"Flipping" classrooms might work in county

Latest educational trend may be helping Beaufort County students succeed or it could be just another education fad.

newsroom@islandpacket.comMarch 10, 2014 

It's yet to be seen if "flipping" classrooms will yield better results for students, but we believe it's worth a try, particularly in Beaufort County.

In one of the latest education trends to hit the classroom, the lecture-like portion of a lesson is watched at home instead of at school. Teachers create and assign short online videos as homework so students can view them at their own pace and as many times as they need to grasp the new material. Other presentations, links and multimedia tools may also be included to complement the online lesson. The approach requires a heavy dose of technology -- something this generation of students is not only comfortable with, but excited to use.

The next day, the teacher serves more as a coach than lecturer, reinforcing the new content with hands-on activities and other personalized help. Thus, the homework part is done during the school day, often aided by more technology.

This form of blended learning, which has taken root in some Beaufort County classrooms, has some teachers touting its results. More teachers would like to flip their classrooms according to school district leaders, but cannot because some students lack access to technology at home.

It's evidence that education, like all professions, is susceptible to trends -- some that produce lasting results and some that fade away in a matter of school years.

Neither trendiness nor the possibility of failure should deter educators from taking calculated risks and trying this and other new approaches to reaching students.

Parents are demanding more choices from their schools, and are increasingly embracing the notion that not all students prosper in a one-size-fits-all education environment. Now is the time that experimentation is not only embraced, but encouraged.

Today's students are growing up in a different world than their parents. Educators should use teaching approaches that speak to this generation of students and prepares them for success in the 21st century world -- not that of their parents' or grandparents' time.

Flipping is particularly well-suited for the Beaufort County School District, which is expanding its tablet program. In coming years, every student will have his or her own device and be able to take it home, allowing more teachers to flip their classes. That's something unfathomable in most of the state's school districts because of the cost. The school district would be wise to use the tablets to the fullest extent.

All of that being said, little more than anecdotal evidence exists that flipping classrooms is a more effective approach than students learning in a traditional classroom. No doubt, some students would prosper in either environment while others would fail. And certain factors, including the quality of the classroom teacher and the amount of family support a child receives at home, has a far greater impact than any type of technology or the classroom trend a la mode.

That's why data is needed, controlling for these variables and scientifically showing whether the approach is successful and what type of students most benefit from it. Too often, there is never a rigorous scientific look at the latest education trend. They simply fall out of favor.

We hope local educators will demand and participate in the gathering of such evidence so that we can be confidant we're serving our students, not just following the latest fad.

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