Flipping the Classroom

A new term accompanies articles citing the onslaught of open courseware websites, such as Kahn Academy, TED-Ed, and the most recently spotlighted free education website, Coursera. "Flipping" describes a classroom model where the lecture happens at home and the homework (in this case, "homework" is a bit of a misnomer) happens in the classroom.

TED-Ed’s second initiative introduces the ability to "flip" a lecture video and edit its supplementary materials to create a Web-based lesson. The instructor can distribute this lesson and track student progress as the assignment is completed. Instructors may also create scratch lessons, using any video that permits third-party embedding. While, as MarketWatch reports, the term "flipping" in the TED-Ed model indicates the ability to turn a lecture into an assignment, the concept also refers to "flip teaching." In MarketWatch’s article, TED curator Chris Anderson said that the goal is "to offer teachers free tools in a way they will find empowering."

TED-Ed’s current videos are geared toward the K-12 education level, but other platforms, like Coursera, have introduced flip teaching tools into higher education. Coursera was founded last fall by Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, and acquired $16 million in venture capital funding last week. Coursera has partnerships with Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton. Six of its courses started Monday— Computer Science 101, Compilers, Computer Vision, Introduction to Logic, Automata, and Machine Learning. About 30 more are slated to begin in the summer.

Both the Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times mentioned the "flipped classroom" approach in reference to Coursera, though, in the New York Times article, Dr. Koller said Coursera’s educational approach was based on the flipped classroom method first pioneered by the Khan Academy.

In his 2011 TED talk, Salman Khan said flip teaching was first adopted by the Los Altos School District, where two fifth grade and two seventh grade math classes "gutted" their previous math curriculum and replaced it with new curriculum supplemented by Khan Academy lectures and exercises. The district is able to monitor the Khan Academy data from these students year-round, throughout their education (as long as they’re using Khan Academy). "In a traditional model, most of the teacher’s time is spent doing lectures and grading tests and whatnot," Khan said. "Maybe 5% of their time is actually sitting with students and actually working with them." Now, according to Khan, teachers can spend 100% of their time working with students, or even manage proficient students to help peers struggling with concepts.

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