January 30th, 2012
11:00 AM ET

Answers to your ‘flipped school’ questions

Courtesy Troy Stein by Greg Green, Special to CNN

Editor’s note:  Greg Green is the principal at Clintondale High School  in Clinton Township, Michigan. His guest post on this blog titled “My View: Flipped classrooms give every student a chance to succeed” generated more than 500 comments and was shared thousands of times on social media.  In this post, Green offers answers to some of the questions you asked the most.

The response to my guest post last week about flipping the classroom on CNN’s Schools of Thought blog was overwhelming and thought-provoking. While I appreciate that there are varying opinions, I would like to respond to some of the topics that were frequently brought up in the comments section, to provide some further food for thought on the issues.

1. Does the flipped model replace teachers with video? Does it turn teachers into classroom monitors rather than actual teachers?

There were many comments on the role of teachers in the flipped model, some questioning whether the flipped classroom replaces teachers with video instructions. I would argue that the opposite is true. The flipped instructional model makes teachers more valuable in the classroom. They are no longer just delivering information during class, but facilitating learning and comprehension with their students and providing one-on-one instruction.

Teaching is one of the only professions where people are expected to be experts in everything. In other jobs, people specialize in certain areas. Teachers, just like everyone else, are interested in certain subjects more than others. If a math teacher at our school also happens to be a Civil War buff in his or her spare time, why not have that teacher create a video lecture on the Civil War? And if one math teacher is better at explaining calculus while another specializes in geometry, why not have them share lectures with each other? Sharing knowledge this way and making it available 24/7 online benefits everyone. It enables our students, partners and guardians, and even community members, to learn by giving them unlimited access to information.

2. How does the flipped model motivate students any more than the current or traditional educational model does?

The traditional education model was difficult for our students outside of school. There are so many reasons why they didn’t complete their homework, including having jobs after school, having to take care of siblings while their parents were working, and not understanding the material. Using the flip has enabled us to account for these challenges and obligations. We realize that students often have to support their families, so we make their tasks align with what their current obligations and circumstances reasonably allow them to do.

When the video lectures are viewed outside of class, class time becomes available for students to receive one-on-one attention from their teachers and work collaboratively. I believe this model motivates students to succeed because it allows them to truly understand the material, and either slow down the pace or ask questions if they’re having difficulty – options that weren’t really available in the past. Also, if students miss a class, they can easily catch up.
I also believe that our students really do care about their education. When we implemented the flipped model and explained how it worked and its benefits, we immediately noticed a collective increase in self-confidence and more engagement in class. Several students even said that their parents began watching the video lectures with them at home, even though they had never helped with homework before. If we were to all operate under the belief that students don’t care about their education, it would be difficult to make even the smallest improvements to our educational system.

3. Is this use of technology just spoon-feeding students and making it way too easy for them to get out of doing homework?

Since technology and mobile devices are so commonly used in everyday life, why not use an education model that complements this trend?

The flipped model gives students experience using technology and applications that they may not have been exposed to previously. Since technology has become an essential part of almost all jobs, these students will leave high school with the necessary computer skills and online collaboration ability that are crucial in our global economy. In today’s world, every job requires some type of collaboration. Having practice and experience working with others this early in their lives will benefit them in their future careers.

4. Do students from at-risk populations really have access to smartphones?

The smartphone topic definitely touched a nerve for many readers and generated a lot of comments. This was an issue that we also looked into before using the flipped model at Clintondale, because we wanted to be sure that if we spent time making all of these videos, students would be able to access them. So we conducted a survey to find out how many students had regular access to the Internet through some type of device. We learned that 82% of students can access these videos outside of school – whether it’s through a smartphone, an Internet connection at a friend’s or family member’s house, or some other means. Also, our teachers often replay the video lessons at the beginning of class as a review, while they take attendance or pass out materials. This way, we are confident that every lesson is reaching our students in one way or another.

Add on top of that, the fact that some smartphones are now available at $50 per month or less, smartphones have become an option for some, instead of the much higher-cost laptops.

5. Will this model work for every single student, school, geography, learning style, learning disability, age group, etc.?

I can’t say if this model will work for everyone. However, continuing on the same path was not an option for us at Clintondale – we felt that if we didn’t try something different, we would be failing our students. Through the flipped model, we ended up creating an environment where students now spend their time learning material from an expert in each subject, and receiving the support they need to be successful. While this is a new approach to education, the results so far speak for themselves at Clintondale. Yes, there is more research that needs to be done, but right now our students’ grades and state test scores are improving, and they’re excited about coming to school and learning. For me, the most important thing is that we have tried to fix the problem rather than continuing with a system that was not working.

I hope the debate about our educational system and the flipped classroom continues to be a hot topic, because it shows how much people care about helping our students. I would encourage everyone to weigh in and share their comments, opinions, concerns and examples, because we can all learn from each other, and together, we can continue to strengthen our schools.

The opinions expressed in this report are solely those of Greg Green.

