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Flipped classroom transforms traditional teaching

Flipped classroom transforms traditional teaching

May 13th, 2013 by MARY SHAPIRO, Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis in News

ST. ANN, Mo. (AP) - In teacher Rob Lamb's chemistry class, students are embracing a new classroom concept being used this school year in a few classes at Pattonville High School.

Called a flipped classroom, students review a short lecture video at home and do what's considered homework or labwork in class, enabling them to take a more in-depth look at a subject or get more teacher help, the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis ( reported.

Lamb said the flipped classroom has given him more time to focus on concepts, do more labs and spend more one-on-one time working with students and answering questions.

Sophomore Kate Lerch said the flipped setup "frees up time in class to get help."

"And, if you need to hear the information again, you can go back to the video as many times as you need to," she said.

Sophomore Jared Pond agreed the flipped classroom "definitely makes sense to me, and the video lecture helps a lot."

However, he admits the concept takes commitment at home to work.

"Some kids won't watch the video, and our teacher ends up having to go over the information in class, or they don't realize the video told them there would be a quiz the next day," he said.

"But it works, and I understand more this way. We're on the same pace with other classes at school that don't use this; we just do things differently."

A 1998 Pattonville High School graduate, Lamb found out about the flipped classroom method last summer when he was invited to be part of the Discovery Education/Siemens STEM Institute at Discovery Channel headquarters in Maryland.

He and 49 other teachers from across the country were chosen to take part in an extensive professional development program on science, technology, engineering and math education.

"A dozen of those people at the institute were "flippers,"' he said.

"I got a chance to talk to them about how it works, and I was sold on the idea."

He creates various video lectures, less than eight minutes each, for each unit of study in his class.

"I trim a 40-minute lecture down, getting to the meat of what I want to talk about," Lamb said.

The videos allow students to rewind or fast-forward so they can concentrate on specific areas. In classroom lectures, a student who misses part of the lecture, for whatever reason, usually has no chance of retrieving the material, he said.

"The video gives you several shots at it," Lamb said. "It's a huge benefit. If you're sick or have a field trip, you still get the lecture. And kids can watch it again just before a test. They can see me work something out. If they get it right away, they can fast-forward to the end to see if they got the answer right. If not, they can watch the whole thing."

Lamb estimates the videos have gained him 90 more minutes per week in class to help students. He's engaged as a senior researcher in a National Science Foundation cyberlearning grant program being conducted with St. Louis University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the University of Colorado on using informational graphics in the classroom. The extra time in class even helps him engage his students in that project.

Lamb even has given presentations at teacher conferences on how to do the flipped concept.

Students even create some of video content.

"I do something called paper slide videos, where I give kids content they should work on, they break into groups of three, and take five sheets of paper to explain the concept visually," Lamb said.

"They record themselves talking through what they have on paper, and I take the best of those and put it online so everyone can study off each other's stuff."

Grades in his classes have gone up an average of five to seven percent using this concept, Lamb said.

Also helping with the flipped classroom concept is a new digital learning initiative Pattonville High started this year, called iLearn, that included providing each of the 1,707 students with a MacBook Air laptop to use at school and home. The program will continue in future years.

"The goal was to provide our students access to learning anytime, anyplace," said Joe Dobrinic, Pattonville's principal.

Prior to rolling out the laptops, staff spent a year or more developing course-specific Moodles, which are online learning management tools. The Moodles contain course syllabuses, activities, assignments, resources and textbooks. The Moodles also can host discussions and share podcasts and videos.

"We even have some students who take a class where they get real-world technology experience by working in independent study in our iLearn repair depot to help students or staff who have computer issues as an office assistant helping with the repairs," he said.

Lamb praised iLearn because everyone has the exact same type of computer, so there's no chance lecture files won't open.

His students agreed.

"We have the Internet at our fingertips, and all the kids have the same resources," Kate said.

Jared said sometimes the computers allow students to play games rather than just do classwork.

"It can make it easier for people to get off task, but the computers also make it much easier to learn," Kate said.