Poor schools try ‘flipping’ too

“Flipping the classroom” works for low-income students — if their teachers can come up with the technology, writes Sarah Butrymowicz on the Hechinger Report.

Sacha Luria, a Portland, Oregon elementary teacher, realized her students didn’t have computers at home. She had only one in her classroom. But she was determined to “flip.”

So she used her own money to buy a second computer and begged everyone she knew for donations, finally bringing the total to six for her 23 fourth-graders at Rigler School. In her classroom, students now alternate between working on the computers and working with her.

So far, the strategy is showing signs of success. She uses class time to tailor instruction to students who started the school year behind their classmates in reading and math, and she has seen rapid improvement. By the end of the school year, she said, her students have averaged two years’ worth of progress in math, for example.

Luria’s colleagues are interested — but they don’t have the computers or her begging skills.

At Westside High School in Macon, Georgia, a high-poverty, high-minority school, a federal grant has paid for netbooks for all students. Some teachers are flipping their classes and reporting good results.

Social studies teacher Sydney Elkin said her students’ scores on the Georgia state end-of-course exams increased, particularly for her special-education students. The semester before she flipped her classroom, about 30 percent of all students passed. In her first semester with a flipped class, she said, nearly three-quarters passed, including nine out of 10 special-education students.

Flipping does not solve all problems, though, Elkin said. Some students must still be constantly needled to do their work. And despite second and third chances on tests that act as gateways to the next level, some students still fall behind.

Flipped classrooms are “the low hanging gruit of innovation,” said Michael Horn, executive director of education at the Innosight Institute in Mountain View, Calif., which works to introduce innovation into education.


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  1. Am I missing something? How is having computers in the classroom, letting students do computer work in the classroom, a form of flipping?

    • Mark Roulo says:

      (1) Flipping is good.
      (2) Flipping is not lecturing.
      (3) Students using computers in the classroom is not lecturing.

      Therefore …

      Students using computers in the classroom is flipping … which is good.

      FYI, using sign language to deliver the material is also flipping. The proof is left as an exercise for the student 🙂

  2. I attended a ‘flipped’ Pre-Calc class in the 70’s. No computers, just a Keedy-Bittinger workbook. I thought it worked extremely well, for me at least, but probably not for everyone. I barely talked to the instructor, but I’m sure others received considerable one-on-one help. Certainly the most efficient course I ever took.

    I imagine that today the bulk of available self-paced material is online, and that it’s less expensive than conventional textbooks or workbooks despite the cost of computers.

  3. Lori DeBri says:

    I am not exactly sure how this flipping works. So all lecture is at home and the work is all in class. This idea seem great for students who need that extra help and parents at home are unable to help. It seems very beneficial to the student who gets distracted during lectures and are doodling or space dreaming. Engaged activity always allows students to learn more. I wonder how this works through out the different age brackets.

    But I agree with Cal. How does integrating computers into the classroom a form of flipping?