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    • Farha Mohamed teaches an MSON class in Arabic.

    • Ben Taylor, Director of Academic Technology, advocates for flipped classrooms.

Tech Directors Introduce Flipped Classroom

Saira Munshani '20 and Sarah Roberts '20, Assistant News Editors
Flipped classrooms and the integration of technology into lessons have been part of an ongoing implementation at Hopkins.
Technology never stops improv- ing and changing, and in order for students to be able to access the content from home, teachers make materials, such as handouts and review sheets, accessible online through Google Classroom. Here on The Hill, faculty members are doing their best to push Hopkins into the future, and improve the way teachers teach and students learn.

In the past few years, Hopkins has begun to take steps to further the integration of technology in the classroom. This year, a tech team has been assembled, consisting of a Director of Technology, D.J. Plante, a Director of Academic Technology, Benjamin Taylor, and a Director of Innovation in Technology, Lisa Lamont. Taylor said, “The goal of my position and the new position of Lamont is to really look at what
is out there, find out what is useful for education and what fits this community, how do we employ it, and how do we support people who want to learn how to use it.” He also explained that his job also consists of being the Dean of Instruction for the Malone School Online Network, where teachers work with colleagues across the country in classes that are exclusively technology based.

Taylor said that many teachers tend to think that the integration of tech
nology in a classroom simply puts some shiny device between the teacher and the student, creating a barrier. He frowns upon this view. “I attended this conference called The Online Education Symposium for Independent Schools. When I first went there, I expected to learn a lot about how to teach online, but almost nothing was about that,” explained Taylor. “As I learned more, I realized online education and technological advancements facilitate opportunities for a more human and empathetic experience in the classroom.”

When Jeannine Minort-Kale,
Head of the Math Department, first arrived at Hopkins three years ago, she said, “We were using a disproportionate amount of class time to talk about the theorems themselves, in a way that left us very little time to work on the proofs. Students were struggling with the harder part at home, without me. This wasn’t doing a great thing for homework completion, or building understanding.” Soon after, Minort-Kale introduced the concept of a flipped classroom to geometry courses, a concept she carried from past teaching experiences. In this situation,having a flipped classroom meant that Minort-Kale would post resources for the students to watch an instructional video before class in place of a lecture during class.

The flipped classroom was
not always as successful it is today. “The first couple times I did it, I wouldn’t say it was a complete failure, but there was no accountability for it,” said Minort-Kale. In other words, students needed another way to retain the information other than passively watching the videos.

The next step was creating handouts and “do-now” worksheets, through which students could use their newly attained knowledge in practice problems. One sheet was for taking notes at home, and the other was used in class as a check in to see how well the students comprehended 
the lesson. The flipped classroom idea quickly spread. Minort-Kale added, “When I first came here, my worksheet was only used by me. Now it’s used by other Math 30 teachers, and then made its way into our summer-school curriculum.” 

The first step to flipping a classroom is often to record materials online, so students can absorb the content outside of the classroom. “Switching asynchronous work time to out of the classroom gives teachers more time to go from ‘teaching’ to ‘coaching’” added Taylor, who also uses a flipped classroom. “Imagine if you wanted to get someone who hadn’t played soccer before to be good at soccer, you wouldn’t sit them and lecture them about it and then tell them to go home and practice the drills. You might learn a little bit, but if you flip that around and the coach is there to see you play and correct your application of the skills in the moment, you would learn much more. In our world today, the teaching of skills requires more human interaction than the teaching of content.” Taylor recommends that teachers record in their own voice, allowing the students to maintain an emotional and personal connection to what they are learning. Taylor first attempted to flip his classroom with Modern Physics. “Even in my first attempts that were only okay, test scores when up by 10% and standard deviation went down by 50%. Students were performing uniformly well,” said Taylor. By doing problems with his students in the class, they were forced to interact with his feedback, which allowed him to know which topics they truly understood. Taylor explained that this was much more efficient
than grading thousands of problems and handing them back. He also added that “although recording materials for your first year of flipping the classroom is a lot of work, it ultimately pays off and saves time. Now that almost all my class days are used for the teaching of skills, I save almost fifteen skill days that I would’ve had to include anyway.” This then creates easier pathways to project-centered learning, self-pacing, and mastery-based grading.

Despite many teachers already work
ing on integrating technology into the classroom, Taylor and Minort-Kale hope to increase this number: “In order for teachers to get involved, they really just need to reach out and ask,” said Taylor. There is a new website for faculty which has a section dedicated to flipping and blending the classroom and how teachers can get involved. “Although it takes a lot of work to flip your classroom for the first time, it pays off,” encouraged Taylor. “In my opinion, the best way to get started is to ask about teaching an MSON course: You meet twice a week with students in eleven states, so you can’t not flip.”

Taylor also pointed out that Eng
lish classes have been flipped for hundreds of years: “You read the book at home, you come in and have creative discussions, and can even write in the presence of your teacher. I think this is fantastic, but even more disciplines should take advantage of this.” Typically, Math and Science are the common subjects for the flipped classroom; but Foreign Languages, History, and English are not far behind.

Many teachers incorporate in-class skill building by using methods other than the flipped classroom and lecturing. Spanish teacher Christopher Kozey said, “Exploration activities are for things that students have not seen yet. It is weighted as or more heavily than the practice activities, but are graded for completion. The idea is that exploring something at home before you get into the class will give you the opportunity to engage critically with something.” Kozey’s method, similar to Minort-Kale’s, is one that requires students to constantly be aware of what they will learn the next class. 

Although English is a literature-heavy class, flipped classroom and technology apply to the English courses and “allows teachers to use time beyond the block schedule to interact with students and share materi- als. In addition to providing online extra help, technology allows English teachers to post readings, workshop writing, and connect students to web grammar instruction,” said English instructor and Razor adviser Canny Cahn.

The flipped classroom has also made 
its way into the History Department. History teacher Tisha Hooks said, “We’re all interested in incorporating technology in a way that’s targeted and useful, but many of us in the History Department also strive to do more projects and have students interact with the material in ways that don’t involve technology as well.” She encourages students to use the available databases in which primary sources and older documents have become accessible on in recent years.

Although flipping the classroom is viewed as a better model for a classroom, it is not always effective for every student. “It is a double-edged sword. Doing something flashy for the sake of it being flashy is not in our best interest. Technology integration is important, but it should continuously connect to what we are trying to do,” said Minort-Kale. Finding balance is vital. Hopkins is known for its long, rich past, “so we want to advance ourselves without treading too heavily on our storied traditional culture,” added Taylor. 
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