flipped classrooms, some thoughts

— [update, Jul 15, 2015]

it looks like my original conception below is extremely outdated, especially point no.4. it appears teachers worldwide have been looking for various ways to engage students during the classroom time. and here’s a post with 20 ways. check it out (:

— [/update]

the idea of “flipping” the classroom is not new (has been hearing it floating around for at least 1-2 yrs now). while different pple may use the “flip” term, different conceptions may exist behind those uses. my understanding of it is this:

1. it removes the didactic teaching of a lesson away from the face-to-face (f2f) lesson
2. the didactic part is replaced by the use of ICT-media online. usually videos as it captures images, animations, and sound nicely all-in-one.
3. students are expected to “learn” from the media posted online
4. with the f2f time freed-up, teachers are able to let students do homework and provide closer (or even 1:1 guidance) for students

the above presented some basic assumptions about teaching and learning:

a. teaching is a didactic activity. this is most often found in schools that implement a lecture (with or without tutorials) system. it’s no wonder flipped classrooms have seen many ‘success’ in higher ed (an example) settings as most of us may recall how useful lectures are, perhaps even from (my) JC days. a replacement of the talking head/person in front of the lecture hall with a video definitely presents multiple opportunities, esp. when you have lecturers who speak too softly, speak too fast, speak too slow, talk about things you can read off texts, or talk about things that have nothing to do with the topic at hand and you are expected to read on your own anyway. video, with the ability to play, replay, fast-forward, is simply a saviour!

a related qn would be: is our current CL classrooms (you may replace CL with any subject u teach) as didactic as a lecture? current teachers, especially the teachers who have walked their practicum journey with me during 2012-2013 would know they would never graduate from NIE if that’s the case. since our classroom practices have already shifted towards more interaction, albeit IRE interactions still exist largely, how much would our students benefit from a flip?

b. teachers post a video of him/herself talking, students watch, and students learn! **WOW** if learning takes place so simply, why do we need teachers stepping into the classrooms at all? just employ a group of “expert teachers” to produce videos, ask students to buy a portable internet-enabled video player, watch the videos, and they will have learnt everything and anything. **WOW** from this perspective, part of the flipped classroom idea takes on an extreme naive assumption of learning. and why does it remind me of educational videos produced by CDIS and played back on Channel 8 some 20-30 yrs ago? or, Sesame Street, anyone?

i would like to also ask: if teachers claim that students are unmotivated during f2f lessons, how motivated would they be to watch/hear you talking to them for an hour or two AFTER SCHOOL? to learn? so, the flip idea appears to require students who are already motivated to learn (for whatever reason(s)) to begin with, isn’t it?

while posting videos appear to be the hype to some when they learnt about the flip idea, it is the f2f time that is the key consideration. WHAT are we going to do now with time supposedly freed up? say, i. let students do more drill-and-practice related to the topic in the video?, ii. engage students in discussion about the topic in the video?, iii. organise students into groups to discuss their ideas about the videos followed by some presentations?, iv. give students enrichment materials related but beyond the scope of the video and do (i) to (iii)?

now, does one realise that (i) to (iv) still presents a largely teacher-centered way of managing learning activities? while there may be group work, the task, the goal, the topic, and the timeline are all determined by teachers. it is still very far away, if not going against our vision to develop 21 century learners, or self-directed (SDL) & collaborative (CoL) learners.

therefore up to this point, any implementation of “flipped classroom” without the use of ICT (an example), or any implementation that does not advance students’ 21cc, especially SDL and CoL with ICT, isn’t good enough for me. these are just age-old practices relabelled to bring some hype. full-stop.

flipped classroom has to service the rethinking about education (e.g. Bereiter, 2002) if we were to ready our students for the knowledge society. blindly jumping onto this bandwagon, or any other to come in future, isn’t going to help.