If you haven’t seen the idea of a flipped classroom presented before, let me try and briefly explain.  The idea of a flipped classroom can take on a couple different formats.  A popular format that fits with my math background first has the teacher assign video to watch for homework.  These videos show students concepts and how to solve a type of problem.  The next day, students return to class and work on practice problems.  By practicing in class, the teacher is available to help students work through difficult problems and clarify misunderstandings.  This “flips” a traditional math class where the concepts are demonstrated in class and students are expected to practice solving them at home.

In my VR class we have been testing Nanome VR (for more information about Nanome, click here).  The app allows the user to immerse themselves in a world where atoms are visible to the naked eye and molecules can be created and manipulated in an immersive 3D space.  Nanome VR replaces and enhances the classic chemistry activity where student built molecules from toothpicks and marshmallows.  It brings molecular construction to life. 

Like I said, we have been testing Nanome VR in my class.  Naturally, you would think I teach a science or Chemistry course.  I do not.  I work with students to explore how VR can be implemented in other classes.  We then take these ideas to classroom teachers and work with them to create lessons using VR apps. 

What does all of this have to do with a flipped classroom?  Traditionally, the teacher is the source of information and they disseminate that information to the students.  But what if we gave students a leadership role and put their knowledge on display? With Nanome VR we tested it thoroughly, then we called in the Chemistry teacher.  Two of my VR students taught her the basics of using the Oculus Rift S and then had her jump into Nanome VR. She went through the tutorial where my students taught her how to construct molecules in 3-dimensional space.  Watching the interaction and listening to the exchange between them was incredible.  The awe and “ah ha” moments are the same with technology as with any other hard to grasp concept. 

I have seen some amazing growth by giving students ownership and putting them in positions to showcase their knowledge.  One of the hardest things to do is relinquish classroom control.  This is true when taking on a student teacher, or in this case, allowing the students to become the teacher.  We often view this as having students giving a presentation, which many find paralyzing. In my VR classes, students are put in more comfortable teaching situations.  Typically they are one-on-one scenarios.  It allows them to demonstrate their knowledge in a less stressful environment.  Sometimes it is one-on-one with an adult and other times it is with peers. 

What does all this accomplish?  I think it strengthens the student in three areas: improving communication skills, demonstrating knowledge, and improving content retention.  The first few times they are in they are paired with someone, they are apprehensive and unsure.  But over time, I see their confidence and fluency grow.  By the second part of the school year, I never hesitate to pair my students with business professionals, community members, educators, students, or presenting at a conference.  We have flipped the education model in a way.  I have found that my students have knowledge about things I do not.  I don’t fear this or avoid it.  I use it to build their confidence by giving them ownership.  This has changed my classroom for the better.  Don’t be afraid to create a flipped classroom, it really does work.

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