WEST PITTSTON — A student picks a time to attend the teacher’s lecture at home. In class, the student does the assigned homework problems with the teacher on hand to assist.
Sounds backwards? It’s not. It’s all part of a teaching model called the “flipped classroom” concept.
Students in Paula Cecil’s pre-calculus class at Wyoming Area Secondary Center got to experience the flipped classroom this semester. Cecil was one of four teachers at the center who tried out the teaching model this year.
The flipped classroom depends on technology that students use and understand.
Cecil, a secondary math teacher who has been with the district for 22 years, said the concept is easy.
She assigns a video lesson for the students to watch at home on a computer or other device. The videos come from a variety of sources. Some she makes herself; others she finds online at sites such as Khan Academy, YouTube and TeacherTube.
She also develops questions for students to answer to make sure they understand the video.
During the next class period, she checks to see if students have understood the lesson and then she has the students work problems in the classroom. She’s right there to consult if they have questions.
Cecil said that the few students who do not have Internet access at home can watch the videos during their study hall, either in the school library or in her math classroom using a laptop and headphones.
The lessons on video have advantages for her students who are trying to master difficult material. “They can watch it at their own pace,” she said.
Pre-calculus is a difficult course with “a bit of everything thrown in” said Cecil. She said the flipped classroom concept worked well when the class encountered harder problems.
“The tasks that students may experience difficulty with are done in the classroom,” she said.
Three Wyoming Area seniors from Cecil’s pre-calculus class took a break from senior pictures to come talk about the program.
Senior Billy Weiss, 18, of Harding, was enthusiastic about the new model of teaching. “I thought it was pretty neat,” he said. “You can take your own notes. You can pause or go back.”
For senior Amber Rodda, 18, of Exeter, the flexibility of watching the videos was great. “You can do it on your own time. If you have work, you can do it after,” she said. Amber has a part-time job at Loco Yoco.
Rodda said that some of the students were resistant to the flipped classroom. “Everyone at first didn’t think it would help. Afterwards it was successful.”
Weiss liked the new teaching method so well that it spread to other subjects. “I even used it in other classes.” He looked on YouTube for video lectures to prepare for upcoming topics in difficult courses. “It helped me through AP Chemistry. I’m going to use it in college.”
Senior Sherry Klaproth, 17, of West Pittston, also felt the new teaching method would have far-reaching consequences.
“I liked it because you had to learn by yourself,” she said, noting some of her college classes would be big and college professors wouldn’t have as much time to help students. “I think it prepared me for college because we’re going to have to be independent.”
Cecil was surprised and happy about her students’ positive assessment of the teaching model.
Refining the plan
The math teacher said that this summer she’ll be looking for more videos to incorporate in her classroom and she plans to make some of her own.
The flipped classroom makes sense to Cecil, who has a master’s degree in Educational Technology. “We have to try to compete with all the technology they have at home.”
But she didn’t use the new system every day this year, and she says the flipped classroom is just one of the methods of instruction she will use for the next. “I don’t think we can use it as a replacement for regular instruction.”
For Cecil, one of the most important rewards of the flipped classroom was the interest it created in her students.
“We had kids who are enthusiastic about it,” she said. “The students who can understand the videos can move ahead.”