Flipped Classrooms and the Flat Earth

An issue came up today in a professional development course I facilitate which presented an interesting question and I really started to re-think some things I have done in the past and also some things which I knew we should be doing but have lost sight of.

First, we have wanted to embrace the student centered course for a couple of reasons. We know that students in these types of environments often feel more engaged with the course and having greater feeling of connection with the learning and a greater responsibility for their role in the course. For the instructor we know that they have to embrace a new role as facilitator and guide rather than the “sage on the stage” as the saying goes isn’t easy and for many instructors who have been brought up under the top down model will need training to adjust.

Book cover

Thomas Friedman

The second issue is that what we lose sight of is that we are training students to enter the work force in the 21st Century. This is the information world, the flat world as Thomas Friedman called it in his book “The World is Flat”.  Its the realization that we live in a global community and that the flow of information, goods, and services is readily available. Any of us who were in college or grad school prior to the 1980s remember the stacks and stacks of books and periodicals. It was a time consuming process to do research in those days. What used to take me hours and hours to do among the stacks of books at the King Library at the University of Kentucky now takes much less time sitting at my home computer. But is this all good? No, because this free flow now includes information which was called by educational technology leader; Info-junk and info-garbage. Our role as instructors needs to change to also guide the students through the maze of technologies and information. We need to get them to the point where they are competent 21st Century employees in the 21st Century work environment. It is not enough to be scholarly, they must also have the 21st Century skills needed in the working world.

1. Learning and Innovation Skills

  •     Creativity and Innovation
  •     Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  •     Communication and Collaboration

2. Information, Media and Technology Skills

  •     Information Literacy
  •     Media Literacy
  •     Information and Communications Technology Literacy

3. Career Skills

Now what does this have to do with Flipped Classrooms? The flipped classroom provides us with the opportunity to introduce a collaborative learning environment to the students and at the same time allows the instructor to be the guide, to be that person who is a resource for the group. The classroom becomes the collaborative learning environment and a well constructed online portion of the course creates and environment which allows the student to explore and build on the understanding of the course topics. It challenges their thinking process and their creative ability. With the content challenge them to become learners, challenge them to think, be creative, and be critical then bring them together to assimilate all they have done.

There is much to be done here but I believe this can be a direction we can take which will be of huge benefit to the students.


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