Flipped classrooms let teachers coach, students learn at their own pace

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Tech-savvy students are redefining the definitions of “homework” and “schoolwork.”  Traditionally, students learn in the classroom and reinforce their learning at home through homework.  A new movement called “blended” or “flipped” learning is turning the old model on its head. 

“Blended learning means that you blend some direct teaching with computer-based activities,” Kathryn Winn Principal Gerda Wise said. 

Rather than have the teacher lecture or present content during class, blended classes have students watch video lectures outside of class time. That way, the teacher is able to answer questions and to help students during class. 

“High school content can be challenging,” said Joe Creager, Carroll County High School mathematics teacher. “Parents can’t always help students with the math, but they can help students with copying down notes.” Creager is able to videotape lectures ahead of time. The students watch the videos at home for their homework so that more time is available during class for practice. Since the note taking is done at home, classroom time is reserved for activities and questions.

“My ultimate goal is to have one classroom where multiple classes can run simultaneously,” Creager said. “Algebra and geometry can be taught at the same time since students can watch the videos at their own pace. The teacher moves from being the sole source of learning to being a facilitator of learning.”

Creager and Laura Willhoite, a Carroll County Middle School mathematics teacher, are part of a flipped classroom cohort through Northern Kentucky University. They attended 10 days of training last summer and agreed to flip at least one unit of one class during this school year.

“We went beyond the minimum and flipped one unit of three classes this year,” Willhoite said. “All of my students have asked that we do even more. The flipped classroom helps keep kids motivated and accountable for their own learning. It’s a strategic process that we hope to continue.”

Teachers are able to leverage other digital resources for their flipped classrooms. Willhoite uses Khan Academy and YouTube as sources for content in her classes.

“I can have 20 students learning 20 different things, all at the same time,” Willhoite said. “We have iPads at their disposal so that students have no barriers to accessing the content.”

Exemplary student work can also be used as a resource in other classes. One of Creager’s algebra classes recently created video lectures of their own that were used in other algebra classes that he teaches. 

Blended learning looks different in each school, but the idea is the same: to leverage technology in the service of student learning. 

“At the end of the day, this is about students and their learning,” Superintendent Lisa James, Ed.D said. “We have a generation of learners who are comfortable using technology. Our teachers are making strides toward meeting those students where they are.”

Through flipped learning, teachers are able to become coaches of learning rather than the sole content source for students. With a multitude of resources available at students’ fingertips, the flipped classroom gives students and teachers a chance to play to their strengths.


Carl Roberts is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.