Is Flipped Learning the Future of Education?

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I attended a course recently and the possibility of flipped learning was brought up by the course leader, needless to say, it caused quite a stir among the people in the room. Along with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), flipped learning is something a lot of schools are starting to considor as a viable tool for learning, but not everyone is on board with the idea.

Before I break down the arguments for and against the concept, allow me to explain the basic idea of flipped learning.

What is Flipped Learning?

Flipped learning involves the teacher making a video accessible to the children in their class so that they can watch it at home. A popular idea is that the video is used to introduce the topic that will be taught the following day and children can then start their learning quicker the following day having had the input already.

As with any new type of learning, flipped learning is a polarizing subject with people arguing both for and against the implementation of it in their school. On this page, I’m going to dissect these major arguments and then offer my own opinion at the end.

Pro’s of Flipped Learning

People who support the introduction of flipped learning often cite the following as reasons for to implement it; reduction of teacher talking, the ability to revisit and re-watch, accessibility of devices, the ability to implement it at school and a lack of distraction.

Reduction of Teacher Talk

A lot of people who support the implementation of flipped learning focus on the extra learning time the children have during the day. As the video they watch will introduce the subject, as well as the methods being used during the lesson, children are already prepared to begin working as soon as they enter the classroom.

This is designed to either reduce or eliminate teacher talk so the children can begin implementing the skills they’ve seen displayed the night before.

The Ability to Revisit and Re-watch

Another advantage of flipped learning is that children can watch the video multiple times, allowing them to develop their understanding of the subject at their own pace. If there’s an aspect of the learning they’re struggling with, they can revisit that particular section of the video and re-watch it. For example, if the video is introducing grid method and a child is struggling to understand the method, they can rewind and break the video down into smaller more manageable sections to help them fully understand it.

Flipped Learning
The difference between a flipped classroom and a traditional classroom

With flipped learning, SEN or low ability children can watch the video as often as they need to, whereas they might struggle to keep up in a faster-paced lesson.

Accessibility of Devices

Almost every supporter of flipped learning will point to the fact that children generally have access to the internet at home – whether it’s via a mobile phone, tablet, games console or computer – children can access the video and thus access the learning.

This helps to ensure all children can access the learning regardless of absence, holidaying or prior commitments. Normally, if a child is absent for a week of school, they’ll miss a topic and have to revisit it later in the year if at all; however, flipped learning ensures a child can at least identify the subject and develop a basic understanding of it so they don’t fall behind.

The Ability to Implement

Whilst a lot of people initially think that flipped learning is a bad idea because the children won’t watch the video at home, I was recently presented with a great argument that it can be easily implemented.

I’m going to share that argument here.

In every class there are children who will do the homework and do it extremely well and these children will definitely watch the video. Therefore, they can come in and start the work straight away, keeping them engaged with an interesting activity that challenges them.

However, children who don’t watch the video are subjected to an explanation of the learning and are then given a boring activity to complete. Over time, children working on the boring activity (but still learning) will see the other children who have watched the video engaging in a more interesting activity and will want to join them.

Eventually leading to every child embracing the idea of flipped learning.

It’s a great argument, as I’ve often said boredom is a child’s worst enemy, and I can see why it would make implementing flipped learning a lot easier with the children.

Lack of Distraction

As the children are tasked with watching the video at home, they can’t be distracted or serve as a distraction to their peers. Whilst they may have more distractions in the house (PlayStation, toys etc) their parents can confiscate these items whilst they watch the video and take any notes required of them.

Cons of Flipped Learning

Alternatively, a lot of people are against the introduction of flipped learning and will provide counterpoints to the arguments listed above, including; lack of accessibility, no teacher input, peer discussion, lack of differentiation, no homework, and extra work for the teacher.

Lack of Accessibility

Whilst it’s very easy to say that all children can access the internet, it’s a very real fact that some children simply can’t. In 2014, there were 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK and expecting these children to find a way to access the internet at home might be unrealistic. Whether we like to discuss it or not, some children struggle to find food to eat or clean clothes to wear and are highly unlikely to own a device which will allow them to access the internet.

