Today’s science classrooms can be riddled with challenges. Educators face time and budgetary constraints for their experiments — while also needing to cover all of their mandatory course materials. Complex scientific jargon can put students off, and they often become distracted during lengthy, dense readings. How do we address these challenges so that we can guide students into STEM careers?
Many teachers are adopting the “flipped classroom” as a solution. This approach encourages students to think as if they were scientists. This works by pushing instruction outside of the classroom and pulling activities and experiments inside. Case studies demonstrate that active classrooms can drastically increase test performance, engagement, and curiosity.
Changing Tide for Teaching?
To enable the flipped classroom, some teachers are turning to more interactive technology-enabled tools for help. According to an article from Inside Higher Ed:
- In 55% of the classrooms in the United States and Canada, time was spent on “conventional lecturing”
- However, 27% of the classes (although lecture-based) provided interactive elements, including electronically answered multiple-choice questions
Technology in the Classroom
Some of today’s most popular technologies for the flipped classroom include:
- Video: By streaming video on their laptops, students can watch a lesson or a lab procedure prior to (or after) class. They can come to class prepared, learning processes safely and efficiently. Research has shown that video is a great tool for boosting confidence, improving test scores, and increasing retention levels. One Northeastern University professor helped her students become more engaged by integrating JoVE Science Education Biology videos into her course — she used them as pre-class assignments, projected them on screen during class, and assigned them for homework within her learning management system.
- Skype: This popular online communication tool also has great potential in the classroom. Teachers can, in a virtual environment, show students real-world examples to help reinforce lessons. According to a HuffPost article, the Skype-enabled applications are almost endless. For instance, teachers can bring specialists from any location into the classroom virtually. There are various capabilities: for instance, the Skype screen can be split, so that the instructor can appear onscreen, along with PowerPoint slides or other content.
- Electronic white boards: This is a variation on traditional handheld white boards. With those, students would mark up the boards in class to remain engaged during lectures. Now, with electronic white boards, educators can observe what’s being written and provide real-time feedback as students problem-solve or take notes.
- Classroom response systems (CRS): These mixed hardware/software solutions typically rely on handheld remotes (frequently called “clickers”) that enable direct interaction between students and teachers. Students can use individual remotes to answer questions and their responses will let teachers see how well they are understanding the current lessons. For instance, a teacher can pose a question on a computer projector, and then each student can click in an answer, which is recorded on the teacher’s computer for review.
- Learning management systems (LMS): An LMS comprises a software-based platform that enables the centralized management of courses and training programs. One of an LMS' many advantages is that students can access all course materials and assignments from a single location. There are a variety of cloud-based systems that have special add-on tools. Depending on the vendor, the LMS can be accessed in a variety of ways, including through mobile devices. No wonder the LMS market is rapidly growing.
We wish you luck with any approach you take! Questions about your flipped classroom strategy? Want to discuss video? Let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org today.
(Editor's note: JoVE Curriculum Specialist Allison Callahan contributed to this blog)