Directors who attend the Minnesota School Boards Association conference are inundated with presentations and ideas, but one idea in particular had the talking: Stillwater’s fifth grade Flipped Math pilot program.
In a normal classroom, students listen to their teachers in the classroom and then practice the skills they learn at home. Classroom instruction is typically aimed at average students, and the teacher isn’t available to help students as they practice the skills they learn at home.
Flipped Math, as its name suggests, turned this on its head. Students viewed the math lessons and took an online quiz at home, and then worked on problems in the classroom, where teachers and classmates are able to help.
Teachers could track students’ progress and see how often students needed to watch the videos before they grasped the content. Students who learned more quickly could work ahead, and those who learned more slowly could watch the videos multiple times or use supplemental resources.
Flipped Math is just one of many innovations bringing learning home. Kahn Academy offers more than 2,700 free instructional videos that have notched 115 million views on YouTube. Budding programmers can take free computer science courses at Udacity.com, founded by a former Stanford professor and head of Google’s self-driving car project. And perhaps most famously, Apple debuted textbooks for its iBooks store that will bring together videos, photos, interactive graphics and study aids. The company saw 350,000 downloads in the first three days.
All these tools are without a doubt both cool and useful—and they’re not just for children. While driving around recently, I’ve been listening to Stanford’s International System in the 20th Century—one of many free courses offered through iTunes U.
But cool and useful doesn’t matter much for those who don’t have access to these tools. Only about 57 percent of Minnesotans have access to the type of high-speed broadband that allows the gee-whiz features that have people so excited about education technology.
For low-income families, it’s a struggle to even purchase the slowest levels of broadband.
Schools can work to narrow the gaps. In Stillwater, flipped classroom teachers sent students home with DVDs and, in some cases, iPod Touches.
But students also have lives outside of school. They play sports. They participate in church groups. They join clubs.
When society is already wringing its hands about how much homework is appropriate, what would it mean to place so much of the burden of learning on the home?
So how do you feel about home learning? Is it necessary to be competitive in the global environment? Are you already doing it? Or is it a costly burden we shouldn’t place on young learners and struggling families?