MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
In some middle schools and high schools, completing a homework assignment could be as simple as watching a video like this:
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: OK. Welcome to Podcast 4.4. Now, we're going to talk about writing and naming ionic bonds.
BLOCK: Welcome to the 21st century classroom. It's a world where students watch lectures at home and do homework at school. Grace Hood from member station KUNC reports on so-called classroom flipping in rural Colorado - one of the first places to test the idea.
GRACE HOOD, BYLINE: When Bennett High School sophomore Jessica Miller sits down to do her chemistry homework, she pulls out her notebook, then she turns on an iPad.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Acid, OK? So, you may...
JESSICA MILLER: Whenever she changes the slide I'll pause it, I'll write everything that's on the screen down.
HOOD: Miller can replay parts of the chemistry video podcast she doesn't understand and fast forward through those that make sense. Then she takes her notes to class where her teacher can review them.
JENNIFER GOODNIGHT: If you have podcast 4 notes done, raise your hand if you have podcast 4 notes done. OK. I will come around and check them.
HOOD: Chemistry teacher Jennifer Goodnight walks up and down the rows of her classroom giving verbal quizzes, guiding students through labs and answering questions.
GOODNIGHT: This is right because cadmium is a transition metal and his charge originally came from here, right? OK. Because that's hydroxide.
HOOD: Goodnight is one of about five teachers flipping their classrooms at this small school on Colorado's Eastern Plains. She's part of a growing group of teachers using the concept since it emerged here in the state in 2007. So far, she says it's paying off with better test scores. She's been teaching for 12 years and flipping her classroom for the past two.
GOODNIGHT: If they're going to have their iPods all the time, might as well put a lecture on it. So, on their way home from school on the bus or whatever, they can maybe watch your lecture for homework that night. It is truly about meeting them where they're at and realizing that the 21st century is different.
JERRY OVERMYER: The whole concept of just sitting and listening to a lecture is really, that's what's getting outdated, and students are just not buying into that anymore.
HOOD: Jerry Overmyer is creator of the Flipped Learning Network for teachers, which has almost 10,000 members. He says the concept is popular in math and science classes where students can easily become frustrated working problem sets at home. And while videos seem to get the most attention, he says what really matters is how teachers use classroom time.
OVERMYER: It's about that personalized face-to-face time. Now that you're not spending class time - all of class time doing lectures, you know, you're working one-on-one with students. How are you going to use that time?
HOOD: While there's little academic research on the concept, it appears to work in a variety of schools from Colorado to Illinois to Michigan. Outside Detroit, Clintondale Principal Greg Green tested the idea in 2010 as a way to curb disciplinary issues and boost test scores. It worked well enough that Green flipped the entire school, which has a large number of at-risk students.
GREG GREEN: Now you can simply just take about five steps and record a video and then simply send it to your students and your parents and keep everyone informed. So now we're becoming even more transparent.
HOOD: That transparency can go a long way toward winning over parents who are skeptical of the idea. Back in Colorado, Bennett High School parent Denise Patschke says she found herself questioning classroom flipping videos when her son first came home from school. But as time went on, she began to watch them.
DENISE PATSCHKE: I can listen to the video as well when they need help and then I can try to help him understand what she's saying.
HOOD: Chemistry is tough enough for high school students let alone parents who feel they can't offer help because their last class was 25 years ago. A flipped classroom could make it easier for everyone. For NPR News, I'm Grace Hood.