It’s something that we have been working on for years trying to meet children’s individual needs. I think flip teaching allows me to have the time to do that,” says Highfill, who teaches fifth grade at Fairlands Elementary in Pleasanton, Calif. She is also a teacher preparation instructor in the College of Education at the University of Phoenix Livermore Learning Center.

The flipped classroom reverses the traditional model of teaching a lesson in class and then having the students practice the lesson by doing work at home, explains Highfill, who learned the method at the YouTube™ Teacher Academy in the summer of 2011. Two high school teachers in Woodland Park, Colo., developed the flipped-classroom method in 2004. They were trying to help students who missed classes, and the method is spreading.

Right now, Highfill is the only one using it at her school. She has the support of her school district and offers training to other instructors. “It’s really growing,” says Highfill.

I’m so worried that people get the wrong message. They get the feeling that the kids are teaching themselves. That’s not what I’m doing.

So how does the flipped classroom work? In math, for example, she prepares a simple video for students to view at home. “I have a tablet. I write out math problems and they can watch. They can hear my voice as I go through all the steps.” It’s as if they were in class and watching the teacher write on a whiteboard but the lesson is only about five minutes long. That’s because there is no need to repeat points, take questions or pause for classroom disruptions: The video allows each student to learn at his or her own pace.

“Some get it within the first two minutes. Some need to watch it four times,” Highfill says. The students can rewind the lesson. They can pause the video and go over specific parts. “That’s a huge benefit they don’t get in the classroom.”

The students sign in, view the video and then work on some practice problems. Their work is sent to the teacher. “I can see right away who's getting it and who’s not getting it.”

The next day she can concentrate on those who need help. “Instead of working with the whole group you can engage a small group. You can work one on one. You can give more individualized instruction.”

Highfill doesn’t flip every day. In fact, she gives students a few days to watch the videos. “Some of my kids don’t have access to computers at home so I do it around computer lab days at school.”

She is concerned that many people still have a lot to learn about the new method. “I’m so worried that people get the wrong message. They get the feeling that the kids are teaching themselves. That’s not what I’m doing.”

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