“Flipped” Teaching

Imagine a school day where a student walks into a lesson with a list of questions and insights from a concept that has not yet been introduced in the classroom.  Instead, students have devoted 25 minutes of their time the night before reviewing a brand new lesson with the use of a computer, smartphone or tablet and the internet.

Schools around the nation are “flipping” their classrooms and The Prairie School is taking the lead in Southeastern Wisconsin.  The flipped classroom model, developed by educators Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams at Woodland Park High School Colorado, allows students to gain control of how they learn through videos, screencasts and podcasts. Then during class, there is time for interaction, discussion, projects and individualized instruction.

This evolving concept was introduced to Prairie’s faculty a few years back. However, developing a plan and refashioning curriculum, would require a teacher’s passion to embrace today’s technology and experiment with a revolutionizing concept.  The challenge, was taken by Prairie School’s Upper School Math Teacher and Dean of Students, Mr. Brian Steffen.

In 2011, Brian began to retool and supplement his statistics curriculum through the flip model.  This year, he has embraced the flip model throughout his entire curriculum. Each night, students are presented with a 15 minute statistics lesson via online videos/vodcasts.  Narrated and produced by Brian, students are asked to view the vodcasts, complete an online form,  and identify trouble areas or insights that are then discussed in class the next day.

The “flipped classroom” concept and approach has been popularized by Khan Academy – as recently highlighted in a national 60 Minutes television broadcast. Similar in approach, Brian is able to create and present concepts specific to his lessons through vodcasts, while classroom time is used to interact with students. Through the flip model, classroom teaching has now transformed to group work, discussion, projects and individualized instruction. Brian shares,

“I now have more time to satisfy individual needs, and I have more insight into the depth of understanding of each child. Students acquire content outside of class which permits me to develop skills and build context inside the classroom and promote deeper learning through an online community”.

Another benefit, identified by Brian, was that the depth of questions asked increased dramatically.  Students were given the time to process, review and identify questions with the security of their own thoughts, time and computers.

The flip model has been a remarkable success for Brian and his classroom.  Students and parents have been receptive of this grandiose initiative.  As Brian continues to guide and mentor other Prairie School faculty, he also hopes to create an online textbook with embedded videos, which will supplement Prairie’s iPad program and technology initiatives.

On Thursday, October 18, Prairie School will open its doors and allow current families, prospective families, the broader community and educators to inquire, learn, observe and experience first hand how flipped learning is transforming the traditional classroom.

To obtain additional information about the Open House, contact Mr. Brian Steffen directly at [email protected]. To gain a better understanding of the Flip Model, you can also check out Brian’s video tutorial that will guide you through the flip process.