How a New Learning Technology Seems to Gel with Ancient Christian Theology
by J. R. Miller
I love the face-to-face interaction of the classroom, and while nothing will ever replace it, there are advantages to using the internet for teaching. The world is changing. The way people learn is changing. It may be time Christian teachers and educators start thinking about how to Flip Theology.
I first came across this idea through a series of articles by Jon Bergmann, Jerry Overmyer and Brett Wilie. These innovative educators are looking at ways to Flip the Classroom. What does that mean?
The traditional definition of a flipped class is:
- Where videos take the place of direct instruction
- This then allows students to get individual time in class to work with their teacher on key learning activities.
- It is called the flipped class because what used to be classwork (the “lecture” is done at home via teacher-created videos and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class.
There certainly has been controversy over this approach, but much of it seems rooted in a misunderstanding of the educational goals.
The Flipped Classroom is NOT:
- A synonym for online videos. When most people hear about the flipped class all they think about are the videos. It is the the interaction and the meaningful learning activities that occur during the face-to-face time that is most important.
- About replacing teachers with videos.
- An online course.
- Students working without structure.
- Students spending the entire class staring at a computer screen.
- Students working in isolation.
So what is the Flipped Classroom?
The Flipped Classroom IS:
- A means to INCREASE interaction and personalizedcontact time between students and teachers.
- An environment where students take responsibility for their own learning.
- A classroom where the teacher is not the “sage on the stage”, but the “guide on the side”.
- A blending of direct instruction with constructivist learning.
- A classroom where students who are absent due to illness or extra-curricular activities such as athletics or field-trips, don’t get left behind.
- A class where content is permanently archived for review or remediation.
- A class where all students are engaged in their learning.
- A place where all students can get a personalized education.
To me, the most important point aspect of the flipped classroom is how the videos the students view on their own time are used in the classroom. Using videos viewed before class are only valuable if you can do something in-class that builds upon that knowledge helps the student gain a deeper understanding.
So what makes for a good in-class exercise?
These in-class “activities” must:
1) help support the student understanding of the stated learning objectives,
2) be designed to help students process what they have learned and place the learning into the context of the world in which they live,
3) be engaging to the students, yet flexible enough to allow students the ability to process and produce in a way that is meaningful to them. Possible in-class work could include:
- student created content
- independent problem solving
- inquiry-based activities
- Project Based Learning
The Flipped Classroom has has found success in the High School setting.
Now the question is, can it find success in the college and graduate level. The question then to Christian educators is:
- Can the use of a flipped classroom help us better engage young minds with the Gospel?
- How can the flipped classroom enhance the quality Christian education?
- What content in the college and graduate classroom lends itself to being flipped?
- Is there content that should never be flipped?
I have begun my own experiments with Flipped Theology in my series titled, The 10 Minute Teacher. My educational videos are available both here on my blog and on my YouTube channel. I would love to get feedback from other teachers who are trying to implement this concept or students who have experienced it.
What is the good, the bad and the ugly of Flipped Theology?