KHS teacher ‘flips’ the classroom

By on October 11, 2012

by Amanda Niemi
KANELAND—With public education in the spotlight recently regarding questions raised about standardized testing effectiveness, one Kaneland High School teacher is flipping the system on its head for her students.

KHS science teacher Sally Wilson implemented the first “flipped classroom” in the school. The traditional model is to go to class for lectures and homework outside of class, but the “flipped classroom” utilizes 10 to 15 minute pre-recorded videos, or podcasts, available online for students to watch on their own time. Classroom time is spent applying their knowledge and working on problems.

“If you compare the pre-test to post-test, we’re seeing higher scores from previous semesters.” Wilson said. “The kids like the fact that they have less homework, and surveys I conducted during the semester show positive feedback.”

This fall is the second semester under the new model. Wilson is currently the only teacher at KHS using a flipped classroom.

“It makes sense where kids are and where they use technology. I like the mastery aspect, where kids can move at their own pace. I can tell which students are doing well and put them in a tutoring role, or they can ask questions and we work on problems.”

There are of course challenges with using technology and the fact that some students may not have access to the internet at home. Wilson says she makes efforts to accommodate her students’ needs.

“There are a few students who have trouble with internet connection, but videos are up about a week in advance. I’ve opened up my room so we can watch it during late-start mornings.”

Sally said she found the idea on an online list serve started by educators Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman, authors of the book “Flip Your Classroom: Talk to Every Student in Every Class Every Day.”

The small list serve Wilson joined a few years ago now has over 9,000 members.

“I emailed them, read about them, and eventually went out to see them at a conference in Colorado,” she said.

Wilson’s diligence in educating herself about the education of her students has impressed administrators at her school.

“They are 100 percent in support of it and have been since the beginning. I felt very lucky. The previous principal looked into it, and he found money where there wasn’t.” Wilson said. “The technology department has been great to work with. I have an assistant principal I’m working with this year. She’s been a great sounding board; if parents have questions, she’s always there to explain what’s going on.”

However, there are always those who are skeptical of change, especially when it comes to education methodology. Wilson noted that some parents were not completely on board with this new model.

“Last spring, there was a little bit of a pushback just because it wasn’t explained very well. We need to educate parents, as well. I researched the concept of video podcasting before I did this.” Wilson said. “Even I wasn’t 100 percent before the conference, and if I thought this wasn’t something that was going to benefit them, I would have never done it.”

Wilson believes this is a move forward for her students, and in the short time of utilizing a flipped classroom, she has seen increased benefits and positive reception from her class.

“Kids watch (the podcast) on their phone, iPad, computer; I think we’re moving in a direction where this learning is going to become more common,” Wilson said. “I think they’re used to the flexibility in their schedule, whereas 20 years ago we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

For more information regarding flipped classrooms, visit www.flippedclassroom.org or contact Sally Wilson at (630) 365-5100, ext. 371.

About Amanda Niemi

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