On Board Online • June 9 2014
By Catherine Knight
If you Google “flipped classroom,” you’ll get well over seven million hits. The phrase refers to a student-centric educational model that has gained tremendous traction in a relatively short time. Unlike the traditional format in which a teacher presents a lesson in a classroom and students complete a homework assignment, the flipped model uses lessons that are posted online as short videos or “screencasts” for students to watch, usually at home. Students complete homework, and teachers use class time to answer questions and lead hands-on learning activities.
“Time spent in the classroom is centered on the students and not the teacher,” said Teresa Prendergast, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Nassau County’s Garden City Public Schools. “The role of the teacher shifts to helping the students master the concepts, not deliver the information.”
In Garden City, high school teachers Michael Stano and Allison Moss implemented the flipped model in September in a Regents Earth Science class that they co-teach.
“The flipped model facilitates individual attention, personalized instruction, hands-on activities, and project based learning – the same terms used to describe pedagogy to support the co-taught class,” Stano said.
One advantage of the flipped classroom is that it enables each student to learn at his or her own pace.
Students can view a single lesson video multiple times, review selected segments, and pause the screencasts to take notes.
The teachers use the learning management system Edmodo as a platform for communicating with students. “Edmodo is free, and user-friendly,” Stano said. “The format organizes information for the student on a locked, password-protected site. Homework assignments and reminders are pushed out, and links to the next screencast lesson are posted on the same page.”
Screencasts, usually three to five minutes each, are created by Moss and Stano, uploaded to YouTube, and typically include an entire week’s worth of content. With the Facebook set, the methodology puts students in familiar territory, and in control of their own learning.
From the teachers’ point of view, the greatest benefit is the gift of time. “In a flipped class, we have the time to teach fundamental skills that are required for analyzing labs, reading articles, and applying knowledge to activities,” said Moss. “We have been able to work in small groups to review concepts, practice test-taking skills, and work in the computer lab to teach students how to write lab reports. Mr. Stano and I can provide more learning opportunities than in the past due to time constraints. We find the flipped model very effective.”
The district’s science curriculum coordinator, Elena Cascio, noted that the flipped model is just one of the approaches that Stano and Moss have been using to engage and challenge the students of all abilities in their inclusion classroom. “The most important advantage of this method is the fact that it frees classroom time for building higher-order thinking skills and the application of learned principles. Even though planning and preparation of the flipped model is very time-consuming, Mr. Stano and Ms. Moss are committed to continuing its implementation because it helps them provide more attention, differentiation, and support to each student in class,” said Cascio.
Students give positive feedback. “It helps me study because I can go back and review something I didn’t understand,” said ninth grader Shannon Sproul. She and other classmates said they take advantage of the ability to pause screencasts, take notes, and play back sections as many times as needed to understand the topic.
Ease of use was another benefit. “It’s really easy to access. You can download the screencast on your phone, wherever you are,” said classmate Caroline Munn. “I was out-of-state and just checked my phone for the next screencast and homework assignment.” For students who become homebound with an illness or injury, the flipped classroom can keep them up-to-date and involved.
While fully online classes lack in-person classroom discussions, the flipped classroom includes them. “When you listen to other peoples’ questions, it makes you think in new ways,” said student Dorothy Durnan.
The only drawbacks the students noted were when an Internet connection fails at home. Many districts using flipped classrooms provide Internet-ready devices to students to ensure equal access.
The flipped model suits many different learning styles, too. Like most people, student Finn Gibbons is considered a visual learner. For him, having the teacher’s face and the content on the same screen has been helpful.
“When the teacher puts pictures and graphs up on the screen, it’s easier for me to learn,” he said. “I also think it’s better because it’s more interactive than textbooks. Since the teacher lays out the lesson the night before, we already have an idea of what to expect and don’t have to spend the first part of class going over what the topic is,” he said.
Gibbon’s father, John, praised the flipped model. “The hardest thing for a ninth-grader to do is take notes and listen at the same time,” he said. “My son could relax in the classroom, knowing that he could come home and watch the teacher online. Another benefit that I saw (was that) when he was preparing for a test, he could watch all of the videos and hit the pause button when the teacher explained a concept; he’d take notes and, when he was ready, he started the video again.
Historically, Earth Science is a difficult subject for the kids. With my other children, I felt kind of helpless – if they don’t have a textbook, and their notes are in shambles, I have no ability to help them. With this, the real benefit is I can watch the presentation and talk it out with my son. To get a parent involved at home is very, very helpful. The teacher comes into my home through the videos, and it’s really been great.”
To view the co-teachers’ Earth Science videos, visit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCu-STz6j5atiklyAHafsYbw.
Other resources for teachers interested in flipping their classrooms are available at: www.flippedlearning.org, Educreations, Knowmia, WatchKnowLearn, or you can search “flipped classroom lessons” on YouTube.com/edu.
Catherine Knight is coordinator of public information for Garden City Public Schools.
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