The classroom lecture. It’s been criticized, despised, even lampooned. An entire generation can probably recite the lines to Ben Stein’s dead-pan, droning lecture in the 1986 film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (“Anyone?… Anyone?”)
But lectures aren’t necessarily bad. In fact , they can be an efficient way to help students acquire new knowledge. The problem with lectures, though, is often a matter of pacing. For some students, the information may come too slowly or repeat information they already know. Result: boredom.
For others, a lecture may provide too much information too rapidly or presume prior knowledge students don’t have. If students zone out for a moment, they may miss important content and be lost for the rest of the lecture. Result: confusion.
After a hit-or-miss lecture, teachers often give homework assignments, which students perform in what may be a private hell of frustration and confusion. What did my teacher said about cross-multiplying? Comma use in compound sentences? The Laffer Curve?
A new generation of enterprising teachers is beginning to turn this classroom model on its head, creating what are called “flipped” or “inverted” classrooms. Using simple web software, they record and post their lectures online, creating mini-lectures similar to what Salman Khan has created with his Khan Academy collection of more than 2,000 online lessons. (Click here to view Khan’s recent TED talk).
In these inverted classrooms, students watch the lectures at home, where they’re able to speed up content they already understand or stop and review content they don’t get the first time around (and might be too embarrassed to ask their teachers to repeat in class). The online lecture also incorporates visual representation, such as animated graphs or photos of important historical events.
Now, when students come to class, they can ask their teachers clarifying questions about the previous night’s lesson and engage in guided practice on problems they might otherwise have struggled with at home in tormented isolation. During class time, teachers can provide students with real-time feedback and correct misperceptions before they become deeply ingrained.
Jamie Yoos, last year’s teacher of the year in Washington state has created his own “inverted classroom” (see below).
Similarly, two Colorado teachers, Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams, have also “flipped” their classrooms with vodcasting (i.e., online broadcasting of videos).
Students of these innovative teachers say they love the new format and are more engaged in class. Sure, there may be a few students out there who still delight in a 50-minute lecture, but for the rest, inverted classrooms just seem to make … anyone? … anyone? … perfect sense.