I am a fan of flipped classrooms. I love the concept of students taking increasing amounts of responsibility for their learning – I find that it energises the process.
First, let me summarise “flipped classrooms”. The concept began in America 10 years ago with video material produced by teachers, accessed by students in their own time.
The aim is for students to become familiar with lesson content in advance so learning becomes the application of the content. It overcomes the reliance on the teacher, engages learners and research shows that it improves attainment.
In the last couple of years, digital technologies have advanced this idea. For instance, some schools use their virtual learning environments (VLEs) while others use Google Docs.
As yet I have not seen too many examples of the flipped classroom maturing into a system that pervades the whole school. It is enterprising and innovative teachers who are doing this in isolation. (I’m hoping people might tell me otherwise.)
I would like to offer a vision for how a whole-school flipped classroom model might work, but before I do, let me provide one more reason for suggesting it.
Unless you are involved in further education you might not be aware of the Feltag Report. It recommends (and the government accepts) the need for post-16 students to have 10 per cent of their learning delivered online by 2015. This is expected to increase to 50 per cent of content by 2017. So major implications then!
One consequence of this is the need for post-16 learners to be able to learn in a flipped classroom style. As such, it could be argued that an over-reliance on teachers facilitating learning pre-16 could cause problems later on. There are different learning paradigms here and I suggest that flipped classrooms offer a solution.
For students to access online learning materials they need not only content but structure as well. It is another form of scaffolding. There are lots of software tools available to do this, just search online for “e-authoring” and you will find software such as Articulate, Storyline, iSpring, Lectora and so on.
America is currently the biggest market so it is not surprising that language and concepts are “Americanised”. Some are PowerPoint-based (which may be a good or a bad thing) while others are not much more than digital templates. They are often mega-expensive. You can get free trials, but having spent the summer test-driving them, it’s an arduous and time-consuming exercise. Those are negatives. The positives centre on how you can easily structure learning so students follow a path you create. This path may have “branches” that allow for content to be revisited if it isn’t understood.
Most exciting of all, some of these tools offer assessment processes that include quizzes and surveys. In this way you can establish the content, give students tasks to complete, and get them to carry out assessments to see how they have done. If they don’t score too well they can revisit the material.
Local management systems
Some of these companies also offer “LMS” packages where you enrol your students onto the system so they receive emails from you to take them to assignments.
The system will record who’s visited the work, how long they spent on it, the results of assessments and even provide certification on completion. This is where whole-school flipped classroom systems can work brilliantly. Parents can be involved too. Homework could be set this way for every student. But homework with a purpose, where preparation is the goal, enabling lessons to focus on the application of knowledge rather than the delivery of it. This would go a long way to helping prepare students to work online when they enter post-16 education.
Some of you will be familiar with the ideas I have summarised very quickly here. I know of one school in the West Midlands that has initiated this approach. They arrived at a similar decision to me, to work with a British company who could create bespoke solutions.
If you have stories about what you’re developing, please do get in touch with me on Twitter. Further informationPhil Parker writes regularly for SecEd on themes of CPD, pedagogy and skills. Read his previous articles at www.sec-ed.co.uk/blog-search/author/37