Friday, December 19, 2014

Flipped Learning: New in Korea

Quan Quan Nguyen, a Fulbright researcher holding a B.A. in Political Science, presented on the flipped classroom. Usually an open forum has a write-up on what the presentation will entail. Quan's only information alluding to his presentation was the instruction for the prospective audience members, in order to have optimal audience experience, to download the "PollEV" app and register for live polling. Non-iphone users could use the link No other info was given. 

To kick-off his presentation, Quan did some warm-ups for active audience participation, the goal of the flipped classroom. However, at this point he wasn't "teaching" yet on the flipped classroom, he was just ensuring that all members of the audience were focused, THE ABSOLUTE GOAL in fact of flipping. He started out with a teaching scenario of frustration and a teacher's response. The audience was not to say anything but using the polling app in their smartphones, respond briefly to the scenario. Some responses but not a lot ... until the audience members realized their comments were posted on the screen. Oh! The audience then went crazy with responses! Quan rewarded what he felt were the best ... or most creative ... or whatever responses with choco pies (subjective rewarding but the audience was laughing, and also the audience was primarily foreign so most didn't really care to eat the choco pies, but getting a prize has always been a way to externally motivate people). Stimulating the audience is crucial in have an effective classroom learning experience, and Quan was off and running with his presentation!

After three or four polling questions, he had the audience warmed up to audience interaction with the lecturer/teacher. Basically he was reinventing the traditional classroom dynamics of being very teacher-centered to being teacher-student interactive. But the flipped classroom goes even further. It puts the reins of learning directly into the students hands, and ultimately the flipped classroom is more using the teacher as a resource than as an all-knowing fount of knowledge, a learning style that flips Blooms taxonomy triangle entirely over and puts more emphasis on evaluation and creativity and exploring than it does on just receiving knowledge.

Bloom's taxonomy flipped!

The flipped classroom is a relatively new style of education and learning. Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, two high school chemistry teachers in Colorado pioneered the "flipped classroom" learning model in 2007. In 2012 they published their book on the model Flip Your Classroom. And since its humble beginnings in Colorado, the flipped classroom has become a world-wide movement, most evident in Finland, Japan, Iceland and Taiwan.

The two teachers wanted to reach the athletes in their classrooms. The athletes didn't care about studying; they made lousy grades and were focused on the outcome of the brawn rather the input into their brains. The teachers, therefore, were looking for solutions to motivate those academically challenged students, so they began filming and posting information on YouTube for the students to study outside of the class since the students were interested in the computer but not interested in the classroom. With this method the students were able to study the content and come to class for the teacher to help them apply it via homework and other classroom structured activities. These were the infant days of the flip classroom.

Some of the benefits of the flip classroom are:

  • more teacher-student interactions, especially with the weakest students
  • more peer-peer interactions
  • deeper, more individualized learning
  • integrating today's technology to educate today's tech-savvy youth

So how does Korea fit the model of a flipped classroom?

Based on student performances on nation-wide exams, Korea is doing well academically, and within the OECD South Korea ranks fifth in educational outcomes. So what benefit could South Korea expect from using such an educational model? First and foremost, South Korea does extremely well in rote memorization and testing. They have access to a lot of facts and the students are academic vessels to be filled by the teachers. However, if looking at Bloom's taxonomy and the higher skills of evaluation, analysis and creativity, these aspects of performance are little incorporated into the educational learning model. And therefore, students don't have a portfolio of application skills when they move from the classroom to the workplace. Not to mention the fact that not everyone is a vessel that has such high information retention and parroting skills, and so suicide rates from not performing well in rote learning and testing is the outcome. With these many points in mind, there is certainly a place for the flip classroom in South Korea!

