Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script — give students video lectures to watch at home, and do “homework” in the classroom with the teacher available to help.Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script — give students video lectures to watch at home, and do “homework” in the classroom with the teacher available to help.
Since Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams first experimented with the idea in their Colorado classrooms in 2004, flipped learning has exploded onto the larger educational scene. It’s been one of the hottest topics in education for several years running and doesn’t seem to be losing steam.
Basically, it all started when Bergman and Sams first came across a technology that makes it easy to record videos. They had a lot of students that regularly missed class and saw an opportunity to make sure that missing class didn’t mean missing out on the lessons. Once students had the option of reviewing the lessons at home, the teachers quickly realized the shift opened up additional time in class for more productive, interactive activities than the lectures they’d been giving.
And voila: a movement began.
A 2014 survey from the Flipped Learning network found that 78% of teachers said they’d flipped a lesson, and 96% of those that tried it said they’d recommend it.
What is a flipped classroom?
Once a new idea becomes a buzzword, pinning down the definition can become a tad more challenging. The flipped learning network has developed what they hope will be seen as thedefinitive definition:
“Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”
That gets the idea across, but it’s a bit of a mouthful. The gist, in somewhat simpler terms, is that it’s about moving the more passive elements of learning (watching a lecture, reading a chapter, etc.) outside of the classroom, so that more class time is available for interactive, hands-on learning.
Most people hear “flipped learning” and picture kids watching videos at home, but proponents of it suggest that it doesn’t have to be exclusively about videos. Teachers are encouraged to give students options – some students will still learn better by reading a textbook chapter, but others will benefit from videos, audio files, or any other type of material you can find or create that covers a given topic.
The Benefits of Flipping Your Classroom
For a veteran teacher, flipping the classroom means completely re-thinking how to do the job you’ve done a certain way for years. And it comes with some extra work. That being the case, why would any teacher bother?
1. Flipped learning keeps students more engaged.
The flipped classroom model addresses how students learn best. We all know how hard it can be to stay focused during a long lecture, even if it’s on a subject we’re especially interested in. Discussions and hands-on activities tend to keep students’ interest. While you work with students directly as they explore the concepts they’re learning in class, you can provide immediate feedback that helps them improve their learning as they go.
2. Teachers provide more personalized attention.
Students don’t all learn at the same pace and in the same ways. That’s always been a complicating factor in teaching. The question of how to meet thirty or more unique students at their own levels is one that keeps teachers up at night.
The flipped classroom model gives teachers more opportunities to work directly with students. They can therefore clearly see when an individual student is having trouble with a concept and work with them directly to get through it. The increased interaction with students in the classroom will help teachers gain a clearer idea of the different learning styles of their students, so they can tailor their instruction to the needs of each one.
3. Students can work at their own pace.
A student sitting in a lecture, diligently taking notes will almost certainly miss one thing the professor says while writing down another. And that’s still a vast improvement over the student whose mind wanders so they don’t catch much of anything.
If they’re watching a video at home instead, they have the power to pause the lecture while they write something down, and rewind and re-watch a particular part they didn’t fully understand the first time. If they feel they could really use a second viewing to better understand the concept, they have that option. They have more power over the way and process by which they study and learn.
Examples of Flipped Classrooms
As in most things, there’s no one right way to flip a classroom or lesson. But knowing how other teachers have done it can help give you ideas about what will work best for you.
The Backwards Classroom
Stacy Roshan’s classroom is probably the closest to what most people think of as a “flipped classroom” of those on our list, although she’s referred to it as the “backwards classroom” herself. She flipped her classroom largely to help reduce the anxiety she saw students experience in her AP Calculus class whenever she’d introduce complicated new concepts.
For homework, her students watch videos she’s recorded in advance that cover the concepts explored in each chapter of her textbook. They spend their time in class doing the types of math problems that students have traditionally done as homework. If they have difficulty working through a problem, the teacher’s right there for them to ask for help.
