That’s exactly how it works for Carlos Moro’s math students at Christopher Columbus High School. Moro pioneered flipped learning at the all-boys Catholic school last year.
“Students say, ‘I don’t write notes very quickly, so I like being able to stop the video,’ or ‘When I review for tests, I watch all the videos.’ There is no more excuse that ‘Oh, the teacher went too fast.’ You can write down your questions while you are watching the video and ask me the next day in class, and it’s so much more productive. The incentive to watch the video is knowing that there will be application the next day in class and we can really focus on what they didn’t understand.”
Aside from the issue of access to technology, the biggest concern regarding flipped learning has to do with homework.
“The flipped people brought homework into the classroom” by expecting students to do work at home and then use it to complete activities in class, says Nova Southeastern’s Mary Ann Tobin. “It’s the old-school model of teachers expecting students to do their own preparation.”
But when students fail to prepare, says her daughter-in-law, Janis Tobin, the consequences are more serious in a flipped classroom.
“Kids who don’t do their homework get very behind and get behind more quickly,” she says. “If they don’t do the homework, they don’t get the material they need to lay the foundation” for what is being done in class.
Despite its advantages – which include homework videos sometimes going “a little bit viral” – Janis Tobin has concluded that flipped learning “is not the be-all and end-all.”
She says she and her co-teacher “ended up looking at the content and letting that decide whether or not we flipped the class. For example, when you talk about gravity and weight, there’s so much you can say about it, but when you get kids weighing things and dropping them, they get the concept so much better. But some of the more abstract things, like the structure of the atom, were hard for kids to hear about on a video when they didn’t have the foundation.
“The frustration level shut down learning faster when they have ultimate control at home. They can just turn off the video and that’s it.”
Ultimately, educators agree, flipped learning is what Janis Tobin calls “a great tool in your toolkit.” Mary Ann Tobin stresses that “the teacher’s job is to know about the flipped classroom and decide if it would work in their context.”
Adds Pedro Garcia-Casals, assistant principal at Columbus High: “The challenge for me is to keep the focus, so that we keep the things that are at the core of the learning process. All of this [technology] is just an enhancement.”