Flipping your classroom doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. Learn how to use a blended learning approach to save time, decrease your workload, and make your life easier.
What does the term 'flipped classroom' mean to you? Regardless of whether you’re for it or against it – you’ve probably heard the buzz around this somewhat new learning model.
When I asked Amanda Dills, the Instructional Designer from Oklahoma City University (OCU) what she thought of the flipped classroom, she said it was “interesting to see how this concept went from being one of the top trending pedagogical models in education, to ending up somewhere in the middle of people’s mixed emotions. They either love it or think it’s too overwhelming.” Dills is the primary person at OCU who deals with training, supporting, and the administration of the university’s learning management system. As the only instructional designer on-site, she makes it a point to advocate using technology in a way that will make people’s lives easier.
The rise and fall of the flipped classroom
In order to “flip a classroom,” most educators think they need to record all of their lectures and put them online for students to watch at home. This way, class time can be completely dedicated to discussions and other more engaging projects and exercises. Although there are many teachers who have flipped their classroom in this traditional sense with success, “what I want to teach people is that it doesn’t need to be as black and white as that,” explains Dills.
“The rise and fall of the flipped classroom is perhaps too dramatic of a way to describe it,” she says, “but I’ve definitely seen a disillusionment with it as a learning model. Implementing flipped classroom techniques shouldn’t be looked at as this big daunting task that now requires educators to record all of their lectures.”
Instead, she encourages teachers to think of it this way: “How can I replace certain elements or integrate technology into either my face-to-face course, or build an online course in a way that works for me?”
“I want to give instructors permission to figure out what activities most excite them, then they can use technology to fill in the gaps – that’s when you see the most impact.”
Are educators enthusiastic or skeptical about the flipped classroom model?
Apparently, a little bit of both. “Many people have this impression that putting things online or incorporating these elements into their classes is just another hoop they have to jump through,” Dills says. “So yes, there’s definitely resistance.”
So why go to the trouble of learning a new tool, especially if there aren’t immediate benefits? Because it will save you time, decrease your workload, and let you teach the way you want. “That’s what I really get passionate about. I want to help people realize this is something that is actually going to help them, make their life easier, and their students happier – this is what adds value for educators.”
For example, if you’re not a great lecturer, then why spend the valuable time you have with your students doing something that you’re not passionate about? Instead, Dills encourages educators to explore a more open-ended method of teaching where you decide what sort of activities are worth doing in-class. You can then use technology to transform these activities into exercises that can be done outside of the classroom. If you want to learn how, check out her session at Fusion (details below).
When trying out new things, what motivates educators the most?
According to one survey, out of 453 teachers who flipped their classrooms, 67% reported increased test scores, 80% reported improved student attitudes, and one high school in the U.S. even saw its ninth grade math students’ failure rate drop from 44% to 13%. These numbers look great on paper, and “student engagement is a nice perk, but on its own, it’s not something that will sell a teacher on utilizing technology in the classroom,” explains Dills.
The most effective incentive for faculty and teachers is showing them they can save time, teaching the way they want to teach. According to Dills, once educators see their students are much more engaged and having a better experience in class – “that’s what cements it and makes it a permanent change.” In her experience, “the world of a faculty member is so busy and complex that anytime [she] can show them a way to decrease their workload through blended learning techniques is generally where [she] finds the most success.”
What’s the best advice you can offer to new and experienced educators?
Dills believes that for someone who is primarily an in-class instructor, face-to-face time with students is the most valuable resource they have. However, the problem is, “People often spend the time they have with their students doing what they feel like they should be doing, rather than what will have the most impact.”
One of the most memorable moments in Dills’ career was when a new professor asked her how to setup PowerPoint®. She had assumed that’s how she needed to deliver her lectures, even if it wasn’t her method of choice.
“I told her if this wasn’t something she was passionate about using and didn’t believe it would make the maximum impact on her students, then she didn’t have to lecture this way,” she recalls. “The realization that you don’t have to do something a certain way, if it doesn’t work for you and if it doesn’t excite you, was inspiring for her.”
Having this mindset might seem simple enough, but many new faulty members (especially those in higher education who don’t come from a teaching background) assume the way they were taught is the way they now have to teach. One of the most exciting things Dills feels like she can do is “help people realize they can actually change what they do and make it something that’s more rewarding for them and engaging for their students.”
The flipped classroom approach may not work for everybody, but according to Dills, there is a way to design your course and learning materials to be more personalized and open-ended.
“There’s a combination of science and art in figuring out a personalized approach that works for the teacher and those being taught.” And if you want to learn how to save time, decrease your workload, and make your life easier – make sure to check out Amanda Dills’ session at our upcoming event, Fusion – on Monday, July 18 at 10:40am.
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