Case study in Korea: Bono Middle School in Ansa

Quan has been working very intimately with the Bono Middle School in Ansa with various classes, teaching in one of 20 schools that is currently being used to evaluate the flipped classroom. One of the reasons that Bono was chosen as a school is that it is a low-income school that traditionally hasn't had high expectations from its students. However, the flip model has demonstrated that students who were previous not challenged have done a complete turn-around and started suddenly to excel; in fact, whole classrooms have suddenly been able to flip their testing outcomes!

Also, in order to more accurately assess the flipped classroom in the 20 schools, eight different teachers from widely different subjects (art, math, science and English) are in the school trials. The trial semester is only from August 2014 to Feb 2015, and only some homerooms in the 1st and 3rd year students are included. Because this method is radically different from traditional methods and because students need to study at home and therefore the parents are required to encourage and stimulate the study-at-home time, parents were informed of the semester case study and required to give their written permission for their children to participate in the trials. Almost all parents agreed and gave permission; for those parents who didn't for whatever reason, their children were transferred to other homerooms that followed the traditional learning methods.

So how does the flip classroom work?

The students need access to wi-fi (or a router). They need Internet access, screen casting software ("Explain Everything" app is super popular), YouTube, tablet, iPad, PC, smartphone. These tools just augment the classroom text and other relevant course materials. The curriculum is not compromised, just the mode of learning is altered.

So what actually happens in a flipped classroom?

Many outcomes happen. Quan showed a clip of a teacher on her first day of using the flip being completely angry. She had years and years of experience as a teacher and no longer came in on a weekend to prepare, but because of doing the flipped classroom she had to do a lot of recording and video preparation so she sacrificed her Sunday. However, when the students came to the first class and only 5-6 students of 30-40 students had watched the video she had spent many hours on Sunday preparing, she was incensed. She felt she had wasted her Sunday and now the students were wasting her class time. Her anger was controlled but the middle school students absolutely knew she was angry. She sent all the unprepared students to the back of the room to watch the video clip on their smartphones. This was big shame for students not to meet a teacher's expectations and righteous indignation. She said she didn't have that problem again. They prepared afterwards!

Another scenario was an art teacher who was absolutely clueless how to get the students to do prep outside of class; he had poor classroom management and would give a piece of candy to students for promising to do better the next day ... which didn't happen. So basically he spent his class time giving out candy and never getting any rewards. The students had no proper motivation and the teacher felt extreme frustration at even knowing how to incorporate the flipped classroom.

Yet another scenario was in a math classroom setting. Students were sitting in islands of 4-6 students and doing team work (a big element of flipping a class), or at least they were supposed to do team work. In a one hour session, students had to perform certain math equations and once they had worked them out as a team, they were to raise their hands and get feedback from the teacher. In the flipped classroom, the teacher is always "on", always moving around answering questions, making sure students are on topic, and motivating the slow learners while keeping the fast learners engaged and stimulated. It takes a lot of prep to set up such a learning environment and constant attentiveness to expedite the learning in the classroom. In the math teacher's class, she had five teams and every time they completed a set problem as a team, they were given a circle on the board and then could move on to the next problem. Two teams, one secretly nicknamed "the princesses" by Quan (because as soon as the teacher passed they were looking at themselves in the mirror or primping in some way), never completed any problems even by the end of the class. I'm really wondering how the teacher dealt with these two teams and if she was ever able to get them motivated.

Main take-aways about the flipped classroom:

  • Flipping is about making the most of classroom time. More focus on student learning, less on formal teaching.
  • Technology doesn't drive pedagogy; good teaching is still essential.
  • The first "flip" in flipping is your mindset.
  • This is a global movement that has been proven to stimulate, even spike, classroom learning.

Limitations and challenges to flipping:

  • Need data collection; flipping currently lacks quantitative information (i.e. exam grades)
  • 3rd year students at Bono Middle School are graduating in February, which create conflicts with longitudinal studies
  • Questions raised: Does "flipping" work for all teachers? All students? What are the best practices? Standardized training needed?
  • Still lack of rigorous research on the efficacy of flipped classrooms

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