Following some pilot studies and fresh thinking about how to maximize classroom time, some schools have adopted the practice of the Inverted Classroom. Put most simply, in this style of teaching, the students use their time at home as “lecture time,” watching videos or listening to instructions, and classroom time is application time, during which teachers help them learn problem-solving techniques.
Many have sung the praises of such a system. For both college and high school students, video lectures are forgiving for students who’ve missed classes, or for those who process information more slowly. During a live lecture, a student who doesn’t understand a concept with either have to interrupt the flow of a lecture or be lost until the student can go home and reread the materials. In a video, though, students can pause, rewind, and google information at their own pace.
This has been perhaps the greatest point of the flipped classroom style: since “homework” is lecture time, students have full control of their learning. Furthermore, because classroom time is application time, teachers and learning coaches are present to help with the most important part of school — the life skills. The flipped classroom is fully student oriented with a purpose of collaboration and applicable skills.
Naturally, some may worry that students may skip the lectures altogether, thinking that they videos are optional. Students are notorious for not doing assigned readings already, so some argue that making instructional time homework will ensure it doesn’t happen at all. However, according to a responding teacher, no matter what students are given to take home, there’s a chance it won’t get done. Considering that the real importance of teaching is to instill problem-solving skills useful for adulthood, this teacher posited that teachers need to supervise the exercise portion of learning, not the lecturing.
Some teachers who’ve practiced flipped classrooms have noted that it’s awkward lecturing to a camera instead of a classroom, and the instant feedback that a classroom gives to a teachers is lost in the creation of a video. Teachers like the push-and-pull of the classroom and ensuring the students understand what’s being taught.
The biggest problem with the flipped classroom, though, is a socioeconomic one. In school districts that serve low-income families, all students may not have access to a computer or reliable internet, rendering the whole purpose of the flipped classroom mute. SOme teachers have combatted this by supplying students with cheap mp3 players loaded with all the material necessary for the semester. Others have students rely on school computers and wifi in after school hours for this task. No matter how you slice it, there’s a significant socio-economic barrier for these students.
Yet, consider the opposite. In particularly underfunded school districts, textbooks may not have been updated in decades, and information could be grossly outdated. Furthermore, family structures and responsibilities are different for lower-income students. Some students need to care for siblings or sick family members or work after school jobs. As previously mentioned, it’s worse for students to miss lectures than practical application.
In 2017, some school districts may try to incorporate virtual reality headsets into the flipped classroom experience, but again, the issue of the technology gap divides many districts.