Picture this: the traditional school system has changed. Now, instead of completing homework at night (or in the morning before the school day), you are finishing your assignments in class. Not only have your homework habits changed, but you have also begun to listen to lectures and learn your topics at home. As crazy as this idea sounds, this style of learning, which is known as the “flipped classroom,” has made its way to Jamesville-DeWitt High School.
“I transitioned to the flipped classroom after taking a class on modern technology at Syracuse University, because I thought that it would make learning more interactive for students,” says English teacher Diane Rushford. Mrs. Rushford began the new program in the 2013-2014 school year, starting with her 11th grade English students. “I am always looking for new ideas to help students learn, and I’m open to anything that will help make Algebra 2 easier,” says math teacher Charles Clinton, who began using the flipped classroom in the spring of 2014. “I really liked the idea of getting away from long lectures in class. Students now are really technologically-savy, so (the flipped classroom is) a better use of time, and helps students to learn at their own pace,” says math teacher Jay Lang, who transitioned his Algebra classes to the flipped classroom this year.
However, the decision to flip their classrooms meant a significant workload for these teachers. “I had to have a website for the videos, particularly one that had a mobile app, and I had to learn how to make the videos,” says Mr. Lang. Mr. Lang received a great deal of support from the J-DHS administration, who supplied him with an iPad to use in class. “I had to take the traditional lesson and put in on a video. I teach the examples that I would have taught in class, which is how I create the lessons,” says Mr. Clinton. “I experimented a lot with using free web-based programs, like TED Talks, in the classroom. I think that students liked that the video clips were fun, and really simplified things,” says Mrs. Rushford.
At first, students had mixed reactions to learning that their classrooms would be flipped. “My initial reaction was that it was interesting, but I was worried about keeping up with the assignments,” says freshman Hannah Turtle, who is a student in Mr. Lang’s algebra class. “At first, I was surprised, because I had never heard of something like that before,” says senior and Algebra 2 student Chloe Chin. “I thought it was kind of cool,” says freshman and Algebra student Will Upton. “I was worried about the workload, because I’m really busy,” says junior Owen Volk, who is one of Mr. Clinton’s Algebra 2 students. “I think that all of my students responded differently, but overall their responses were more positive than not,” says Mrs. Rushford. Mrs. Rushford adds that at first, there were some obstacles with technology. “There were times when students were unable to access the programs, and therefore could not complete their work. I think that was the biggest frustration,” she says.
Despite their initial reactions, students and teachers alike agree that there are numerous benefits to the flipped classroom situation. “Now, we use the class time effectively. I see them doing the work, and I can help them when they don’t understand,” says Mr. Lang. “It’s great for absent students, because they can still get the lesson online. I also think that it’s really great for teaching different levels of students, as they can fast forward or rewind based on their level of understanding,” says Mr. Clinton. “I like it because it makes me feel independent, and I think that I understand the material better,” says Turtle. “It gives us more practice time in class, so we have more of an understanding of the material,” says Volk. “We progress through our lessons more quickly, because most of our learning is actually outside the classroom,” says Upton. “I think it’s beneficial because it allows students to go at their own pace in the comfort of their own home when dealing with difficult math concepts, and the actual class time allows for more personalized help,” says Chin.
What’s in store at J-DHS for the flipped classroom? “I would eventually like to extend the flipped classroom to my computer science classes as well,” says Mr. Lang. “I’m taking this a year at a time, but I would love to get into mastery learning, where students are learning that their own pace and aren’t forced to deal with time constraints,” says Mr. Clinton.
So who knows? Maybe that crazy classroom shakeup can prove to be beneficial after all.