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Rock Hill students use iPods in 'flipped' classes

If the sixth-graders in Chris Odom's math class at Dutchman Creek Middle don't pay attention to their teacher's lesson at home, they are likely to struggle with homework at school the next day.

Sound upside down? It is.

This school year, Odom has been "flipping" his class, having students study the lesson at home. Then he helps them work problems the next day during class.

He records a five- to 15-minute video lecture that students watch at home either online or on DVD.

The "flipped classroom," as it's known, is an example of how technology is changing education.

Teachers say the increasingly popular approach cuts down on wordy lectures and frees up class time for collaboration and one-on-one work with students.

"The flip is more about trying to best use class time to reach kids," said Odom, who is training eight Rock Hill teachers how to flip. "I try to be more of a guide on the side than a sage on a stage."

Teachers are using new technology tools to engage a generation raised on YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook.

Some say it's working.

Lynn Bogan, a Rock Hill High algebra and geometry teacher, tried flipping last semester after hearing about it a conference.

She asked her geometry students if they had Internet access and mobile devices. To accommodate those without the Internet access, she bought a DVD burner and recorded her lessons.

It was time intensive and unfamiliar.

"I was out of my comfort zone," Bogan said. "After the first day, I decided I would never try this again."

Her students convinced her otherwise.

"They said, 'Please don't do that; we really like this,' " Bogan said.

After a semester of flipping, Bogan is a fan. So far, it's proven most effective in her honors classes, she said.

This semester, Bogan is teaching her algebra class right-side-up and developing new material for the fall, when she plans to flip again.

Embracing the flip

"Flipping" has fast become one of education's latest buzz words.

With a slogan of, "Learn almost anything for free," Khan Academy is possibly the most prominent example of the approach.

The online storehouse offers more than 2,600 video lessons on topics from calculus to SAT preparation to mortgage-backed securities.

Proponents say such tools are key to reshaping the way students learn.

In Odom's class one morning, one thing stood out: It doesn't appear to take much more than math and a batch of iPods to keep 34 sixth-graders working calmly.

As they arrived, the students fell into routine. They answered a warm-up problem posted on the interactive white board.

Several students used their own iPods while others borrowed the school's iPod Touch devices. As they took a quiz on, Odom watched their answers pop up in real time.

"It allows me to know which kids need help when they need it," Odom said. "For so long we've had to guess that. Technology give us the ability to not have to guess that anymore."

Next, students downloaded a video lesson from the cloud-storage service Dropbox.

Then they approached one of several QR codes taped to the walls, scanning the code to get a Google form where they posted reactions to the lesson.

That's also how Odom makes sure students watch his videos. They leave comments on the online form, or in the school's social network, explaining what they learned or had trouble with.

To maintain variety, Odom said he's careful not to flip his teaching every day.

Students have embraced the concept.

"It's great," 11-year-old Jesse Butler said. "When you come back, you're able to do the work with him giving you more help."

Butler said he looks forward to finishing the work so he can play math games on his iPod.

"Fraction Samurai, that's the one I go to," he said. "I already beat Fraction Monkey."

Video below