August 17, 2012

Turning teaching upside down

— Traditional education has a teacher speaking to a classroom filled with students and then handing out an assignment for the students to take home, but what would happen if a school reversed that process?

What would happen if students listened to the lecture at home and did their homework in the classroom?

Some seventh-graders at Eastern Pulaski Community Schools are finding out this week as they try a new approach called “flipped instruction.”

The students in one section of seventh-grade science will take home videos that a teacher has recorded covering new material.

They’ll watch the video at home — once or as many times as they like — and then they’ll show up in class to complete homework or projects with the teacher on hand to look over their shoulders and answer questions.

Superintendent Robert Klitzman says this new method is based on recent articles published in education literature, though the school has put its own spin on it.

The new approach is one of many changes coming as the schools gradually phase in the use of iPads in the classroom. Plans call for every seventh-grader to have an iPad by Jan. 1, and teachers plan to begin using them in more and more classes.

Klitzman pointed out, though, that computers and the Internet are merely a supplement.

“The most important thing by far is the teacher in the classroom,” he said.

That is evident in the “flipped” approach to teaching. By using technology, teachers still get the benefit of a teacher’s lecture, but listening to the lecture at home gives all of the students more of a chance to ask questions while giving teachers a better opportunity to help students over the rough spots.

Teachers and administrators at Eastern Pulaski should be applauded for their willingness to experiment with this new approach to instruction.

In the end, the goal of this approach is to give teachers a better chance to teach. If it works in a science class, it might work in other classes as well.

If the method proves effective, we hope teachers in other school corporations will give it a try.