Programs like Khan Academy are wonderful resources for children and adults alike to learn at their own pace. Everyone is different and learns at a different pace. A traditional classroom can often fall short as a productive learning environment for this reason. In the environment brought about by the “flipped classroom” model which will be discussed below, being able to pause a lesson, go back, think it through and then resume is useful for adapting the lesson to one’s own pace for optimal learning.
The Traditional Classroom
A traditional classroom features a single teacher tasked with educating a loosely related group of students with a one size fits all lecture. Many believe this dynamic inherently has flaws which lead to an underwhelming experience for students and teachers alike. Typically students are at different levels. For a given subject, some students may need more time to grasp certain concepts and get left behind, while students who are already familiar with the material are not engaged and lose interest. Furthermore students are often loath to be the center of attention if they don’t grasp a concept and will often keep their questions to themselves during the lecture, furthering disengagement.
Students take notes
Students follow guided instruction
Teacher gives assessment
Students have homework
The Flipped Classroom
A Flipped Classroom addresses these issues by decentralizing the lesson. What’s flipped? Essentially “homework” part is done during class, and the “lecture” part is done at home. Videos are made of the lectures which students can watch at their own pace from home. They can stop the videos, replay segments, and then ask questions online. When students go to class, they find themselves better prepared and ready to engage on the subject. Since the lecture is already taken care of, the teacher acts in the capacity of a guide and can float around addressing students’ needs in a flexible way. Khan Academy is a great example of the Flipped Classroom approach.
Teacher instructs lesson for students at home
Students work in class
Deeper understanding of concepts
Discovering meaningful applications
Content tailored for engagement
Students receive support as needed
Students can ask questions without being the center attention
Peers can participate in helping fellow students
Khan Academy is at the forefront of this transition in education. Sal Khan started the website at his home in his spare time. The results were overwhelmingly positive for students, teachers and parents alike. His non-profit was picked up by venture capitalists and charity groups like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has since been a popular topic of conversation among all concerned. Although there is some heated debate over Khan’s approach among educators, most agree that the presence of such a debate will lead to improvements in how we can all best educate ourselves.
My Thoughts on All This
Education is paramount to this planet not spiraling into a giant trash bin. Children are capable of growth and enlightenment at an accelerated level that we as adults cannot match. However, we can invest in the infrastructure that will provide a good environment for learning at a stage when they are sponges for knowledge. They will make better decisions, they will be happier, and maybe as a result we (they) can start solving some of the wildly difficult human problems that face our species and the planet at large. We can get really good at educating. Let’s flip classrooms if that’s better.