With the new year underway, I’ve been reading a lot of different articles and posts about what 2013 may offer in the way of educational and technological trends. Most are predicting a huge growth in the use of the “Flipped Classroom” model of instruction. For those new to the concept, in a flipped classroom, students attend to recorded lessons on their own and at their own pace outside of class. When students come to class, they collaborate with their classmates on assignments and projects and socially construct meaning of the content. It’s called the “flipped classroom” because it turns the traditional model of instruction upside down. Students traditionally come to class to hear a lecture and then work on assignments and projects outside of class. With the advent of reliable video streaming options, however, educators are recording lessons and putting them online so they can begin to flip their classroom and have students watch their lessons outside of class. This frees up class time to apply the content in new ways.
Many people predict that 2013 will be a year when the flipped model takes off. Take Chris Proulx, President & CEO of eCornell, who recently wrote guest blog post for Forbes magazine on 5 Ways Technology Will Impact Higher Ed in 2013. In his post, Proulx writes “gone are the days when students need to pile into large auditorium just to hear a lecture” and educators should “expect to see more innovation around flipping the classroom” in 2013. In his blog post for Inside Higher Ed entitled The Year Ahead for IT, Lev Gotnick, vice president for information technology services and chief information officer at Case Western Reserve University, writes that “it takes a village to flip a classroom.” Gotnick expects different stakeholders (textbook companies, professional organizations, etc.) to play a larger role in supplying video lectures for supporting flipped models of instruction.
My concern, however, is where most people focus their attention when the flipped model is discussed. Last fall, I served on a panel discussion in Washington, DC with Aaron Sams, the author of Flip your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. We fielded tons of questions from the audience about flipping the classroom. Almost all of the questions focused on the video lectures. The audience wanted to know about video capture tools, different video streaming sites, students’ ability to access the videos, and how the videos were archived. Few people in attendance asked questions about how the classroom time is redesigned and restructured to support student learning. Almost everyone wanted to know how to get his or her lectures online. This video-centric focus is even shared in Proulx and Gotnick’s posts. When describing the flipped classroom model, Proulx writes that by “leveraging online platforms, lectures can now be pre-recorded and core content accessed by students any time, anywhere.” Gotnick writes about students being “prepared in advance having viewed and assimilated assigned preproduced video materials.”
In full disclosure, I have to admit to being guilty of focusing too much on lecture videos myself. Searching the 8 Blog for “flipping the classroom” will turn up several posts and each focuses on tools for lesson capture. But the power of the flipped model doesn’t reside in a bunch of recorded lectures. The real promise of the flipped model resides in the ability to create new learning opportunities for students. By restructuring class time, the flipped model allows educators to change their role from deliverers of information and become facilitators of student learning. By flipping the classroom, educators can develop classroom activities that help students apply the concepts in new ways and help them interact with classroom content in new ways. If 2013 is truly the year when the flipped model expands into more classrooms, our focus needs to be on ways to utilize classroom time to engage students and foster their learning.