Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Flipped Classroom?


The catch-phrase of the moment in America is the concept of 'the flipped classroom'. It is the source of many twitter #edchats, the content of many blogposts and the idea behind many discussions and forums. However, the whole concept seems to be slightly unique to some countries because of their existing curriculum.

In NZ, a flipped classroom would look very different. Our curriculum is one where the whole child is supported. Text books in our primary schools line the odd shelf and gather dust while teachers toil over the important aspects of student engagement and toil over authentic learning journeys!

In our primary schools, a flipped classroom is simply where the students lead the learning and where teaching and learning is shared equally between student and teacher. The only things have really flipped are the planning (student-driven) the assessment (context-led) and the content (student-led). The responsibility for the context of learning and the content of the teaching is now firmly in the hands of our students as the curriculum lends itself to a whole-child and student-led approach.

In our secondary schools, however, I believe that the flipped classroom that is talked about in the States, has a place. Our secondary schools are largely content-driven, teacher-led, talk-and-chalk facilities, driven by the sole purpose of gathering results. We all accept the need to test and to be able to benchmark learning, but it would seem that our high schools are essentially still the place where creativity is largely killed while kids are shoved at high speed into the exam-box in the quest to get them to Uni. Now I am sure there are exceptions to this rule, but the cold hard facts speak for themselves. Our secondary students are in need of a change of style and a modern approach to an age-old problem. How do we turn an exam-based curriculum into a student-led, life-relevant classroom?

Enter the flipped classroom! Students do their learning online at home and then come in to the classroom where the teacher simply supports the new learning. Next learning steps and problems are solved through videos and online tutoring, while the teacher is able to be a guide and mentor.

Perhaps we need to look at this concept more closely in New Zealand. If free education really exists, then free tutorials and free lessons are really the way of the future.



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