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Four things I wish I’d known about the flipped classroom

June 5, 2014, 8:00 pm

I have been spending this week at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina as a plenary speaker and instructional faculty at the Teaching and Learning Institute of the Appalachian College Association. This is the second year in a row I’ve been at the TLI as a plenary speaker and staff member, and I’m honored to have been asked back, and it’s been a great week. I’ll have more to say about the TLI in upcoming posts.

For now, though, I wanted to share another thing I did this week, which was to give a talk to the faculty at Ecole Centrale Paris, one of the foremost technical universities in France on the flipped classroom. I was able to be in two places at the same time because the talk to ECP was given via pre-recorded video. That talk was given at the same time as my plenary talk at Lenoir-Rhyne, in fact! Is there a prize for this?

The talk was titled, “Four Things I Wish I Had Known About the Flipped Classroom” and is about, well, what it says it’s about. Here’s the full 20-minute video:

…and here’s the TL;DR for those who don’t want to watch it. The four things I wish I’d known about the flipped classroom before I started using it are:

  1. The flipped classroom has many benefits for students – but, students will not always understand those benefits automatically. Those benefits are numerous: students get practice honing self-regulated learning skills on a regular basis, they get a professionally curated set of materials to use, and so on. But I’ve documented repeatedly here on the blog that there is still a a considerable amount of marketing that has to be done.
  2. The biggest problem students have with the flipped classroom has nothing to do with the content of the course, but rather it’s simple time and task management. I wrote about this first here, and since then I’ve become more and more convinced that an essential part of flipped learning is intentional guidance on time and task management.
  3. The flipped classroom entails significantly more work at the beginning than a traditional classroom. Thinking back two years ago when I was making the screencasts for the flipped transition-to-proof course, I still shudder at the workload. I was taking an entire 8-hour day each week during the semester – while the class was running – just to devote to video making. It was awful! But I could have planned and worked smarter, and the workload is really only heavy at the beginning.
  4. The flipped classroom’s success depends on communication. This is a fact I now stress every time I talk to someone about the flipped classroom, and of course this is not confined just to the flipped classroom. I really think that almost all of my failures as a teacher can be traced back to failures in communication with my students. And if I attend to the communication, the teaching “magically” gets better.

Aside: Giving this kind of talk through recorded video raises some interesting possibilities for “flipped conferences”. For example, what if each speaker at a conference posted their talk online (in video form) prior to the conference, and then at the conference they were required to present just the abstract and then allow 10–15 minutes just for Q&A? I think a lot more “conferring” might happen at conferences, rather than just sitting there and listening.

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