Flip or Flop

To Teach or Not To Teachflipped-classroom1

To navigate your children through the public school system is challenging.  You will encounter a few excellent teachers, some very good teachers that your child unfortunately does not get, far too many average teachers and a couple really bad teachers.  Your job as your child’s advocate is to maximize their exposure to the excellent teachers, remove them from the bad teachers and minimize the adverse impact of the average teacher.  I am a big fan of the excellent teacher.  I have seen them.  They truly are priceless.

Being a supporter of excellence in education and in particular teaching, you must appreciate the bewilderment at being introduced to the flip and worse yet the “half flip” classroom.  The flipping of the class appears to be the latest fad in education.  The flip classroom, according to the reference sites we were given and a couple of google searches, is the introduction of short multi-media lectures developed by the teacher about 15-20 minutes in length.  The instructor uses classroom time for one on one instruction, assistance in homework and experiments and coaching.  This teaching methodology is being championed by the Khan Academy, pioneers in online education as well as others.  One of the strongest advantages of the “Flipped” class room is the ability for students to make up instruction missed due to absences (not a major issue in our community) and for students to repeat lectures multiple times for difficult material thus allowing the student to learn at their own pace.  I will revisit the flipped classroom later.

The “half flipped” classroom is perhaps the most baffling of all the teaching experiments being performed.  In the “half flip” model there is little lecture occurring in the classroom and no multi-media instruction or support.  It is hard for one to draw any conclusion other than there is little or no teaching being done.  This “half flipped” concept is supported by no research and there is no documentation on the school web site.  In our experience, the instructor was under the impression that students only spend 30 minutes to an hour preparing for class with zero support from them.  This is a delusion.  We are only “half flipping” the advanced and honors classes, primarily because they are the only students that are motivated to self-educate, of course this is not the target of the flipped class room.  Unfortunately, school choice has yet to gain acceptance leaving us with the public schools holding a virtual monopoly on education.  One would think that if the public schools want to experiment with our children, they should give us a choice whether or not to have our children taught or not.

Now to explore the Flipped concept in more depth.  On the surface, the flipped concept is a very challenging process.  It requires a teacher not only to master advance topics but also be able to prepare engaging content and be proficient with developing multi-media material.  Once the content is prepared it needs to be constantly refreshed.  The teacher then needs to augment their teaching skills into coaching skills something the business community invest millions in developing.  If multimedia is a superior form for delivering learning, does it not make sense for the education community to develop engaging, robust, Hollywood “like” lessons instead of teachers bumbling with technology outside their expertise?  I have personally seen some very engaging multimedia lesson.  Taking this logic to the next level, do we even need teachers in the classroom if they are not going to instruct?  We have already established that coaching is a different skill set than teaching.  At the university level, we have successfully leveraged professors for lectures and TA’s (Teaching Assistants) or facilitators for labs or small group work.  The instructor TA model has proven to be effective.

If the “Flipped” approach is successful, not only could we improve learning but also drive out cost.  Who could be against Flipping?   Leveraging professional production companies and expert teachers to develop and maintain engaging educational material is logical.  It is also logical for local educators to staff appropriately.  Recruiting TA’s or facilitators should be significantly more cost effective than qualified engaging teachers.  As long as flipping is properly applied and well executed, it could be successful and cost effective.  Me, personally, I still prefer excellent teaching.  However, given the lack of choice offered by public education, I will wait by my mail box for the tax refund coming from a well-executed Flipped education.



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