11th graders, chat as they work on their homework in a pre-calculus class at Segerstrom High School in Santa Ana, Calif.
teacher Crystal Kirch, center, talks to her students in her pre-calculus class at Segerstrom High School
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - When Timmy Nguyen comes to his pre-calculus
class, he's already learned the day's lesson - he watched it on a short
online video prepared by his teacher for homework.
So without a lecture to listen to, he and his
classmates at Segerstrom Fundamental High School spend class time doing
practice problems in small groups, taking quizzes, explaining the
concept to other students, reciting equation formulas in a loud chorus,
and making their own videos while teacher Crystal Kirch buzzes from desk
to desk to help pupils who are having trouble.
It's a technology-driven teaching method known as
"flipped learning" because it flips the time-honored model of classroom
lecture and exercises for homework - the lecture becomes homework and
class time is for practice.
"It was hard to get used to," said Nguyen, an
11th-grader. "I was like 'why do I have to watch these videos, this is
so dumb.' But then I stopped complaining and I learned the material
quicker. My grade went from a D to an A."
Flipped learning apparently is catching on in
schools across the nation as a younger, more tech-savvy generation of
teachers is moving into classrooms. Although the number of "flipped"
teachers is hard to ascertain, the online community Flipped Learning
Network now has 10,000 members, up from 2,500 a year ago, and training
workshops are being held all over the country, said executive director
Under the model, teachers make eight- to 10-minute
videos of their lessons using laptops, often simply filming the
whiteboard as the teacher makes notations and recording their voice as
they explain the concept. The videos are uploaded onto a teacher or
school website, or even YouTube, where they can be accessed by students
on computers or smartphones as homework.
For pupils lacking easy access to the Internet,
teachers copy videos onto DVDs or flash drives. Kids with no home device
watch the video on school computers.
Class time is then devoted to practical
applications of the lesson - often more creative exercises designed to
engage students and deepen their understanding. On a recent afternoon,
Kirch's students stood in pairs with one student forming a cone shape
with her hands and the other angling an arm so the "cone" was cut into
"It's a huge transformation," said Kirch, who has
been taking this approach for two years. "It's a student-focused
classroom where the responsibility for learning has flipped from me to
The concept emerged five years ago when a pair of
Colorado high school teachers started videotaping their chemistry
classes for absent students.
"We found it was really valuable and pushed us to
ask what the students needed us for," said one of the teachers, Aaron
Sams, now a consultant who is developing on online education program in
Pittsburgh. "They didn't need us for content dissemination, they needed
us to dig deeper."
He and colleague Jonathan Bergmann began condensing classroom lectures to short videos and assigning them as homework.
"The first year, I was able to double the number of
labs my students were doing," Sams said. "That's every science
In the Detroit suburb of Clinton Township,
Clintondale High School Principal Greg Green converted the whole school
to flipped learning in the fall of 2011 after years of frustration with
high failure rates and discipline problems. Three-quarters of the
school's enrollment of 600 is low-income, minority students.
Flipping yielded dramatic results after just a
year, including a 33 percent drop in the freshman failure rate and a 66
percent drop in the number of disciplinary incidents from the year
before, Green said. Graduation, attendance and test scores all went up.
Parent complaints dropped from 200 to seven.
Green attributed the improvements to an approach that engages students more in their classes.
"Kids want to take an active part in the learning process," he said. "Now teachers are actually working with kids."
Although the method has been more popular in high
schools, it's now catching on in elementary schools, said Afstrom of the
Flipped Learning Network.
Fifth-grade teacher Lisa Highfill in the Pleasanton
Unified School District said for a lesson about adding decimals, she
made a five-minute, how-to video kids watched at home and in class, then
she distributed play money and menus and had kids "ordering" food and
tallying the bill and change.
A colleague who teaches kindergarten reads a
storybook on video. The video contains a pop-up box that requires kids
to write something that shows they understood the story.
The concept has its downside. Teachers note that
making the videos and coming up with project activities to fill class
time is a lot of extra work up front, while some detractors believe it
smacks of teachers abandoning their primary responsibility of
"They're expecting kids to do the learning outside
the classroom. There's not a lot of evidence this works," said Leonie
Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, a New York City-based
parent advocacy group. "What works is reasonably sized classes with a
lot of debate, interaction and discussion."
Others question whether flipped learning would work
as well with low achieving students, who may not be as motivated to
watch lessons on their own, but said it was overall a positive model.
"It's forcing the notion of guided practice," said
Cynthia Desrochers, director of the Center for Excellence in Learning
and Teaching at California State University-Northridge. "Students can
get the easy stuff on their own, but the hard stuff should be under the
watchful eye of a teacher."
At Michigan's Clintondale High School, some
teachers show the video at the beginning of class to ensure all kids
watch it and that home access is not an issue.
In Kirch's pre-calculus class, students said they liked the concept.
"You're not falling asleep in class, "said senior Monica Resendiz said. "You're constantly working."
Explaining to adults that homework was watching videos was a little harder, though.
"My grandma thought I was using it as an excuse to mess around on the Internet," Nguyen said.
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