Technology brings the classroom back home in role reversal


Flipping the classroom using technology to change the way lessons are delivered.

It's no longer a question of potential; forces set free by technology are beginning to turn the traditional classroom on its head.

Emerging under the broad label of ''flipping'' the classroom are a profusion of new learning models that go beyond turning on the laptops and smartboards that are now commonplace in schools.

Technology offers the opportunity to break up the traditional lesson structure and to shift learning opportunities in both space and time. In a pure flip, a lesson might be ''taught'' online at home; class time becomes a place for a student to do their ''homework'' - to practice what they have learnt.

''Good teaching is still good teaching; it's always there,'' said Lila Mularczyk, the principal of Merrylands High.

''But the technology is allowing the scope and breadth of it to really open up. And the avenues of delivery are now at home, they're on the bus and they're in the playground, where students can be preparing for lessons or following up on them.''

But it is also shaking up how a teacher might spend his day.

Andrew Jeppesen, a language teacher at Knox Grammar School, in Wahroonga, is leading a program across three languages for Year 7 students using game-based software.

''The teacher is acting more as a facilitator, walking around, making sure they know where the students are up to and the students are in fact helping each other out and collaborating,'' Mr Jeppesen said.

''When I was taught languages you would come in, sit down, write what was on the blackboard and do some exercises in a book. It's come a long way since then.''

At Kambala, an Anglican girls school in Rose Bay, students in the international baccalaureate program are using technology to take a much more active role in shaping their own learning. When they are studying at home they use a number of social networking platforms to co-operate, test each other's knowledge and provide an opportunity for instant peer support.

Students lead classes and are required to give presentations to their peers. They also get through chunks of subject matter at home, online.

''We sort of invert what we do at home and what we do at school,'' said a Kambala student, Alice Donaldson, 17. ''Any questions we have from things we've been asked to look at the night before we can ask in class.''

''It means the teachers have more time to answer directly our questions rather than [waiting and] marking our tests or homework and seeing what we haven't understood.''

Helen Carmody, the head of teaching and learning at Kambala, said flipping opened the door to more flexibility in how school and home study time were used. It allowed her Year 7 English class to continue discussions at home with students giving each other feedback.

''I see two distinct advantages. The first is that it is really re-orienting our approach to learning,'' she said. ''The corollary of that is that it moves much more into the space of young people these days.''

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Article by SMH Andrew Stevenson 7 November, 2011.