Learning by Doing: Technology in the Flipped Classroom


learning pyramidEducators are familiar with the hierarchy or pyramid of learning in which if you read about a topic, you will retain 10% of what you have read; if you participate in a discussion, your retention rate increases to 50%; if you practice what you have learned, you will retain around 70%; and, at the top of the pyramid, if you actively participate in learning, you should retain nearly all. What is interesting is that providing students with the opportunity to learn by doing is effectively facilitated by using technology in what has become to be known as the “flipped classroom.”

The flipped classroom concept is where instruction occurs outside of the classroom – before or after school – and homework is done during the school day in the classroom. For seasoned teachers, this model might be viewed as completely counter-intuitive, undermining the traditional lecture-and-learn model, and, therefore, calling into question who they are as educators. But, if you step back and assess the changing world we all exist in – new technologies coming on the market daily, each one seemingly more sophisticated than the next; the ways in which students interact with technologies of all types – from smartphones to gaming systems to the Internet; and what was once staples in our education system, such as paper newspapers, chalkboards, and textbooks, disappearing or have already disappeared from sight – you will begin to see that changing the ways in which we teach needs to be at the top of our list.

Not every traditional teaching technique needs to be discarded in the flipped classroom model. Lecturing is still important as a way to impart knowledge and key concepts, but it is not effective as the sole method of teaching. Flipping the classroom does not mean that you put all your lectures on video for students to watch at home, either. What the flipped classroom allows is for you, the teacher, to become an educational guide, coach, mentor, and adviser to your students. Outside the classroom, students can take virtual field trips online, conduct experiments through online simulations, as well as learn directly from an expert, if not the expert, in a field of study. How great an opportunity is that — something that we could not have easily integrated into the classroom 10 or 15 years ago!

Anytime we face change, whether it is in our lives or in our profession, it can be challenging. Like your students, learning something new can be scary and uncomfortable, but it can also be interesting and exciting. And, you do not need to alter all of your classes to the flipped classroom model to try it out. Select one section of a course and, for that section, implement the model to see how it works for both you and your students. You may be pleasantly surprised!

For more information about the flipped classroom, check out Knewton’s presentation on Slideshare.