Flipped Classrooms Promote Personalization in Higher Education
May 29, 2012 Comment
A frustrating aspect of many college courses is that class material is typically transmitted from teacher to students in a one-size-fits-all lecture format. Students are exposed to information and ideas in lockstep fashion, even though they may not start with the same level of knowledge or learn at the same pace.
Enter the flipped classroom. You may be familiar with this term primarily as it applies to K-12 students, as popularized by in a 2011 TedX talk by Salman Kahn, founder of Kahn Academy. Many college educators are embracing and exploring the flipped classroom, too--especially as educational technologies evolve to make the flip more robust and more rewarding for teachers and students.
In a nutshell, the flipped classroom takes the content traditionally disseminated in the classroom, often in the form of lectures, and translates that information into online videos and other digital formats, letting students digest that content outside of the classroom. Class time is freed up to focus on inquiry, interaction and applying knowledge. In many cases, this means that what used to be classified as homework is now becoming class-work.
To learn more about this approach to teaching (which is an ideology that predates today's technology), check out Kevin Makice's post "Flipping the Classroom Requires More than Video" on the GeekDad blog at Wired.com. In Makice's words, "The flipped classroom is about making connections with learners and differentiating your instruction." That ability to differentiate is critical to why flipped classrooms are so exciting.
As Makice points out, one of the most powerful aspects of the flipped classroom is that it offers students a close approximation to one-on-one tutoring. When deployed effectively, the combination of digital tools that support a flipped classroom allow for self-paced learning outside the classroom, with plenty of reinforcement and feedback loops to reinforce individual achievement.
Additionally, the technologies connecting student and teacher create a pedagogical two-way street that can provide very detailed insights into how each student is progressing--even allowing the instructor to adjust classroom activities based on real-time data. Of course, all of this is possible in both physical classrooms and virtual classrooms, and the tech-enabled ability to flip classrooms is one of the driving forces behind the recent rise in MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses).
From the perspective of a student trying to get the most out of classes--and for whomever is paying for those classes (parents, the student, or an employer)--the level of customization enabled by the flipped classroom is very appealing, not only because it has the power to make learning more engaging, but also because it has the potential to offer every student a more personalized educational experience. Ultimately, in a new educational landscape facilitated by technology, every student has a greater chance at achieving mastery.
Too often, even successful students slide by with "minimal mastery." They learn just enough, and remember it just long enough, to make the grade. But how often are they prepared to remember and apply that knowledge outside the classroom? Will they be able to use what they have learned in a year or two--or a decade or two?
Technology tools that personalize education and increase the opportunity to achieve true mastery hold out great promise, both for students who want to get the most out of their education, and for employers who are looking for confident, capable, well-educated workers.
Have you taken a course with a flipped classroom? How did it work for you? How did it compare to more traditional classes?
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