With technology rapidly developing in society today, it is sometimes difficult to know where our focus should be. While there are virtually limitless possibilities for the use of technology, one of the most attractive, particularly under the Montessori model, is that of a reverse classroom.
What is it?
A reverse classroom acknowledges that there is limited potential for student growth under the model of direct instruction. We cannot, however, completely discount the idea of simply demonstrating a process from time to time. The evidence of this is borne out in the plethora of “how-to” videos overwhelming the Internet. The reverse classroom model promotes the idea that students can watch a so-called lecture from anywhere and it is their face-to-face interactions with peers and instructors that provide true learning. Through the use of a prerecorded webinar, screencast or even written lesson then, students can see some of the basic principles that are difficult to convey through anything other than direct instruction. Students can be assigned the homework of watching the clip at home, either on school-provided technology or a home computer, and when they return to class, they have the background they need to progress with the higher-order interactive learning that classrooms should foster.
What makes it work?
Much like a newsletter, a prerecorded lesson can quickly and effectively disseminate information without wasting valuable student-teacher interaction time. The lessons should be short just as we would limit the amount of time spent lecturing in a face-to-face classroom. Twenty minutes is about the maximum amount of time you want to put into a lesson. The examples should be short and to the point and should focus on a summary or bulleted list of the key information a student should take away. The next time the students attend class, they can jump right into enrichment activities and real-world application of the skill.
How is it done?
Thanks to a number of technological advancements, there are quite a few different ways that these lessons can be saved and then distributed to students. More traditional tools like slideshow presentations can be made with programs on the computer and then e-mailed to students or posted on a website. Some websites offer a free interface on which to record a lesson and then share the address with students. Many of these sites allow you to limit what students can see or the comments they can post if privacy or abuse of cyber privileges is a concern. Finally, there are several apps for smart tablets that allow you to write while recording your voice and face so that students essentially see exactly what they would if you were standing in front of them to teach a skill. These lessons can be saved and re-watched as needed. They make for an excellent test review, catch-up for students who have been absent, or quick reference for material that was taught a while ago.
Are there potential drawbacks?
As with most educational options, there is always a downside. Lack of access to technology is possibly one of the largest potential problems with this model. If students do not have the ability to view the material outside of class, it does not save class time. Student motivation can also be an issue. If a student struggles to complete assignments at home anyway, they might not make time to watch the modules either. These students can still participate in the follow-up activities, however, often guided by their peers who did watch the model. This can be an attractive enrichment activity for students who grasped the material quickly. If this were a recurring problem, students could be tasked with a quick lesson review at the beginning of actual class time, where students who were able to watch the lesson could share the highlights with their classmates.
Certainly, the reverse teaching model does not save educators or students from potential learning pitfalls. It does, however, open up ample class time for discussion, increasing rigor, and real-world application of skills. Educators often fight the battle that there isn’t enough time one-on-one with kids to deeply ingrain the lessons taught. Reverse teaching is one possible solution that meshes nicely with the forward-thinking and inquiry-based approach of Montessori schools.
Author info: Kelly Watson is a professional blogger that enjoys discussing education. She writes for Lamplighter Montessori School, a private school in Memphis TN.