education's digital future

Microflipping: a modest twist on the 'flipped' classroom

There has been a lot of buzz over the past few years, but also a lot of debate, about the so-called flipped classroom. The idea of flipping a class—meaning that students learn content outside the classroom, and then actively engage with that same material during class time—appeals to many people in academe. Supporters of the flipped classroom see it as a way to replace a mass-produced education system that has emphasized rote memorization, while those who teach in a more traditional way may find it intimidating.

But in practice, the flipped classroom often feels like an all-or-nothing endeavor that does not serve students as well as it could. Instructors typically either invest in flipping classes—using social media, video-editing software, or other bells and whistles of educational technology—or they don’t. What if, instead, we used a partially flipped classroom—the "microflipped" classroom—that combined the best of the old and new teaching approaches?

From my experience in teaching new faculty members how to infuse technology into the classroom, I have observed a few things. Some faculty members and students are apprehensive about adopting new technologies, while others are eager. Whatever their views, technology in the classroom is not a solution to age-old educational problems. Some students still come to class ill-prepared or unmotivated. Requiring work to be completed outside of class may not solve that problem.

Microflipping is a "guide on the side" approach that can be highly versatile inside and outside the classroom. Unlike the fully flipped approach where students are expected to come to class prepared, microflipping is designed to instruct both those students who have done the required assignments before class and those who have not. It blends the flipped-classroom and traditional-lecture approaches. Let’s run through a typical class.

First, the instructor goes through his or her content for the day’s lecture. The instructor should not allow more than five minutes of lecture time to pass before students begin to engage with the material. Tools used might include student responses to clicker-type questions, mobile-app engagement, and small or large class activities, to name a few. These tools are balanced with snippets of lecture or teacher-led conversation.

One way I manage this constant balance between lecture and activity is by creating a script that outlines what content and activities I will be covering during class, and which technological tools I’ll be using. Following this script allows me to be mindful of the time and content while also managing student engagement. Keep in mind that the script is merely a list of how you manage your activities and content. PowerPoint, whiteboards, and other resources are the tools to carry out the script....

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