Flip teaching method at work in Japanese schools

Yasuhiro Sato, left, teaches students math while they use tablets at Higashikoyodai Elementary School in Tomiya, Miyagi Prefecture. (Mainichi)
Yasuhiro Sato, left, teaches students math while they use tablets at Higashikoyodai Elementary School in Tomiya, Miyagi Prefecture. (Mainichi)

‘Flip teaching’ helps connect in-class lectures and studying at home

December 2, 2013  Mainichi Japan

The school environment has become more high-tech, using touch-screen TVs and tablet computers in class. The latest trend in Japanese schools is “flip teaching” — taking classrooms to students’ homes through videos saved on their computers, allowing them to prepare for classes before they come to school.

During a sixth grade math class in Higashikoyodai Elementary School in Tomiya, Miyagi Prefecture, teacher Yasuhiro Sato told the class to fill in a time-distance-speed table in a group of three. “Please use what we learned yesterday,” “Tell me the formula, I’ll do the calculations.” Students worked on math problems while using their tablet computers.

These tablets have a video where Sato explains math problems using school textbooks. Students are required to see the video at home before the class. Sato said there were a few students who didn’t do their homework at first when he introduced this system, but these students eventually realized that they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rest of the class if they failed to see the video beforehand. Now, almost all his students come to class prepared.

In typical lectures, teachers first tell students what they are going to learn that day and take time to show them sample problems and explain how they are solved.

“Flip teaching is like outsourcing that introduction part to students’ homes,” Sato explained.

When Sato was seeking a good way to connect in-class lectures and at-home studying, he encountered a teaching video that was popular in the U.S. and he tried to make similar videos himself.

Sato first recorded his lecture on “proportion” problems in fall last year. After he used the video, the class scored 95 points on average in a test. This year, he used a teaching video on “inverse proportion.”

According to Sato, when children learn something new in class, they think they understand the material, even though their understanding is only partial.

Flip teaching, on the other hand, allows students to see the material they will be learning in class. They can come to class having some kind of sense about the subject they’ll be learning and are able to check their ideas about the subject. Seeing the video beforehand also allows students to come to class prepared with questions for their teachers or friends.

“Those who don’t fully understand the material during one class do not get left behind and those who do get it can deepen their understanding by teaching their peers,” Sato commented.

“I used to make time to explain the grammatical structure of English sentences so that students would understand subjects and verbs, but by teaching that part through a video, students now have more time to read and speak English during class,” said Yosuke Nakanishi of Kinki University High School, a teacher who has worked on his original flip teaching method for over 10 years.

The flip teaching technique allows more time for different learning systems, such as “speech shadowing” — copying words or sentences immediately after hearing them — dictation exercises and summarizing articles, which make it easier for students who don’t do well in English classes to learn the language.

Nakanishi has begun to fully employ the flip teaching method as Kinki University High School now requires all students entering the school from this past April to purchase tablet computers.

The English teacher hopes for these pre-class videos to transform class contents. “First-year students now speak a little English. If they keep up for two more years, they will be expressing their opinions in English. That would make them confident about their language proficiency,” he said.

Flip teaching first became popular in the U.S. In Japan, the Saga Prefecture city of Takeo is seeking ways to introduce the teaching technique on a fulltime scale and is set to provide all elementary school students with tablet computers in the 2014 school year.

Meanwhile, associate professor Yuhei Yamauchi of the University of Tokyo, who introduced flip teaching to Japanese education circles, suggests that such a teaching method would be more practical if it was used in universities and high schools where students need to exercise autonomous learning.

Yamauchi points out that teachers need support systems when using pre-class videos, as such teaching methods require a more interactive environment rather than the usual one-sided explanations. He also says that there are not enough teaching materials that summarize class topics in a short video a few minutes in length. In addition, schools need to get their parents’ consent as not every family owns a computer.


Read about flipped schools in the U.S. at  “Turning education upside down” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/09/turning-education-upside-down/?_r=1

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