She does have to spend a lot of time creating those videos, but is happy enough with the results of using a flipped model that she’s been at it for over four years now and is taking the time to experiment with new ways to make it better, like including embedded quizzes in the videos that students watch at home.
The Faux Flipped Classroom
One of the common criticisms leveled at flipped learning is that it depends on a certain amount of privilege: what about all the students who don’t have a computer at home to watch videos on? Tracey Gillies addresses this concern with what she calls the “faux flipped” classroom.
Students who don’t have a computer at home can watch the assigned video in class. Gillies’ classroom is full of students each doing their own thing – watching a video, working out problems, taking quizzes, or posting or commenting on an online discussion board to get input from other students. Each of them is able to work on an assignment for as long as they need in order to master it, and then move on.
And Gillies is there to work with anyone who needs her help, at whatever point in the process they are at.
An Evolved Flipped Classroom
Shelley Wright embraced the flipped classroom back in 2011 and wrote a post about her experiences with flipped learning so far. But she followed it up a year later with a new post about how her flipped classroom had turned into something else – not a reversion back to the traditional way, but a more evolved version of the student-centered classroom she was seeking by flipping her lessons.
As students in her classroom became better at taking the lead on finding valuable resources and pursuing learning their own way, she shifted her focus to helping them with the process of learning how to learn better on their own rather than teaching about the subjects directly.
Her lesson to other teachers interested in flipped learning seems to boil down to: don’t think it’s all about the videos, they can be a part of it or not. It’s about shifting from passive learning to active learning, in whatever way works for you and your students.
The Tools of Flipped Learning
A comprehensive list of every possible tool educators could use to flip a classroom would require a book (and probably still miss some), but we wanted to address a few resources that are common in flipped classrooms.
Of course, familiar tools like YouTube, Evernote, Google Drive, and blogging platforms can play a role as well, but here are a few more specifically suited to flipped learning.
To create videos for students to watch at home, you’ll need easy-to-use screencasting software. Camtasia isn’t the only one on the market; you can find a list of some of the other screencasting tools you can use here (including some free ones). We’re highlighting Camtasia, because the company has optimized the tool for flipped classrooms.
Using Camtasia is fairly intuitive for new users. It allows you to record either your screen, or yourself. And, in one of the features that most sets it apart, it allows you to add interactive elements to your video. You can include quizzes throughout a video to test students’ comprehension of what they’ve just seen, and you can include links out to any additional materials you want them to read or view. It does cost $75 if you’re buying the Mac version, and $179 for the PC version, so it’s a bit of an investment. But there are volume discounts that may help out if enough teachers in one institution are interested in exploring the flipped classroom.
Part of the appeal of flipped classrooms is that all that extra class time provides more opportunities for collaboration amongst students. Wikispaces is a great tool for encouraging and enabling that collaboration. It’s free, unless your school is interested in purchasing a more secure version of the product.
The free version provides a lot of useful features though. You can give students assignments through the wiki, for both individual and group projects. You can load content for them to review and comment on, start discussions (or let them do so), and track how engaged different students are with the content you’ve assigned. It’s plenty useful for non-flipped classrooms as well, but can help students collaborate and interact more both within and outside of the classroom, so lends itself especially well to the challenges of flipped learning.
EdModo is one of the most commonly used education tools in the world and can even claim the title of largest K-12 social network. It enables a lot of the same kind of tasks that Wikispaces does: loading content and assignments for your students to access, and allowing students to share discussions and comments, for instance. But it adds a much larger social element since you can interact with other students and educators beyond your own classroom. That means you can tap into the content and lessons beyond those you’ve developed and students can seek out insights beyond those their own classmates have.
The tool also provides analytics that help you spot who needs help with what so you can make your class time more productive. And students can access everything loaded to Edmodo on mobile devices as well as desktops, so they can do their learning wherever works best for them.
Like WikiSpaces and Edmodo, Moodle has the functionality to serve as the platform for a flipped classroom. Teachers can load resources, including any relevant ones they find shared by other teachers in Moodle, to create the assignments and curriculum for each class.
