Flipping over the Flipped Classroom?

So the new rage in education has a label- The Flipped Classroom! There is a movement that believes that it is the perfect mix use of technology that has and will continue to transform the education of America’s students. The flipped classroom is based upon the use of technology to help deliver lessons outside of the classroom (the lesson is watched at home for homework), thus allowing students to spend class time fully focused on subject matter and the expanse of it.  No class time is wasted on the lesson, thus is fully maximized on the development of the understanding by the students. In the words of Wikipedia: Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of blended learning in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class with teacher offering more personalized guidance and interaction with students, instead of lecturing.

I sure hope that we are NOT all so short sighted as to believe that this is educationally transforming.  The development of the textbook was in turn the first form of the “flipped classroom”. Teachers were able to assign students the task of reading the next lesson for homework so that they may concentrate class time on developing a better understanding. Was this revolutionary? I would argue that the introduction of using textbooks as homework reading simply increased the school day hours.  It no longer limited the time to read and study to the availability of the text in the classroom, but allowed the access to reading the text to 24/7.  Students today are so very thankful for this development.

The Flipped Classroom simply takes the concept of the textbook (reading/learning 24/7), and expands it with the introduction of technology. The ability of teachers to create video and audio lessons allows them to reach students while they are outside of the classroom walls. It may be created by someone else, with the objective to better prepare the students for the activities/ discussions of the classroom. So while many in America demand longer school days, there is already a movement that is providing just that. At what cost?

If we are to truly take advantage of technology, why do we simply have students watch a lesson at home? I would argue our students are provided LESS support: Lessons are stagnant, lifeless, with no ability to “Connect”. If a student has a question or comment to make during the lesson, he or she is then required to keep their thought process for 12-16 hours until they are back in class? It is easy to say students can write down those questions and thoughts, but what about the ability to capitalize on the opportunity to inspire and empower as it happens?

To be a proponent of the Flipped Classroom, one would have to use technology in a more prevalent capacity.  Combine social media/ discussion boards with the video lessons.  Allow the students to collaborate and share ideas in real time as they are watching the lessons.  How about having a video conference with students, or even with teacher as the lessons are watched.  This will provide a platform for real, meaningful learning to happen, and provide a platform for the following days activities to be truly based on feedback from the students. Instead of simply increasing the “learning” time by extending lessons to be learned for homework, teachers can increase learning by teaching a lesson, collecting information on lesson mastery, and thus developing the next days activities around what the students need.

The flipped classroom has a place in education, as it has been around for decades.  However, it is not revolutionary, and we should not treat it as such.  The education revolution will not be based around the use of technology, but rather on what technology can provide us. We must remember that true educational transformation will come when the revolution is based upon the needs of the learner. We must get back to caring for the students, to truly inspire and empower an individual is most powerful and the results (data, testing) will take care of themselves.