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Filed under: Practice • Technology • Voices
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Chandler

    Everyone loves your web blog! Maybe you have a twitter or myspace page? I'd really love to connect and discuss certain things. Thank you for all of your work.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  2. Bob Horan

    Dr. Green, My very best to you and your teachers regarding your 'flipped' classroom approach. You are on the right track in providing many approaches and resources to meet individual differences in a given classroom. I know the effort being put forth by your staff is great, but keep working to improve the system. We have the technology to make individualized learning available – all we need is the will to keep up the effort. Please keep reporting on your success.

    February 4, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  3. Samoa Mithaq

    I started flipping my class since last fall mainly because I felt there was just not enough time in class for students to discuss, engage in activities, get help etc. So when students come to class after having watched my screen casts, I run through some cooperative learning strategies so that they can discuss what they say, solve problems together and verbalize the new knowledge which helps with the retention of the information. It has worked quite well and I no longer feel the stress of having not enough time to cover materials in class.
    The other plus point that appeared later which I hadn't though of was around the final exam time. Most of them were very happy to have access to the screencasts so they can go back and watch and review and hear the explanations again which totally takes away the burden of me having to explain it all again to various kids and allows me to focus on working through specific problems with people who have questions. Good stuff.

    February 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  4. Jeremy

    So this flipped model essentially is like turning all your high school classes into internet/ITV classes in college? I...guess I'm not sure. The accessibility is good, but even in college people tended to find themselves procrastinating on internet/ITV classes. Now that might not be as much a problem here since the students do see the teachers in sort of what you might call a lab session at the normal classroom time.

    February 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  5. victoria

    technology has made learning in great distances very accessable which gives young adults more diverse choices

    February 2, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  6. ceolaf

    so, students using smart phones to watch these video from home will have to use up their data plan quotas for them?

    Do teachers keep track of how much data they are asking students to use per night, per week or per month? What happens once a student has pass their quota? Is there money to pay the overage charges?

    February 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Rodney Weishorn

      well maybe these cellular phone companies should start supplying discounted or scholarship rates under a contract stating the student will do everything in their power to succeed. I think this is cutting edge. Children today are surrounded by technology and to be able to use it and improve their grades and knowledge will only make them want to continue to learn. to be honest a program like this could offer results say in 10 years that could change the united states dramatically. keep up the fight...

      February 9, 2012 at 3:00 am |
  7. Nanette

    As the mother of a teen in high school, I applaud Mr Green. My child has complained many times that it's hard to ask questions in class because of the large amount of subject matter the teacher wants to cover. Woe to whoever doesn't "get" it since the teacher has moved on.

    Sure there is tutoring after school, but with sports, jobs and family obligations, it just isn't enough in today's world. Watching a video on the topic allows the student to formulate questions and rewatch portions to help facilitate learning. Parents could also watch the videos to help their student (and maybe learn a thing or two themself!)

    February 1, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  8. Janet Abercrombie

    Late December, I wrote a post encouraging educators to speak in terms of flipped lessons rather than flipped classrooms. The "flipped classroom" models is discussed in terms of an "all-or-nothing" model. All lessons are flipped. All videos are watched at home.

    I think the idea of flipping lessons is hugely powerful (I've flipped a few myself). I think the idea would be far more accepted if we spoke about lessons rather than classrooms.

    See: http://wp.me/p1Dq2f-i9

    Janet | expateducator.com

    February 1, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  9. Samuel

    You know, it's funny that people resist this model, because it's pretty close to what the military uses to train both enlisted and officers, the difference being that while the video lectures are running the students are in the classroom and the trainer is nearby (but he might be outside chatting with the TAC officer and drinking coffee). However, in the military's ILE program, the students are getting lectures remotely and even interacting with teachers remotely.

    No education program works well for all students: anyone will be able to find some subsegment which could be better served by x or y. But I applaud this principal and his school for taking a chance and trying a new method out: his results will prove or disprove his idea, all our theorizing is just armchairing leading a school working together to try something new. Good luck and thank you for being bold with a broken system!

    February 1, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  10. Jean DeGraaf

    Greg, How in the world did you trust that the students would do the video homework?

    January 31, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  11. Ashley

    So, 18% of your students cannot view the videos after school. Another non-disclosed portion of your students have to rely on going to someone's home to view the videos. It sounds like you have just written off around 20% of your school's population. Sure, you show the videos again at the beginning of class, but that is definitely a disadvantage for students who have no other option. There are a lot of distractions with attendance being taken, students who have already seen the video chatting, etc. It is definitely not an adequate replacement for the more focused attention a student can give the video on their own time outside of school.

    You mention that smart phones ONLY cost $50/month, and that is a less expensive option than laptops. It is for the school, but not for the user. At $50/month for 12 months, you could buy an iPad, and have some change left over. But even the less expensive iPad is not an option for impoverished families. I certainly hope you are addressing their needs in other ways that you just didn't have time to mention.

    January 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Tara

      At our school, students have access to computer labs and headphones. Any student who cannot access the video from home could do so before or after school, during their lunch or study hall, etc.

      January 31, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  12. John Breslin

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    January 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |