Flipping Convention on its Head—CEC Math Teacher, Liz Fant

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For years conventional thinking has had us believing that the best way to learn is for a teacher to lecture in class and send students home with the tools to complete their homework after school hours. But how many times do students get home only to have forgotten half of what they just learned? Or to have missed one very important detail on which an assignment hinges? It happens all the time and can be extremely frustrating for both student and teacher alike.

One solution to this problem is a concept known as ‘flipping’ classrooms, which changes the way instruction is delivered. In its simplest form it can be described as teachers having students do their homework in class and, at home, watching or listening to class lectures via computer, iPad, iPod, or any other means of accessing video and audio technology. The concept can, and does, vary with each teacher who implements it, but this is the basis of the concept.

Flipping has been around for five or more years, but not all teachers have adopted it. At the CEC Middle College of Denver, Liz Fant who teaches freshman and sophomore math has begun to make the transition to flipping her classes and is optimistic about the prospects for helping her students not only learn more, but to be able to cover concepts more quickly.

For Fant, it started intuitively when she began posting videos on her class website that were review for students in case they didn’t understand a concept in class. “I would just go to You Tube and type in, for example, “area of a parallelogram” and there’s a much better video then I could ever create, that’s shorter than I would probably do and I just embedded it in my website,” she said. She wasn’t sure it was working until a student came up to her and expressed his appreciation for a video that she had found, explaining a concept in Spanish that helped him better understand what he was learning. “When he said that, I thought, you’re actually watching it. Then when I learned about flipping the classroom somewhere along the way, I thought, this is what I want. Because what I’m expected to cover, it’s impossible to cover it all. I need to shift as much as I can outside my actual class time so that the time I do have with the students, as much as possible is spent really working together on math and not me doing direct instruction,” she said.

Flipping classrooms isn’t without its challenges. Sometimes Ms. Fant doesn’t know if the students are actually watching the videos or doing the corresponding index cards that she provides to log key concepts, but overall, she believes this is the answer to helping kids grasp the often confusing subject of math and to make the best use of her classroom time.

As she continues to refine her strategies, Fant sends her students online to learn from the videos she has posted to her own website, as well as the other great resources on You Tube, and education sites which focus on classroom flipping, such as Kahn Academy and Ten Marks.

Though this is just the first year of flipping her class, Fant says she has learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t and she will be able to sharpen her approach for next year. But she sees great possibility with this teaching method. And she hopes that by continuing to refine her ‘flipping’ strategy, she can help students see the upside of math.

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