Sunday, October 13, 2013

Flip It -- Flipping in Jewish Schools

There is, as of yet, no empirical research that indicates, one way or another, the success of the flipped classroom. However, anecdotal evidence of teacher, administration and student satisfaction with the unique new learning model is causing traditional educators to sit up and take notice.

Flipped classrooms, to quote a recent New York Times article, use technology to humanize the classroom. Teachers film a short video that presents a lesson, much as a teacher would present a frontal lesson in the classroom. Students are expected to watch the lesson at home to prepare for the class -- the format enables students to watch the video as many times as they want to fully understand the new material.

The students then work on the follow-up "homework" when they come into class which enables the teacher to circle the room and help the students as they grapple with the material hands-on.
It's hard to imagine why a flipped classroom wouldn't work. All of the elements of a traditional classroom are still there -- they're just....flipped. The teacher has the student's attention as he presents the material in a frontal presentation. The student doesn't have to worry about raising her hand or asking a "dumb" question if she doesn't comprehend -- she can just watch the presentation over and over again until she understands what is being taught, or at least understands enough to know what questions she needs to ask.

The teacher-student interaction is still there, but instead of one teacher trying to re=explain subject material to individual students while the rest of the students become bored or agitated, she can allow the faster students to work at their own pace as she helps the students who need extra assistance.

How does this work for Jewish subjects in a Jewish classroom? Video presentations of the text of Chumash, Gemorah or other textual studies allow the student to mull over the material before the class begins to analyze the material together. If the teacher spends a little time creating an engaging visual presentation of the material it may further spark the students' interest and curiosity, especially if the instructor applies the ancient texts to modern applications using technological tools.

The class then meets to tackle the follow-up activities, as monitored by the instructor, offering additional opportunities to strengthen the students' comprehension and involvement in the subject material.  
"Veteran" flipped classroom teachers (the model has only been in use for the last few years) caution that the frontal educational videos should not be more than five or six minutes to allow the students to absorb the material and, if they wish, to replay the video over and over as they "meet" the new information.

While the flipped  Jewish classroom might be automatically associated with a day school environment, afternoon schools are also experimenting with the concept. The Adat Ari El Jewish Learning Center for grades K-6 began to incorporate the flipped classroom model in their center's activities last year as a way to encourage the students to explore and create. Adat Ari El sees the flipped classroom as a way to allow the school to share important content with the students and their families outside of class.

The flipped classroom has a ways to go before it's perfected but for now it's an exciting educational opportunity that will add significantly to Jewish day and afternoon school frameworks.



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