FLIPPED Learning is the topic of a well-written article in the May, 2018, issue of Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.   The authors, Lim and Wilson, share their experience and expertise in embedding questions in videos as a part of the flipped classroom.  I have blogged before about the flipped classroom, a model in which students acquire knowledge outside of the classroom, usually through videos.  This knowledge is then applied in class through discussions or projects.  Research supports the benefits of hands-on activities for learning math, but does a flipped classroom automatically include such active learning?  Not necessarily.

My biggest concern is that homework is especially fatiguing for students who struggle at school, extending the hours they must concentrate and process information.  There is no shortcut for learning new material, although Lim and Wilson share terrific examples of how to maximize the use of those videos.  Still, videos or not, kids must focus on new content, practice math skills, and then apply that information the next day.  All after a long day of effort.  Ouch!

Many special needs students are simply too worn out for homework.  They need the opportunity to recharge their batteries, engage in physical activity, and focus on their strengths (which may not be tapped at school).  And what about all those kids with social weaknesses for whom group discussions are a blur of white noise?  What about students who have no access to computers?  Videos are also changing; it’s become popular to speed up the presentation, add visual clutter, and increase noise levels to make videos “cool” or catchy (although not as often with math content).  These features actually decrease some students’ ability to focus and make sense of concepts.

If you are looking for good strategies to improve math videos for students, this Flipped Learning article is for you.  But please consider using videos during the school day,  Special needs kids may require a different or second explanation of a concept taught in class.  The pause and replay features are quite useful, as are headphones to eliminate background noise.  The embedded questions can provide opportunities for teachers to determine how much students are learning without the distractions of a group setting.  Use them to provide feedback for your students, too.

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Videos are potentially powerful tools in a classroom.  Let’s not make them a burden.

* F is for flipped

The flipped classroom and flipped learning have been around for a while now, but those terms continue to generate some confusion.  The flipped classroom has been somewhat controversial in that students watch videos or read online info at home and then participate in classroom activities which require that knowledge.

The rationale for this model of the flipped classroom is that school time can then be spent in creative applications of knowledge instead of its acquisition.  Sadly, the brain doesn’t work that way.  Front loading a stack of information is a sure way to overload the brain.  And for struggling students, attempting to assimilate new information after a LONG day at school is mostly futile.  Many of our at-risk students don’t have access to a computer or tablet.  One variation on flipped classrooms is for students to produce these videos for classmates to watch, a kind of “jigsaw” cooperative learning process.  Again, if the watching and learning process must occur after a long day, it’s usually counterproductive.

On the other hand, the flipped learning model is, to me, another way of describing authentic project-based learning.  Teachers establish content and appropriate materials but create a flexible physical environment for group and individual endeavors.  Students are provided rich opportunities for exploration and self-evaluation.  In this role, teachers are facilitators, not lecturers.  They must allow students to explore content by working with others (which can be noisy), provide continual feedback to guide the progress, and establish suitable evaluation procedures.  This kind of teaching requires skilled and experienced educators who know where their kids must be going and can support unique ways for them to get there.  I’ve seen this flipped learning modeled in classes of National Board certified teachers.  Flipped learning is no small task for teachers or students.