Thursday, August 11, 2011

Flipping The Classroom: "To flip or not to flip," that is the question!

What follows is an email I recently posted to the AP Computer Science listserv that I thought you'd appreciate:

Flipping the classroom has been a controversial issue for science teachers for some time now as evidenced on the AP Physics listserv. It's only natural that we, as Computer Science teachers, would like to emulate this fad. The idea is this:

(1) if you have sufficient electronic materials such as ppts, pdfs or mp4s, and
(2) if you have sufficiently motivated students ready for said material, then
(3) you can assign most of the traditional class work to be done at home, and
(4) you can focus on the lab work with the students in class!

The problem is that this model is meant to make the most of lab time for lab intensive courses. However, many teachers are flipping their classes even if they teach non-lab based courses. For example, some on the AP Calculus listserv are doing this. I have resisted this trend as I think that the students loose something in the translation. They are there, at least in part, to benefit from your guidance. You can flip a few classes or a unit or two for variety's sake and to see how it works for you. However, if you flip the whole class, you miss interacting with the students and adding your unique perspective on the topic at hand.

The Flipping Trend is a hard one for me to ignore as I have many of my classes recorded as ScreenCasts and SmartNotes that the students could easily view online at home and still get my perspective on things. I share these files with my students already for those that need to review a difficult concept or need to make up work due to an absence. I post these files as mp4s and pdfs on my ftp, blogspot, youtube, slideshare, pastebin and edmodo sites. I don't think I'd flip a Math class. However, my Computer Science classes could use more lab time....

Here's the rub: most of our students are not as well prepared or dedicated as we would like to think. So, many students probably won't complete the assignment at home. Those students will still be wasting lab time trying to catch up on what they missed at home. Let's face it, today's AP students are way too over booked with other AP courses and activities. Now the student is even farther behind the 8-ball!

A. Jorge Garcia
Applied Math and CompSci

Well, that's my 2 cents for the week. I am now stepping off the soap box.

Generally Speaking,


  1. Totally agree with you on the flipped classrooms for calculus. The typical kid in my calc class will go to sports, newspaper, or a job after school. Maybe, if lucky, they will be done by 6. The kid grabs dinner and goes to a class officer, NHS, Student Advisory Council, or some other meeting. By 9 they are doing homework for their three AP courses. Of course, they still have enough energy to learn a totally new concept in calculus via a video that they can't ask questions of. Yeah, right. Even if they don't fall asleep, how many will "get it" ? The next day I'll have to go over it anyway for those (most of them) who didn't get it or didn't do it, leaving the ones who did totally bored. I think videos are great for review, extra help, or the kid who was absent, but certainly not as the major teaching tool for high school kids.

  2. At what point do we stop making excuses for kids and expect them to take responsibility for their learning? Yes, they are over booked, which it typical for all of us adults as well...We learn to manage our time, use time wisely during the day, and organize our activities so that we can get our work done. That is the real world they will soon be in. Flipping does not need to be the "major teaching tool", but it is certainly more helpful for the student when they can save these videos, replay them before tests, pause them when they need to and go back when they need to. While you present a lecture in class, can the student rewind you when they miss something or zone out? This video example was not a good example for flipping. The videos should be straight forward lessons.. not a class interaction where they are only hearing one side of the conversation...I was lost and bored listening to this. A straight forward lesson with a connected activity will also allow the teacher to differentiate easier inthe class the next day so the ones who do get it aren't bored. When done right, Flipping is an awesome learning tool and yes, even for AP students.

  3. Well, I have since changed my stance on this issue! Take a look,