Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Learning Fractions in a Flipped Classroom

I used the fraction unit to explore the concept of the flipped classroom.  In a flipped classroom, students do most of their "learning by reading/watching at home" and their active, collaborative learning in school.

I thought about this as I planned the unit.  Students studied at home using online videos and tasks.  Then in school, students mainly worked on collaborative fraction projects including the creation of story problems, charts, graphs, illustrations, and interactive white board presentations.

Presentations were completed using Google presentation and/or Google docs.  The table feature on Google is great for making fraction bars.  Then the presentations were easily downloaded to pdf, then uploaded to ActiveInspire flip charts to facilitate students' interactive white board lessons.  This is a video snapshot of one project.

Today, after a couple of presentations, I asked the students what they thought.  Some commented that it was much better to present, than to sit and listen.  Others thought that it was helpful to learn about fractions from many different voices.  Still more liked the interactive aspect of the students' lessons.  On the other hand, some students questioned the efficiency of learning -- were they learning enough and was this process too slow?  All good questions and all good thinking.

When students taught they experienced the same challenges teachers face.  They were challenged by just-right pacing, keeping track of all the lesson materials and ideas, and making sure their charts, graphs, and data were accurate.  I had the luxury of sitting in the back of the room watching, only participating when guidance or an important correction were needed.

Will I continue to foster flipped classroom efforts.  Definitely! I like the idea of active, engaged students who are empowered by their classroom learning.  I was excited by the number of children that worked on these projects for added hours at home (thanks to Google docs).  One girl exclaimed today that she had worked for more than two hours one night on the project. Another girl, who was about to go on vacation and miss the project, decided to collaborate via phone and computer to complete the project in two-days time rather than in the six-seven scheduled in-school periods so she'd be able to present to the class.

Did students learn as much or more about fractions throughout this process?  I'm about to examine their assessments right now to find out.  It seems like they got a good dose of fractions, and terrific experience with 21st century skills of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking skills and communication.

I'll continue to revise and refine my flipped classroom techniques.  I'll also continue to investigate and learn from colleagues at my school and through my PLN.  Thanks for listening.  I welcome your thoughts and ideas related to this project, and/or the flipped classroom model.