Digitally Flipping Your Classroom – Old Idea New Twist?

It’s always difficult to introduce a new idea that doesn’t already sound familiar to many educators. So does the idea of ‘flipping the classroom’ really mean anything new? Once could easily argue that technology has changed the way we approach teaching as but some form of technology has always existed in the classroom. What captivates us now is that this is the first time in human history that technology has changed the way we learn simply because it has provided us with new and easy access to what I like to call Information Currency. But you will find that although more and more of us have access to Information Currency, there will be an ever-growing need to manage it effectively which leads us to ponder about another type of currency – Experiential Currency and its management.

The Carabache Twist on the Flipped Classroom

With ease of access to information the flipped classroom concept becomes more enticing especially to those of us who take differentiated instruction very seriously. Imagine a school in which concepts and ideas are initially explored at home and then problems related to those concept ideas are solved at school – under the teacher’s guidance.

Now there’s a revolutionary thought: teachers become the essential guidance system for students who have already acquired the of knowledge needed to solve a problem but have yet to develop strategies to actually solve it. In essence, the student has acquired a certain amount of Information Currency but lacks Experiential Currency to manage the problem.

21st Century teachers have been bombarded with the notion that they are not the centerpiece of the lesson and have almost been shamed into believing that they are no longer the content experts but I argue, that now more than ever, their Experiential Currency Management is needed most. The teaching profession is far from obsolescence. The role of the teacher has become crucial as it moves away from content delivery to the management of information currency.

Managers of Information Currency

As is the case with all currencies we must learn to spend, save or share it depending on the economy of the situation. For example one may decide to share information currency in order to collaborate on a problem or solve that problem within the classroom. Some may choose to save information currency in case it’s yet not quantifiable with any evidence or if there is a possibility that it would bring some competitive advantage. Finally, one may decide to spend time finding information that is related to an idea that they explored on their own.

Continuing with the idea of Information Currency, a teacher will come to see which students in their classroom save information for themselves and are thus competitive, which of those students share information and are thus collaborative, and which of those are always in some sort of information deficit because their efforts are not concentrated or their management of information currency is poor. The teacher’s role becomes prevalent as our students take their places in the information economy because we hold a much higher degree of Experiential Currency than they do and so we can assist them with proper management.

Experiential Currency becomes the one true advantage in the Information Currency Market – which can easily be likened to the monetary market.. just think of it as thousands of children walking around with millions of dollars that they don’t know what to do with!

More Than Activating Prior Knowledge

Flipping the classroom is so much more than merely activating prior knowledge – it is the development and application of that prior knowledge almost at the same time. It is a deep exploration of the way our students learn as they enter the classroom with an armament of information currency that we must teach them to manage.

The simplicity of the concept reaches beyond teaching students good information currency from bad but encompasses an understanding of why students value certain information over other information. This knowledge gives us a window into the way our students really learn and when we discover how are students learn through information currency collection we can then provide them with strategies to solve real world problems.

The Khan Academy is the Beginning – At least is should be.
The Khan academy of learning is the first step in a quest towards a flipped classroom. And I do say it is the first step because even Khan himself states in his mission statement that the website and the videos within were always designed to fill in learning gaps. By pure definition, the site is an auxiliary to teaching, not a change. Even Khan himself states that his competitive advantage is simply his voice, his humour and his visuals. The truth still remains that the site itself is a reaction to gaps in learning. Take a peek at the video below and you’ll get a good introduction into the Khan academy of learning.

In the coming weeks I will be providing sample lessons for classroom use that are practical and meaningful to students. In order to showcase this idea of Information Currency and the Flipped Classroom, II have also submitted a proposal to the International Society for Technology in Education Conference in June of 2012 in San Diego California. Follow me as I go through the process of trying to tease out what it really means to flip a classroom and to determine whether or not this really is an old idea with a new twist.


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