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Students viewing lectures at home and doing lessons together in class is gaining popularity. Can it become universal? Major mountains stand in the way of flipped learning's progress.
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1. Technology Gap
Flipping requires access to computers and the internet by students and staff. This is an easy thing to do in a well-funded private school attended by students with technology at home and in their book-bags. In school districts where maintaining facilities and paying teachers is a challenge, updating equipment and infrastructure is out of reach.
In classes populated by students with varied incomes, the gulf between rich and poor children is exaggerated. Students with adequate technology will learn more than those without. Lower-class students are left behind. School can be tough enough without your family's lack of income being broadcast to your peers.
When wealthy technology corporations get involved, the level of tech in classrooms increases. Microsoft's Partners in Learning has reached 190 million students in 119 countries, but this only scratches the surface. Making high-technology learning experiences universal is an impossible dream.
Computer labs inside schools can partially make up for a lack of access at home. Can schools stay open later hours to accommodate students? Will students still be able to participate in sports and after-school activities when they need the computer lab to study? An essential part of the flipped classroom is that children can study on their own time and in their own place.
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2. Inevitable Commercialization
Education gets in bed with Big Technology and can't get out. Once a school is committed to using a company's hardware, software or tech support, switching to a new system is very difficult. When updates are needed, more funding is needed.
Upgraded modern education is often made possible with one-time levies and bonds. If these are not renewed, the program does not stay current.
Districts can easily be in a position where they must pay money to computer service providers or return to the paper textbook age with useless hardware on the desks.
Furthermore, customers don't always have a choice regarding high-speed internet. Often only one company can provide the service and monopolies are never good for the consumer.
School districts should not become dependent on some of the world's most powerful corporations.
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3. Student Motivation
Flipping assumes each student will diligently study the material at home. Will they learn better in the classroom, where environment is built for education, or at home, where distractions abound? Think about yourself? When faced with the television, computer games, playing with friends or a video lecture, which would you choose?
Success will always favor the hard workers. Students spending hours rather than minutes on homework will finish ahead. Flipping does not change this, but every child is different. Flipped learning favors students who focus at home and find their own path to learning.
In a flipped classroom, students often work together in groups with the teacher monitoring rather than leading the experience. Goofing off is inevitable and even encouraged if it leads to knowledge acquisition. Some students will need more structure.
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4. Video Lectures are Still Lectures
Flipped learning gives students an opportunity to view a boring lecture in a new location. If the lectures don't change, neither will the education. Early analysis of flipping shows that school material needs to be delivered in five to ten minute bursts interspersed with video links and quizzes. This is new stuff for existing educators. Do teachers have time to build them?
Without re-education, experienced teachers will lag behind the newest and trendiest, who might not have as much to teach but have the shiniest methods to do it. As much as hardware, software and bandwidth, schools need funding for training.
Teachers are busy enough without learning new techniques and crafting multi-media presentations. What's most likely to happen? Teachers can reach into the growing worldwide library of flipped materials and borrow something. Then the revolution that is supposed to individualize education becomes more institutionalized. Wherever you are, you may still be learning from the same recorded speech.
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5. Old-School Teachers
What will happen to the veteran educator? Will their decades of wisdom in molding young minds be valued less that the new generation fluent in HTML and videography?
Flipping requires an active and adventurous leader in the classroom. The movement is inventing itself right now. Teachers must analyze and critique themselves, then share with their international peers. Is this the world of last century's teachers?
Teaching is not a glamorous profession. The pay is rarely worth it. It demands love, passion and selflessness. Pay for educators is not enticing an army of revolutionists to rebuild the system.
Without these fervent soldiers, the movement will go the way of the cassette tape.