The latest educational buzz-phrase is “Flipping the Classroom.” This means turning the traditional notion of class time being devoted to instruction while homework is for applying and practicing the concepts, on its head. As parents have discovered to their dismay, homework is where the main “learning” occurs, and the responsibility for guiding this learning is often theirs by default. They are frequently under prepared, tired after a long workday, and frustrated trying to understand new concepts so that they can help their children complete their homework. Unfortunately, kids often pick up on these negative emotions and associate them with learning. Flipping the classroom changes that paradigm, and new and evolving technology is the catalyst that makes it possible.
The case for flipping the classroom is gaining traction, with educators creating educational videos for students to view at home or after school. Class time can then be devoted to more engaging activities – discussions, analysis, hands-on activities, and experiments, and teachers are available to serve as resources, guides and facilitators to the learning process.
It is new technology that has made this shift possible. It is now relatively easy to create videos and post them online for students to view outside the classroom. However, many teachers are still reluctant to adopt these new education delivery methods, either because of lack of experience with the technology or having to constrain their lectures to a small video screen. The videos appear to be a dull repetition of a classroom lecture and may not engage the attention of their students, especially when they are outside the classroom.
They now have another option. New educational apps for the iPad offer teachers creative learning tools that can assist them to “flip the classroom” with ease. We at Sprout Labs offer a variety of iPad apps with innovative content to engage students on a variety of science topics, and presents different modes of learning (Read, See, Watch, Touch and Quiz) to support students no matter their learning style and preference. Apps on topics in Life Sciences, Earth Sciences, Physical Sciences and Chemistry are already available, with many other topics under development. In the Plants HD iPad app, students learn about the stages in the lifecycle of plants (seeds, flowers, fruits, pollination, germination, dispersal) through interactive activities such as reading along, pictures, interesting facts (did you know tomatoes, cucumbers and beans are really fruits not vegetables?) and a pop quiz structured like a video game with easy, intermediate, advanced levels and positive reinforcement through coin rewards. At the end, students will be able to move the various stages into the right sequence around the lifecycle. By creating a game-like environment, the app draws kids into leaning through play.
Several teachers and school districts have provided glowing reviews of the rich content, vibrant pictures and graphics, effective information flow, and related games. Most importantly, they report that their students have enjoyed using the app – and that’s the first step to engaged learning. And, these apps can be effective tools in flipping the classroom. Having delivered instruction to the students outside the classroom, class time can be put to more effective use in responding to students’ questions about the concepts, engaging in discussions, or practical hands-on applications such as growing a plant.