By Syed Moeed Irfan
Among all the pillars which hold the modern world, the most important one is Education. All major developments, from health care to housing to transportation, owe their existence to better and improved education. Without Education, humankind would not have been able to harness Fossil Fuels to their utmost potential and the Industrial Revolution would have never happened, the internet would not be around, Smallpox would still haunt some parts of the world, child mortality rates would have been at least twice as high, vaccines would not be around and the main methods of transportation would have still been camels and horses. Most amenities that make life on Earth easier, comfortable, and efficient are all because the people behind these developments prioritized their education. Like all other things, education also needs consistent updates to stay in tune with the times. This is achieved by updating books, curriculum, encouraging, and using technology to establish more efficient teaching methods.
One method that has been under rigorous testing by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, both of whom are former middle and high school teachers, respectively, is called Flipped Classroom. They based Flipped Classroom on giving students opportunities to learn, whenever they think is the best time for them to study, unlike in schools, where a student has to sit through pre-determined class times. Some students, who are athletes and actively taking part in off-campus activities, cannot attend classes for several days within a school year and require flexible class schedules to keep up with their classes. To address this, Jonathan and Aaron came up with the idea to record lectures and upload them to the school database, as homework, so that students can go through the material for the next day with no time constraints and the strict environment of the school. Whereas, this caused the professors to invest more time into answering emails, as students asked questions from home, the professors still found more lab time, which they utilized to create additional problems and work through their research projects. This encouraged students to work through the lectures and ask questions which they normally would not have asked. This opens up the opportunity for students to ask more constructive questions from their professors in class the next day and cut down the time to study a particular topic or chapter.
Flipped Classroom also helps the students to re-watch the lecture even a few months after the lecture date, which is helpful when a student is having trouble comprehending their notes regarding a topic, closer to the exam date. It is important to understand that these methods only work if it considers the best interests of students and that these are not ways for teachers to get workload off their shoulders. The Flipped Classroom method makes education more effective, and since it requires excessive use of technology, it is in tune with the times. There are, however, some issues associated with the Flipped Classroom method.
Starting with the main issue, what resources to use as not all schools can afford to have online databases? In an ideal situation, the best answer to implement Flipped Classroom would be to use pre-existing software such as Blackboard Learn, which allows professors to upload and manage content for students to study through. Another method could be to use YouTube channels to upload learning content for students. Lack of Internet data, however, is a major issue in Pakistan and undermines the usage of YouTube channels and Blackboard. Lack of internet data is something that several students and families have complained about. This is where network companies come into play by partnering with schools that support Flipped Classroom systems and allowing students special permissions to access online software, such as Blackboard, via verified school emails and internet pages.
Another common issue is that students get easily distracted from their work while they are on the internet, something which has become clear during the recent online classes phase. To counter this issue from happening, schools should use lockdown browser systems, such as Respondus, which once activated only allow the user to stay on a particular webpage and do not allow the user to open other applications either. These applications are useful in case of testing, where they also use the microphone and camera of the device to help prevent academic misconduct. Applications similar to Respondus Lockdown Browsers and Blackboard Learn are available across all software and devices and are free of cost. These applications offer resources for testing, practicing, grading and comprehensive feedback which can help save schools a fortune in paper purchasing and printing, and teachers do not have to juggle through huge piles of solved exam papers, allowing faster grading.
It is essential to understand that even though Flipped Classroom is more or less an online class system, in-class discussions and assignments continue to be important since they allow the class to ask questions and counter questions, consequently improving their communication skills by forcing them to think more deeply, uniquely and logically. With the coronavirus pandemic still making its way around the country, there has never been a greater need for unique and logical solutions to problems surrounding health care, education, jobs and trade. As we continue down the calendar, more serious problems will continue to show up, and we must equip the next generation with the required resources to become unique problem solvers.