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Flipped Classrooms: The realization of 21st century digital learning?

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January 30, 2013 05:04 pm


The following guest blog post comes from Caroline McCullen, the Director of Education Initiatives at SAS Institute.

So here we are. After years of talking about how to prepare students for success in the 21st century, we are now more than a decade in. But we still struggle with the same old challenges in education: “How can we effectively integrate technology into the classroom?” and “How can we provide all teachers with quality digital resources?”

A more relevant concern might be, “Why do we still have classrooms in which students rarely use digital resources?” or “Why are we surprised that students lack motivation when many schools still use old modes of communication, adhere to policies that limit or prohibit access to Internet resources and use printed materials that are outdated before they ever leave the publisher?”  More importantly, where are resources and assistance for schools wishing to address these issues and move toward 21st century learning?

Digital Learning Day, launched by the Alliance for Excellent Education, is an exciting event where best practices in digital learning and effective policies meet. Educators will find vital support, best practices in digital education, sample legal policies, and other vital resources to help schools as they transform their environment into a 21st century learning organization.

The February 6th agenda includes exciting presentations and video conferences with teachers who use digital resources to enrich their classrooms. Participants will get straight talk from classroom teachers who work in digitally connected classrooms. The good news is that many of their resources and strategies are available at no cost to schools!

For example, for three years, math teacher Katie Gimbar has been using digital resources to “flip” her classroom at Durant Road Middle School in Wake County, NC. Here she explains why she “flipped” and how it all works. SAS® Curriculum Pathways® is one of the free resources Katie uses to engage students both in and out of the classroom. In this era of reduced budgets, her flipped classroom helps teachers leverage digital resources to increase precious instructional time.

What does a flipped classroom look like? Simply put, students view videos at home to learn math content and then do their homework in class under the supervision of the teacher. When I visited Katie’s classroom, the first thing I noticed was a remarkable level of student engagement. Students worked in groups and went about their work independently and collaboratively.

And what was Katie doing? Her actions exemplified what every teacher wants to do—she was working with her students. She wasn’t lecturing; she wasn’t solving discipline problems; she was actually teaching students individually. There were a few laptops scattered about, but this classroom was clearly about enriched learning—not about technology. This simple technique allows teachers to focus on what drew them to teaching in the first place…interacting with students.  And isn’t that just what is meant to be?

To find out more about digital resources and professional development for the Flipping Your Classroom, explore the links at

Caroline McCullen is the Director of Education Initiatives at SAS Institute. As a Former National Technology Teacher of the Year, she continues to pursue her greatest passions: supporting activities and organizations that inspire excellence in education and helping schools harness innovative uses of technology to engage students and improve instruction.

Digital Learning Series
Digital Learning Series

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