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Bringing the classroom home: How learning outside of the classroom promotes growth

Teachers lecture in hopes of their students learning the material, but with a new class dynamic at Hastings High School, it is not the teacher that is responsible for teaching the material, but the students teaching themselves.

The flipped classroom allows students to teach themselves the current class material as a way to prepare for class the next day. Teachers create online lectures or activities as a way to engage the students while giving them the opportunity to complete lessons at home.

The take-home lesson can consist of the teacher filming him or herself teaching a particular lesson in a condensed 10- to 15-minute online video versus the typical 30 minutes to one hour of class time that it would normally take them to teach live in front of students. The class time is then used for either group activities or an opportunity for students to ask teachers questions and fine tune their skills.

The system prevents students from feeling uncomfortable with class pace as they can sit and watch or learn a lecture once or 100 times at home. Hastings High School civics and psychology teacher Josh Colvin says that the flipped classroom is not a new phenomenon.

“I happened to graduate college as this became a trend,” Colvin said. “Instead of me up here presenting information, I’m just asking questions and then their job is to go out and research that. It allows them to work at their pace.”

Colvin has dedicated eight out of his nine years of teaching to the flipped classroom and says that if planned correctly it can be effective; however, students need to be self-reliant as their level of responsibility can reflect on their grades.

“It’s not like flipped teaching is a panacea, it’s just another tool that in the right setting can work,” Colvin said. “Work ethic carries students a long ways and so that’s kind of a trade off.”

To ensure students without the strongest work ethic can learn, teachers typically allow them time in class to ask questions and use it as an opportunity to explain how this way of teaching is or isn’t helpful to them.

Hastings Middle School math teacher Jessie Holm conducts a flipped classroom in similar ways, but only uses the method for certain units and chapters as she finds it to be the best method for the lessons that she just hasn’t quite found a way to teach effectively in class.

Holm’s method also helps students with poor work ethics in similar ways.

“When I start seeing those kids that they aren’t checking in their assignments with me, we’ll have a little conference,” Holm said. “I have gone to the point when it’s getting close to a deadline, kids will sit down and we will plan out their weekend.”

According to an article published in the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), “The traditional classroom has utilized the ‘I Do’, ‘We Do’, ‘You Do’ as a strategy for teaching for years. The flipped classroom truly flips that strategy. The teacher uses ‘You Do’, ‘We Do’, ‘I Do’ instead.”

While some students find this approach helpful, there is one obstacle that some teachers and students face: technology.

“Not everyone has access. We live in a rural community and not everyone has Internet at home,” Colvin said.

A majority of the time, the lessons rely on some form of technology, whether that means a computer or device to watch an online video or just the need for Internet to complete workshops or activities. Some students may have access to Internet or a computer, but availability is limited depending on a ratio of amount of kids to the amount of devices.

In addition to the issues technology may bring to a flipped classroom, there is fear that it causes a lack of communication or relationships with teachers.

“I have to find a way to make sure that they still feel that strong connection to me, so there’s a disadvantage, as well as the technology doesn’t take the place of me, but I can let it make me lose touch with them if I’m not careful.” Colvin said.

While Colvin finds technology an issue, Holm says it is not an obstacle in her classroom. Some classrooms in the district, including Colvin’s and Holm’s, have laptops that are accessible for their students. In Holm’s flipped environment, the lesson can be done either at home or in class, giving students the option to work on either the homework or the online lesson where they see fit, the class time or at home. In Colvin’s classes, the online lesson is done at home and the assignment is done in class.

Holm also says that there are multiple times throughout the day for students to come in and watch the lesson, if they are unable to watch it at home. Some of the times include around 15 minutes between when the buses arrive and the first bell rings, and also morning meeting times in the middle school.

“There’s nights in our home, we have to take priority who’s going to get the computer,” Holm said. “Many kids have phones, they can watch it on the bus.”

Technology issues aside, Colvin says that in an anonymous survey he conducted, students feel very connected to each other because the amount of in-class time they spend with their classmates, which is due to the flipped classroom.

“What I wanted to do is make sure that it had the human element of interaction especially within my content of social studies.” Colvin said.