Flipped Classrooms and the Digital Divide: Challenges and Remedies


Flipped Classrooms and the Digital Divide:
Challenges and Remedies

As more technology is infused into schools, more teachers are experimenting with "flipped classrooms" where students do individual work at school (with help from the teacher) and view lectures/assignments at home.  The idea is that students can listen and study at their own pace at home and then get focused help from the teacher at school.  Here are some recent statistics concerning teachers and flipped classrooms:

- In 2012, 48% of teachers flipped at least one lesson, in 2014 it is up to 78%.

- 96% of teachers who have flipped a lesson would recommend that method to others.

- 46% of teachers researched have been teaching for more than 16 years, but are moving towards flipped classrooms.

- 9 out of 10 teachers noticed a positive change in student engagement since flipping their classroom (up 80% from 2012).

- 71% of teachers indicated that grades of their students have improved since implementing a flipped classroom strategy.

- Of the teachers who do not flip their classroom lessons, 89% said that they would be interested in learning more about the pedagogy.


These statistics are certainly compelling and make a strong case for at least partial use of a flipped classroom when appropriate.  However, flipped classrooms assume that students have broadband internet access at home.   Some teachers might respond that their students do have access, but it is important to find out what kind of access this is.  For example, many of my students in the past have stated that they have access at home, but it amounted to using a parent's smartphone to access the internet.   This is simply not a feasible way to access lectures/activities at home that fit into a flipped classroom.     Other educators might mention that their students can go to a public hotspot area to gain access, but once again this isn't always realistic (or fair for that matter).  The point here is that educators need to be deliberate in finding out the exact types of access that students have when they are contemplating flipped classrooms.

If a teacher has several students that don't have broadband access at home, that doesn't mean that a flipped classroom dynamic should be off limits.   Some teachers have experimented with a "modified flipped classroom" where a teacher implements an "in class" version of the flipped classroom in order to meet the needs of individual learners.  Students can still access materials online in class and then ask the teacher specific questions tailored to where they are in the learning process.

Of course, there are work arounds to providing access to those who don't have home access.  These might include keeping the library open before and after school, lending out devices with connectivity, and lending out devices with the lectures/materials installed on them.  Many districts are starting to deploy hotspots that are left at home all year long so that all students in a flipped classroom have connectivity, but hotspots do have budgetary implications and long term planning with respect to hotspots is crucial.   All of these optoins are not perfect solutions and still might be inequitable in some cases, but they are a good start.

The flipped classroom does have great potential for those teachers who embrace the concept and work to perfect it.  Before doing so, though, an honest and thorough evaluation of student home connectivity is essential.

1 comment



11-01-2017 08:13

Hi Matt, 
Thanks for this blog post. I have used the flipped model in my classroom for many years, and also have an interest in the topic. Here are some strategies that I wrote about for EasyBib a few years back, and saved it as a Google Doc. Thanks for the discussion!