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Focus on Active Learning: Flipped Classrooms

Written by Jacob Moffitt | Find me on: LinkedIn


Technology in the classroom is growing more and more important, but with that technology has to come a change in the way classes are taught. These days, students have a wealth of information at their fingertips thanks to the internet, and whatever concept they cannot get a basic grasp of from Wikipedia, there are dozens of educational YouTube channels ready to fill them in.

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Long story short, students are better than ever at teaching themselves, these days, and the modern classroom has adapted. One of these adaptations is known as a flipped classroom. Simply put, the flipped classroom is one in which many of the activities a student would do outside of class – namely homework – are done in the class as a demonstration of what they’ve learned, while the traditional lecture has been replaced by easily-digestible videos, reading materials, and other learning materials, all accessible outside of class. The idea behind a flipped classroom is that students learn outside the classroom at their own pace, then demonstrate that knowledge to their instructor and their peers.

Activities to demonstrate knowledge inside the classroom can vary, but most often involve some sort of interaction with the rest of the class. A student may be called upon to give a presentation about the subject matter, or to give a short speech or recitation. In more technical courses, such as those focused around mathematical subjects, such as statistics or chemistry, students often work problems together or individually. In liberal arts courses, such as English, exercises such as short analyses might be requested.

The popularity of flipped classrooms has grown as the use of technology has become more common. It’s not just the internet either: cheaper cameras mean professors can more readily record their lectures, readily available broadband means those lectures can be accessed from just about anywhere. Web developers design APIs with the teacher in mind, letting them input their own questions and answers into flashcard programs that run from the browser. Reading material can be culled from just about anywhere in the world, photos can be called up from any point in history, and guest lecturers can be found in just about any field, thanks to websites like TEDTalk or Khan Academy.

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It’s possible, though, that the real reason that flipped classrooms have come together in the way that they have, and have become so prevalent in higher education, is simply because the technology exists to make these classrooms into centers for collaboration. Having a central hub that all students can connect to in order to better “interface” with the teacher and the rest of the classroom has made sharing the information learned outside the classroom easier for all involved. Adding to this, according to a report by comScore, the majority of digital content being consumed by all users these days is primarily done via mobile devices, such as phones or tablets.

It used to be that walking onto a college campus meant walking into a sea of open laptops, but now you’re more likely to see students staring at their mobile devices while they sit in the parks surrounding campus, or in the dining hall. As course material becomes more mobile-friendly, it becomes more adaptable to the modern higher-education setting. Why should it be any different within the classroom? If a student who normally doesn’t work from a laptop is suddenly forced to do so, it’s likely that their comfort level with the material drops at a comparative rate to their comfort level with the device.

Having hardware to integrate student’s mobile devices, as well as integrate those last few holdouts still using laptops, can bring a classroom into the modern age without causing students to need to adopt unfamiliar or unaffordable hardware. Most cell phone plans include options to finance mobile devices on a monthly basis at little-to-no interest rate, making them far more accessible than traditional notebook workstations.

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In order to keep up with this demand, manufacturers of collaboration hardware must do two things: keep their hardware compatible, in order to ensure functionality with the widest range of mobile devices, and keep their hardware affordable, since many institutions are working with limited budgets for large-scale upgrades. Any classroom with sufficient collaboration hardware, such as wireless presentation systems like wePresent, is able to become an active learning space. All it takes is changing the way the material is presented and discussed.

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Topics: Smart Classrooms , BYOD , Interactive classrooms , Interactive learning , Classroom technology

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