Educational Technology in a Flipped Classroom Setting
The rise of technology in the classroom opened up new doors for educators, who saw the potential for computer use and the incorporation of multimedia elements to engage and motivate students. This literature review reported that technology had been harnessed to implement the inverted, or flipped, classroom model and that, by extension, the flipped classroom methodology might increase student motivation and comprehension. This innovative educational structure used video production software and the World Wide Web to move lecture presentations out of the classroom, while it brought more interactive and intellectually demanding activities in. This literature review first examined the nature of the flipped classroom and then considered its potential benefits to students, in light of brain-based learning theory.
The Flipped Classroom Model
Though it was popularized by the much-publicized work of Bergmann, Sams and Khan, the flipped classroom model was first described by Baker in 2000. Baker sought to offer students more class time to engage with the material without sacrificing the breadth of the course’s curriculum (as cited in Strayer, 2007, p. 61). Baker provided lecture notes to university students online and spent class time on group work and practice problem sets. The students Baker surveyed reported that they received more personal attention, had more control over their learning, and thought more critically about the material following the classroom flip.
Though Lage, Platt, and Treglia (2000) coined the classroom model “inverted,” rather than flipped, their methodology was essentially the same as Baker’s (p. 32). In an undergraduate economics class, students were offered a choice of videotaped lectures or narrated PowerPoint slides to review outside of class, then in class the students worked practice problems in groups and performed experiments. Lage, Platt and Treglia recorded generally positive feedback from the students, noting, in particular, that women showed greater satisfaction with the classroom experiences than men, and that women actively participated more in the inverted class than they did a traditional classroom.
Seven years after Baker’s and Lage, Platt and Treglia’s studies, high school chemistry teachers Bergmann and Sams teamed up to record their PowerPoint lecture presentations using screen capture software. While they had intended for the videos to be used by students absent from class, they found that even students who had been present in school would watch their lectures to study and review course material (Bergmann, 2011; Schaffhauser, 2009). According to Bergmann, what followed was essentially a whirlwind of interest in what he, like Baker, termed the flipped classroom.
Bergmann and Sams’s classroom experiment gained the attention of many in the education community, including Khan of the Khan Academy. Khan reported that he received communications from classroom teachers who used Khan Academy videos on YouTube to help them as they implemented a flipped model. By opening up their class time to more interactive, student-centered review of content, Khan (2011) asserted, those teachers had used technology to humanize their classrooms.
Flipped Classrooms and Brain-based Learning
The benefits of the flipped classroom, as described by Kahn, included a teaching approach that focused on the student. The growing field of brain-based research has informed this student-centered approach. Brain-based research also showed that the application of neuroscience to education could have positive ramifications for student achievement. Jensen described this rising paradigm, blending education with brain research, as brain-based learning. According to Jensen (2008) “Brain-based education is learning in accordance with the way the brain is naturally designed to learn” (p. 4). It took advantage of neuroscience research to design educational experiences customized to the inner workings of the human brain. Jensen went on to elucidate the ideal conditions for learning, and then related these conditions to classroom practices. The practices suggested by Jensen were facilitated by open classrooms in which students could collaborate and research freely—key aspects of the flipped classroom model. Jensen provided a useful introduction and overview of brain-based learning; it was also designed as a manual for teachers seeking to integrate brain research into their teaching strategies.
Applying brain-based research to the classroom, as Jensen advocated, improved student achievement. One recent study set out to compare the effectiveness of brain-based research (experimental group) with more traditional methods (control) in a boys’ secondary school in North-West Frontier Province (Ali, Ghazi, Shahzad, & Khan, 2010). Students in the experimental group were placed in an environment that had been shown by previous research to be aligned with brain-based research: their classroom chairs and desks were organized in such a way as to facilitate small group discussions, and computers with Internet access were readily available so that they students could explore their own lines of inquiry. Pre- and post-testing showed that students in the experimental group outperformed students in the control group on subsequent written exams (Ali et al., 2010).
Duman (2010) built an experimental group’s environment around three facets of brain-based learning conditions: relaxed alertness, orchestrated immersion and active processing—all key components of the flipped classroom. Relaxed alertness required that students be allowed to express their opinions, ask questions and remain challenged during the class period. Orchestrated immersion and active processing required that teachers provide authentic learning experiences that were complex, offer social interaction between students, and demand deep thinking and creative processing from the learners. The control group experienced a traditional classroom environment, consisting of lecture and question-and-answer. Duman recorded both quantitative data, obtained through the use of pre- and post-testing, and qualitative data, obtained from the students. The author found that students placed in the experimental, brain-based learning environment scored higher on-post tests than their counterparts in the control group. Students in the experimental group also reported that they had found the brain-based learning environment enjoyable.
