The Inverted Classroom
The "cool" origins of flipping
September 3, 2013

Last week I published an essay on the flipped classroom, arguing that condensation and abstraction might be better descriptions of what happens in such a classroom than flipping. I suggested that the flipped classroom is intimately connected to MOOCs and other educational efficiency measures, and that a truly flipped classroom would work more like a seminar than like an assessment device. Therefore, it would be fundamentally incompatible with the efficiency measures advocated in MOOCs.

Well, it turns out that the history of the flipped classroom concept can be traced back to 2000, when Maureen J. Lage, Glenn J. Platt, and Michael Treglia published an article in Economic Instruction, "Inverting the Classroom: A Gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment.". And lo and behold, what do we find in this ancestral article but just this conclusion (among others, read the paper!):

Compared with a traditional "chalk and talk" class, it may be that the inverted classroom requires lower student enrollment. One of the strengths of the inverted classroom is the opportunity for faculty-student interaction.

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I am in support of flipped classrooms because as education evolves so will the structure of classrooms. Because of the information age, knowledge is very easy to access, and technology keeps evolving. However, a disadvantage of the Information Age is that some elements of the past will be rendered obsolete. For example, print books might be rendered obsolete as well as newspapers. Classrooms will also be rendered obsolete. The main disadvantage of flipped classrooms is that there is no face to face interaction between the teacher and the student. This is a disadvantage because an essential component of education is the interaction between the teacher and student. Another disadvantage of flipped classes is that it's "not meant to enable a larger number of smaller, more personalized classes, ( This is a disadvantage because some students with learning disabilities might struggle with getting personal attention from teachers. However, I believe that the best advantages of flipped classrooms would be editing lectures down into 'pleasurably digestible chunks," ( This is helpful because it makes lectures much easier for students to follow and students can pause the lecture as a way to make note taking easier.

I found this after reading your excellent Atlantic article on flipped classrooms. I had not realized how accepting the condensed lecture and automated testing that is usually used in "flipped" classrooms paves the way for acceptance of the same via MOOC.

I just wanted to share one thought with you. When the news was full of hand-wringing over "how are newspapers going to survive" because of competition from the web - and reporters were being laid off, one newspaper employee speculated on a blog that technology was just the excuse that was being used to layoff experienced expensive people. In fact they were secretly hiring cheap inexperienced people to replace some of the ones laid off. As a side benefit (profit-wise), a lower standard for the quality of journalism became the norm.

With MOOCs, traditional colleges are threatened by online competition just as with the newspapers. The solution will involve laying people off (although here tenure will get in the way of laying off mainly the highest paid). And a lower quality of education will become the norm.

The details may be slightly different, but the end goal is the same: capturing as much profit as possible, no matter what the cost to the ability of the institution to continue to operate for the public good.

Heather Booth on November 5, 2013 12:00 AM
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