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(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Education tech specialist Camille Cole, right, works with Michelle Shimmin, a teacher at Hillcrest High, on making educational videos as part of a Flip'in Utah conference at Jordan High, Wednesday, August 13, 2014.
Flipping Utah schools: Lessons at home, homework in class

Proponents say it makes it easier for kids to learn at their own pace and for teachers to help.

First Published Aug 25 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Aug 26 2014 11:16 am

Last school year, teacher Pam Loveridge faced her toughest group of students yet.

Within a few months, nearly 40 of her 200 middle school math students were failing — much higher than the normal two. She knew she had to do something dramatic.

At a glance

Counting the flips

While there’s no official tally, Jared Ward, a Canyons District education technology specialist, estimates at least a few hundred teachers throughout Utah have flipped their classrooms.

Nationwide, the number of teachers who have flipped a lesson jumped to 78 percent in 2014 from 48 percent in 2012, according to an online study conducted by the Flipped Learning Network and SOPHIA, an online learning and teaching company.

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So she flipped her classroom at Butler Middle School in Cottonwood Heights.

Loveridge asked students to watch her recorded lessons on computers at home, and during class, they worked on assignments they might have otherwise done as homework. Struggling students got more one-on-one attention from her during class because she wasn’t busy lecturing.

Within seven weeks, only three of her students were still failing, she said.

"The time in class was much better used," Loveridge said.

The concept of flipping classrooms has gained traction in Utah and nationwide in recent years, in both lower and higher education. The idea is to expose students to new concepts at home, often through video lessons, and then to have them do work, traditionally assigned as homework, during class with the teacher’s help.

Not all those who flip, of course, see the same kind of success as Loveridge. Challenges include making sure students have access to technology, actually watch lessons and that class time is used wisely. And parents are sometimes wary.

But proponents say flipping makes it easier for kids to learn at their own paces and for teachers to help students.

"They find it gives them more time to interact with students one-on-one," said Jared Ward, a Canyons District education technology specialist and an organizer of the recent Flip’in Utah conference, hosted by the district. "You’re getting to have a conversation with every student about what they’re learning in class."

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Flipping fun » In some ways, it’s an old idea with a new name. Many teachers and college professors have long asked students to read articles or new material at home and come to class prepared to discuss it the next day.

In other ways, however, technology has taken the concept much further. Online videos, PowerPoint presentations and websites enable students to watch entire lessons at home, pausing and rewinding as needed.

"Kids could go back and listen to pieces they might have missed," said Glen Andersen, a teacher at Red Mountain Elementary in Ivins. Andersen and his school’s other fifth-grade teachers flipped their classrooms last school year.

Parents could watch videos along with their students to help them understand the lessons, rather than muddling through homework problems with them, he said.

Red Mountain parent Kristin Stout said she loved it for her fifth-grader. "If we had any questions, I was able to refer back to the video," Stout said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, her 11-year-old son, Taran Stout, said watching a video was "more fun" than typical homework.

Classroom resources » At Brighton High in Cottonwood Heights, this is the third year teacher Sarah Carlson has flipped her classroom. On Friday, students in her honors physics class sat in groups completing worksheets — assigned as homework in years past — on unit conversion, scientific notation and significant figures.

Over the weekend, her students were expected to watch a video lesson Carlson created on displacement and velocity, preparing to face practice problems in class on Monday.

"When they’re at home working on problems by themselves, they get stuck and frustrated and sometimes they just quit," Carlson said. "In class, they have each other as a resource, and they have me as a resource."

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