The Shift to “Flipped Classrooms”

As SLS gets used to our switch-over from FirstClass to Google Apps, there is another, even more impactful switch in progress. It is not a switch between operating systems or software, but a shift in philosophy.

Welcome to the world of the “flipped classroom.”

In traditional classrooms, the teacher’s role is front-and-center, delivering lectures to the class at the front of the room each day. By contrast, in a “flipped” classroom, the teacher instructs via podcasts or webchats outside of class, and then has homework completed within the classroom itself. The object is to inspire the students, put them in charge of learning, and to make the classroom a place where questions can be asked, rather than concepts handed down. This groundbreaking model has been adopted throughout the country (with great success in some inner-city schools, especially), and, thanks to Ms. Preston and the IT Department, it is slowly coming to St. Luke’s.

But, one may very well ask, why flip?

“The way I see it, online classes are things that more and more students will see, in high school or college. If our driving focus as a school is to prepare our students for college, this is one area in which we can do so,” said Mr. Yavenditti, Head of the Upper School.

Ms. Johnson, Upper School math and computer science teacher, is teaching one of the first “flipped” classes: Introduction to Computer Science. The class is conducted almost entirely online, meeting just once a rotation. According to Ms. Johnson, this has helped her students develop skills beyond the realm of computer programming.

“One of the SLS goals for student learning is ‘metacognition’; that is, we like to see students ‘learning how to learn.’ Online classes like mine force a student to learn how best to learn.”

But, does it work? Ms. Johnson certainly thinks so; she says that she is “amazed and delighted” at her students’ success.

“I appreciated the opportunity to work at my own pace,” said Ben Sagalyn ’14, a graduate of Ms. Johnson’s first semester Introduction to Computer Science class. “It’s convenient to be able to ‘have class’ on my own time.”

That said, other students are less sure. One student, who asked to remain anonymous, commented, “The class is harder because the learning is all on you. The teacher doesn’t really teach in school, so it’s up to you to grasp the concepts.”

The Administration, however, seems pleased with the direction that Ms. Johnson and her fellow online pioneers – Mr. Griffa, Mr. Mitchell, Ms. Tobler, Mr. Bruner, and Mr. Kress – have taken. On his blog, Head of School Mr. Davis praised the initiative, commenting that, “the more I learn about the flipped classroom, the more right side up the concept seems.”

Sebastian Bates, World News Editor

Posted by on April 4, 2012. Filed under School News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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