The Other side of the Flipped Classroom

When people talk about flipping their classrooms, the conversation seems to focus on moving certain used-to-be-classroom activities (namely chalk & talk) from class-time to home-time using videos, screencasts and podcasts.   That is one side of the flipped classroom model.

The flip-side of the model though, is what to do with the extra time created in the classroom.

Mainstream, traditional flipped-classroom advocates would have students doing their ‘homework’ in class time, assisted by their teacher who is now untethered from the whiteboard and able to work one-to-one with students, each completing individual self-paced work.  It does make sense.  If they are going to be completing individual homework anyway, this is better than doing so alone at night when there is no help available when they are stuck.

If we are not careful though, I think the danger here, is that class-time could become boring, both for teacher and the students.

I’m a champion for the flipped classroom model (at least for my version of it).  But I don’t want to see teacher-led discussions fall out of favour altogether.  A skilled classroom teacher can make a live “talk” inspiring for students.  I still explain some topics to students in class.  The critical thing is to purposefully discern which topics lend themselves to being automated in a podcast or vodcast, and which will be more enchanting if explained ‘live’.

More importantly, now that we have freed up class time by automating much of our talking time, I would like to see class-time used for more than ”doing homework assignments”. When people are together it makes sense to take advantage of their togetherness.  I would prefer to see more small-group discussions, more debates, more role-plays, modelling activities, practical activities, experiments and creative presentations by students.  Activities like these are engaging because they are interactive and social.

Automating routine explanations gives us the opportunity to make our classrooms more participatory, more experimental, more human.  It would be a real shame if instead they became more dull.

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