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Apodaca: Flipping traditional classrooms on their ear

September 15, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

In my previous two columns I wrote about the halting journey toward infusing technology in education, and promising projects underway at some schools.

Yet, for all its potential, technology will be wasted without a concurrent overhaul in teaching methods. It's no good having 21st-century machines if they're plugged into an old, creaky system.

Which brings us to one of the hottest topics in education today: the flipped classroom.

Flipping turns the timeworn routine of classroom lectures followed by at-home work on its head. Instead, students are assigned to watch prerecorded lectures on their own — this becomes their "homework" — freeing class time for questions, discussion, problem solving and interactive projects.

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The concept is gaining steam thanks to books such as "Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day," by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, and numerous articles in the educational press.

Some local educators have taken notice. The Orange County Department of Education in Costa Mesa recently presented a one-day workshop on flipping, featuring a presentation by Bergmann, attended by 90 teachers from throughout Southern California. And this summer the OCDE debuted its first class on flipping; 15 Orange County teachers signed up.

The flipped classroom is just one piece of a larger movement known as the blended classroom, a catchall phrase for the melding of online education with traditional face-to-face instruction. Flipping is generating the most buzz, experts say, in part because it's an easy concept to grasp, and can be modified and adapted to suit different subjects and student groups.

I know. "Flipping" and "blending": It sounds like we're making breakfast. But the imagery is certainly useful considering a good pot-stirring in the staid, antiquated halls of academia is just what we need to meet the challenges of a fast-changing world.

The flipped idea also dovetails with the educational reforms championed by such influential figures as Sir Ken Robinson, a respected author and lecturer, and Salman Khan, whose Khan Academy online videos are challenging long-held educational norms.

The rationale behind flipping is two-fold. First, it attempts to address the problems inherent in the one-size-fits-all model where the teacher stands at the front of the classroom and talks, then assigns the same homework to all students regardless of their level of comprehension. Lather, rinse, repeat, and many kids end up left behind.

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