On the ‘flip’ side

MARSHALL – It took some time, but Marshall High School mathematics teacher Dawn Sterzinger and her students in her short course stats and probability class have gotten used to and are benefiting from a flipped classroom concept.

A flipped classroom is one that uses technology in a way that allows students to learn outside the classroom, typically by using teacher-created videos that students view outside of class and spend classroom time interacting with their peers and instructor.

“The idea behind a flipped classroom is that the basics of given lessons are presented by means of a video,” Sterzinger said. “The students take some notes over the video and maybe try some of the problems that go with the video. When they come to class, we discuss them.

“Then the bulk of the time in class is spent working through what is typically assigned as homework, with the advantage being that they can talk with their peers and have me readily available to assist them if they get into a problem area.”

Sterzinger pointed out that there are several benefits to the flipped classroom concept.

“I think one of the major ones is that it gives them access to materials that we’re studying when they’re not in school,” she said. “And it’s reliable resources. The second thing is that it gives them a way to review. They can go back to the videos at any time, so it’s not a one-shot deal.”

Perhaps one of the most important factors, Sterzinger said, is that a flipped classroom promotes students as self-directed learners.

“Especially as upperclassmen, I think that’s an important skill that they need to fortify and strengthen,” Sterzinger said. “They have to dig in. In that regard, if a student doesn’t want to use the resources, apply the resources and be motivated enough to take advantage of them, they’ll have similar results as in the traditional classroom.”

Brittany Schrupp, one of the upperclassmen currently in the nine-week class at MHS, had her own thoughts about the flipped classroom.

“It was different at first because I had never done classroom work like that before, but I like it,” Schrupp said. “I think it’s easier. The material is really hard but learning it is fine. (Sterzinger) said if we had problems, you can just watch the video over again, so that’s nice.”

Schrupp said she took the class primarily because she wanted to take more math classes.

“I wanted to take more math, to challenge myself. It looks good on college applications,” she said.

The process to get to where they are right now, which is halfway through the quarter, has been somewhat of an experimental one, with improvements made along the way.

“It’s been going well now,” Sterzinger said. “The first two weeks were interesting, though. It’s a complete different format for the kids and for me. But we’ve gone kind of now to a little bit of traditional blended with it. It’s not a pure flipped classroom. I wouldn’t say we do the flipping concept every day.”

Sterzinger said that students understand the format now, which includes watching the videos and completing a handout.

“I usually have a handout that goes with the video that they fill in as they watch the video,” she said. “It was a new frame of mind for both student and teacher. We were learning together.”

On Tuesday, a day before the 2nd annual Digital Learning Day, which is being celebrated across the nation, the math students were completely engaged in their classroom. Since the class was small, Sterzinger said, each student has access to individual iPads.

“It’s a formative assessment piece,” she said. “It still has some kinks in it that I haven’t figured out quite yet, but it’s a work in progress.”

Vera Weber, technology integration specialist for the district, explained that Sterzinger used Google Forms to make the test, the formative assessment.

“The students will go out to this website and answer the test,” Weber said. “When the answers come back, it’ll all come back to (Sterzinger’s) website and she’ll attach this Flubaroo and it’ll automatically tell her who did well and which questions they didn’t do as well on. It’s a nice piece.”

MHS media specialist Diane Konjura said the original idea was to have everything online, but that there were still a few glitches to work out yet.

“That’s what kind of forced her to go half-flipped and half-tradition,” Konjura said. “I know that we’re still working on things, like student e-mails for this district. That will be a key component in helping her get past all that.”

Like anything new, it takes time to develop and master. But the process is something that is essential to education nowadays, Sterzinger said.

“I think the flipped classroom is going to continue being here,” she said. “I think technology is going to be part of education, so we need to embrace it and use it as a positive resource and teach students the same.”