Furthermore, for a lot of children living in this situation, they have several other issues to deal with at home, such as; taking care of younger siblings, looking after their parents, avoiding their parents and/or coping with abuse. When you

When you considor the conditions and issues facing some children, it’s easy to see why studying at home might not be a huge priority for them.

Again, these topics aren’t something that people like to discuss but it’s vital to do so when expecting a child to access a video at home. If three children out of 60 can’t access the learning at home then those three children will be left behind in school, which is something no educator should find acceptable.

No Teacher Input

If the teacher input is mostly done via video then how does the teacher know who understood the work and who didn’t?

A lot of people will argue that the teacher can ask children as they enter the classroom and then organise the children into two groups; those who understood and those who need more input. But surely if the teacher is going to do this, there’s no point to making a video in the first place as you’re asking the teacher to do the work twice. On top of this, what if every child in the group has a different issue that they don’t understand? How is the teacher going to recognize this without spending a lot of time talking to the children, which defeats the overall object of flipped learning?

But surely if the teacher is going to do this, there’s no point to making a video in the first place as you’re asking the teacher to do the work twice. On top of this, what if every child in the group has a different issue that they don’t understand? How is the teacher going to recognize this without spending a lot of time talking to the children, which defeats the overall object of flipped learning?

I also think it’s worth pointing out that some children simply benefit from being face-to-face with their teacher, a prospect which is eliminated when flipped learning is introduced.

A lot of quality work is also produced by children when the teacher can help them model their ideas on the whiteboard before setting them off. However, when showing the children a video, the teacher can only demonstrate their own ideas and can’t ask the children to input their own knowledge each step of the way.

Peer Discussion

When I was in school, a learnt an awful lot by discussing the subject or the method with my peers, often more so than when the teacher introduced the lesson. Children are more comfortable talking with their peers and solving problems with a partner but the possibility to discuss a subject is taken away when children have to watch the video alone.

A lot of practitioners will argue that parents can help children to understand the learning by discussing it with them but, as I’ve indicated, there are parents who simply will not or can not do this.

Lack of Differentiation

The System of Flipped Learning
The System of Flipped Learning

If the teacher puts a video onto the internet for her class to watch, then all children are watching the same video and being asked to understand the same work. Whilst the activity can be differentiated the next day, the teacher doesn’t have the option to set the higher ability children off whilst teaching the lower ability.

Whilst it’s possible to model different questions in the video, aren’t you asking low ability children to watch work that’s too difficult for them and vice-versa for high ability children?

No Homework

A key principle of flipped learning is often the idea that it will replace homework, an activity not all children consistently complete or put much effort into.

There is a lot of merit in this, but I also think it prevents children from being encouraged to stretch their learning. Homework should be used to consolidate or expand knowledge of a subject and give children the opportunity to explore a topic outside of the classroom, not as a tool for introducing a subject that the children are unfamiliar with.

Extra Work for the Teacher

Aside from the children’s learning, flipped learning is bound to have an impact on the teacher as well. Whilst it may seem like making a video isn’t much effort, you have to considor the fact that it must be done on top of marking, planning and assessing. Following on, if your school wants you to create multiple videos per subject (for differentiation purposes) you will suddenly find yourself with a huge workload.

Where Do I Stand?

As you can see, there are several pros and cons associated with flipped learning but I don’t plan on sitting on the fence in this blog so I’ll give my honest opinion.

I’m personally against the introduction of flipped learning.

I think flipped learning brings a lot of great possibilities but I don’t think we’re ready to implement it just yet. In my opinion, we live in a world where children are gradually losing their social skills thanks to gaming consoles and are more comfortable talking to a screen than they are to the person sitting next to them. As a result of this, I think it’s important that we, as educators, continue to promote discussion wherever possible – something I think would be difficult when talking to a camera.

However, the main reason I’m against total introduction of flipped learning is because some children simply won’t be able to access the learning. As I mentioned above, not all children have access to the internet and isolating these children further will only serve to damage their self-esteem and could even lead to bullying. A counter-argument I’m often offered is that schools can make the video accessible for these children during their break or lunch time but I feel this is taking away valuable time for them to socialize and be children.

As I said, leaving even one child behind is one too many in my opinion.

What are your thoughts on flipped learning? Let me know in the comments section below.

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