Debating the Flipped Classroom

The educational topic du jour for 2011-2012 seems to be the idea of the inverted/flipped classroom.  This model assumes that traditional school practices involve introducing content in class, and students furthering their knowledge at home; thus a flipped classroom would have the introduction component happen at home, with further knowledge application happening in the classroom with a teacher.

This model, spoken of today as a new and unique approach to schooling, is heralded by teachers in the STEM disciplines (the educational buzzword of 2009-2010) as monumental.  In the humanities, this is the same old business.  I remember going back to high school where we would read at home and discuss/debate in class.  The content was introduced at home, furthered with the teacher.  The flipped classroom is nothing new…for education.  For STEM, a field that I did not enjoy in my education because of its drill-and-kill nature, this could be a breakthrough.  So what is unique about the modern implementation?

Video technology.  Sal Khan’s videos explaining the pythagorean theorem and FOIL method are no different than a Shakespeare unit having the students read Act I at home, except for its use of video and Internet (and that they deal with disciplines respected in the US, based on educational policy developed post-Sputnik).  His videos are no different than those of Ben Gray, a physicist and nuclear engineer who retired to Jacksonville, Texas and started videotaping lectures on electromagnetism…except no one has heard of Ben Gray because his videos happened prior to the wave of streaming video on the Internet (and he passed away before he could put the videos out there himself).

Regardless, the practice of having a student gain content at home and expand that with the assistance of a teacher at school is a time-honored educational practice.  So why do people like me have problems with Khan Academy?  Because Sal Khan is not utilizing the paradigm from the humanities, where content is followed by authentic interaction.  Instead, the current iteration that is being called “flipped” is the use of existing STEM practices of a lecture followed by a worksheet or problems. There is no interaction, no development, no application outside of the problems assigned, no real-world implications.

In the efforts of promoting an authentic flipped blog, I am going to post an article now and talk about it later…introduce the content now, develop it further later.  The article involves the criticism of a “flipped” class at Stanford University.  I encourage you to read the comments as well, and write comments here if so inclined.  I see a connection between the premise of the flipped classroom and my journey to promote authentic interaction in museum spaces.


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