An Introduction to the Flipped Classroom

An Introduction to the Flipped Classroom

December 30, 2012|Posted in: Collaboration, Flipped Classroom, Teaching Strategies

I once stumbled upon the TED talk by Dan Meyer, a High School Mathematics teacher who introduced me to the idea of the Flipped Classroom (see: How the Flipped Classroom was Born). The flipped classroom is still new to me, but I really liked what I was hearing from Dan in his TED presentation, “Math Class Needs a Makeover”. Math is not being taught to its fullest potential. We need students to experience math, see it in action, and then address how we can solve the problems once they ask how, why, what.

Mr. Meyer brings a simple method of Flipping the Classroom, he calls it Three Acts. In Act One, the story, students watch a quick movie via Youtube.com or Vimeo.com, typically there are no sounds, and few words on the screen. The videos at first glance are insanely random. Someone filling a coffee cup, a box of beads being spilled, an image of a new circular patio being built with large stones. Pretty random, but if we step back and view these short clips as educators we see that there is math going on in each of them. Now the students are introduced visually, with a real example of a math problem that needs addressing. Interestingly enough, the question is not presented in the video. The clip will typically leave students going…”uh…what was that?” Upon a second viewing, the attitudes change, and questions start popping up. “Well, how long would that take?” “How many yellow beads are there compared to red ones?” “What is the distance from one side of the circle to the other?” Here is an example of 3 Acts: Lucky Cow:

Act 1 — Lucky Cow from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

Act Two, becomes the part of the lesson where students must overcome their questions (similar to a Shakespearean play where the protagonist must face the obstacles). Students are encouraged to dig deep, look for resources, and explore the problem and possible solutions. They are not handed the equation or the algorithm and simply told to solve the problem. They must find a way to figure it out on their own, or through conversations with peers. A teacher my step in during this Act to help guide students, but never to simply give an answer.

Act Three, as Mr. Meyer explains, “resolves the conflict and sets up the sequel”. Students bring their findings to the class discussion and evaluate their understandings. The teacher then acts as a mediator of opinions and interjects any pieces that may have been missed. With careful planning, this discussion will lead to new questions, and Act One begins anew.

For me, the flipped classroom is a new way of thinking, and one that I have a hard time embracing 100%. Not because I don’t see the value in it. Quite the contrary, I believe that there is a lot of value in student exploration of topics rather than being spoon fed methods and algorithms. The difficulty arises in the amount of content that is prescribed by the Common Core Curriculum Standards. This being my first full year using these standards, and working with a blended 4th and 5th grade classrooms, I find it difficult to create a fully flipped environment.

It’s easy to see how this can integrate with technology. Students can view the Act One video at their desks on iPads and then work with partners on the Act Two findings, or the video can be viewed with the whole class and then a discussion can begin from there. For me, I have set a goal to do these types of Three Act activities within my classroom, but I know it will take time. Understanding the value of the second act conversation makes me want to integrate these methods more quickly. The flipped classroom is a method worth researching, I believe it will lead to students who are more thoughtful about the world around them. As well as students who are unafraid to ask hard questions and then excited to explore the answers.

Here is a link to Mr. Meyers Blog, and to his excellent Act One web site 101qs.com.

And here is a Mindshift.com infographic on The Flipped Classroom.

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