Technology in the Flipped Classroom
As Khan noted, the classroom flip as described by Baker and Lage, Platt and Treglia exploited the technology available to teachers and their students. The flipped classroom model opened up class time for student inquiry, which was facilitated by the presence of Web access and computers. Wilhelm and Wilhelm (2010) described inquiry as a form of teaching that “privileges preexisting interests, unique perspectives, and the various strengths of students who typically may be marginalized in school” (p. 39). They went on to discuss the various modes that an inquiry-based curriculum might implement in the classroom. These included articulating essential questions for students to answer, incorporating multimedia elements for students to explore and design, and assigning culminating projects that demonstrate proof of understanding. The authors concluded that such strategies would motivate students in their thinking, reading and communication skills. Wilhelm and Wilhelm also asserted that “traditional information transmission approaches like lectures, worksheets, formulaic assessments, and textbook reading” fell short of the inquiry-based model (p. 40).
In spite of the benefits described by Wilhelm and Wilhelm, many teachers saw obstacles to creating classrooms devoted entirely to inquiry-based learning. The incorporation of time-saving technology, though, was a recurrent theme in the literature surrounding the implementation of flipped classroom models. Bebell and O’Dwyer (2010) summarized evidence across many studies indicating that 1:1 programs were correlated with increases in technology use in schools and student engagement, along with modest gains in student achievement, as assessed by state testing.
An example of technology use in a flipped classroom was the Learning Catalytics software created by Mazur (2011). Dwyer wrote that Mazur’s program allowed professors to assign students to review lecture material at home, and then to rapidly evaluate their understanding in class the next day. The software would poll students with concept questions, allowing them to respond using smartphones or laptops. The instructor subsequently received formative feedback, and the students received personalized messages telling them what concepts they needed to work on, and even which other students in the class could help them. This information, available to both instructors and students, fueled in-class discussion for the day.
Toppo (2011) documented the work of high school mathematics teacher Roshan, who found herself “pressed for time and struggling to reach a generation raised on YouTube” (para. 4). Like Mazur, Roshan used technology to implement a flipped classroom model. Roshan digitally recorded lessons with a table computer and then uploaded them to iTunes. Students were required to watch the lectures for homework. Each day in class, students solved problems that would otherwise have been assigned for homework. Roshan reported a higher pass rate on the AP exam, more independence among students, and more class time to devote to review and one-on-one practice with students (para. 9).
The success of Roshan’s course redesign would not likely surprise Wilhelm and Wilhelm, given their comments on traditional modes of teaching. By setting up a classroom environment that forced students to think critically and solve problems, Roshan, like Bergmann, Sams and Mazur, used 1:1 technology to effectively engage and motivate students. This was precisely what pioneers in the field of flipped classrooms hoped to capture. By opening up their time with students to more inquiry-based, student-centered activities, these instructors not only harnessed the full power of the technology available to them, but they also brought their teaching methods in line with brain-based learning theory.
Ali, R., Ghazi, S., Shahzad, S., & Khan, H. (2010). The impact of brain based learning on students’ academic achievement. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 2(2), 542-556. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.
Bebell, D., & O’Dwyer, L. M. (2010). Educational outcomes and research from 1:1 computing settings. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(1), 5-16. Retrieved July 20, 2011, from http://www.eric.ed.gov/
Bergmann, J. (2011). The history of the flipped class: How the flipped class was born [Web log post]. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from http://blendedclassroom.blogspot.com/
Duman, B. (2010). Effects of brain-based learning on academic achievement: A sample case of in-class application. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, (41), 91-115. Retrieved from Education Resource Complete database.
Dwyer, L. (2011). Will a Harvard professor’s new technology make college lectures a thing of the past? Good. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from http://www.good.is/post/will-a-harvard-professor-s-new-technology-make-college-lectures-a-thing-of-the-past/
Jensen, E. (2008). Brain-based learning: The new paradigm of teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Kahn, S. (2011). Let’s use video to reinvent education. Speech presented at TED2011. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html
Lage, M. J., Platt, G. J., & Treglia, M. (2000). Inverting the classroom: A gateway to creating an inclusive learning environment. Journal of Economic Education, 31(1), 30-43. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.
Sams, A. (2010). The flipped classroom [Audio blog post]. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H4RkudFzlc
Schaffhauser, D. (2009). The vod couple. THE Journal. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from http://thejournal.com/articles/2009/08/09/vodcasting
Strayer, J. F. (2007). The effect of the classroom flip on the learning environment: A comparison of learning activity in a traditional classroom and a flip classroom that used an intelligent tutoring system (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Ohio State University. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi?acc_num=osu1189523914
Toppo, Greg (2011). Flipped classrooms take advantage of technology. USA TODAY. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2011-10-06/flipped-classrooms-virtual-teaching/50681482/1
Wilhelm, J. D., & Wilhelm, P. (2010). Inquiring minds learn to read, write, and think: Reaching all learners through inquiry. Middle School Journal, 41(5), 39-46. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from Education Resource Complete database.