Conveniently, an educator from Northwest Regional ESD created a course on how to flip a class using Moodle within Moodle itself. So you can learn about some of the best practices and processes, while also seeing an example of what a course in Moodle looks like at the same time. You can load all the content related to each module, divide it according to topics, and include a variety of content formats.
The last resource on our list is less about providing or organizing content and assignments for your students, and more about actively soliciting their feedback. If the goal of a flipped classroom is to make the learning experience more student-centered, then it makes sense to regularly check in with them.
You can use Poll Everywhere both for occasional quizzes to see how students are doing throughout a class period and to solicit input from the class on which concepts to focus on and how to address them. If you have three ideas for activities students can do together to explore a particular concept, make them choices students can vote on. You can group the students according to their preferences, or focus on the winning option for activities that involve the whole class.
Additional Helpful Resources
As you’ve noticed by now, this is a big subject. You can find a lot more to learn and say about flipped learning than we’ve covered here. If you want more information before trying the flipped classroom out, here are some helpful places to start:
- The Flipped Institute has a number of different instructional materials to help teachers through the process of flipping a classroom. If you still have questions after reviewing their materials, they have an “Ask an Expert” feature to help teachers with their more particular difficulties.
- The Flipped Learning Network also has many different resources, including webinars and a conference, that range from helping teachers new to flipped learning understand the basics, to tracking the larger trends and best practices of the movement.
- The Center for Teaching and Learning has a Flip-Quick start guide you can download to help you work through the basic process.
The flipped classroom may not be for everyone. It involves some extra upfront work and just might not mesh with the teaching style of every educator out there. But enough of the teachers that have tried it are having success that you may find it worthwhile to experiment with flipping a lesson or two to see what happens. You might just become a convert.
ed.ted.com: This cool tool lets you take any video on YouTube and deliver it in a private mode to whoever you choose to share it with, but its real power comes from the ability to create a quiz, supporting links, and “dig deeper” content that you can associate with the video (you can review the responses online).
Screencast-O-Matic: When you’re ready to give screen casting a try, Screencast-O-Matic was one of the first screencasting tools to be published that’ still around. It works with both the Mac and the PC, and requires no installation. There’s a quick demo video on the home page. You can record and host 15 minute clips for free, and create unlimited clips if you have the Pro version, available for just $15 a year.
PowerPoint’s Voice Annotation Function: Many teachers use PowerPoint slides as a part of their lecturing process. Adding your voice to these slides is pretty easy to do, turning a presentation from a plain set of slides into a self-contained instructional asset that stands alone. This can be a great way to test the waters with flipped content delivery. Get a quick overview of how easy it is to do this in this video.
Wikispaces: If you don’t have somewhere to deliver your content, a Wiki is a great place to start. Creating simple web pages with text, images, videos, links, and more is a snap with Wikispaces. This wiki is very popular with teachers, for good reason.
Online Videos and Classes: This article offers 7 free online education video resources teachers can use when they are looking for videos to help reinforce what they are teaching, or to provide a different perspective. These videos and video courses come from a wide variety of experts and thought leaders, and many provide an entertaining or thought provoking examination of academic topics.
Tackk: An easy tool for creating digital assignments … homework, flipped class content, blended learning lesson material, etc. Tackk is an Internet based application that provides an easy to use interface enabling you to post an image, video, or other content and add some text so you can ask questions or post some other form of assignment. A comments section is automatically available for each piece of content, so there’s an instant discussion forum! View an example Tackk and learn more here.
Creating Engaging Screencasts: The low cost of good quality web cams and the availability of free or relatively inexpensive screencasting applications helps to make the development of video learning content easier than ever. Yet all the free or low cost tools in the world do not inevitably yield good quality results. There is an essential element of technique to be considered. If one is going to invest time and energy (and budget dollars) in tools for the creation of video content, it is highly advisable to learn a bit about how to do what you are doingwell. This article, Dozens of Tips & Techniques for Creating High Quality Engaging Screencasts, provides a wealth of insights and ideas to help you make the best of your screencasting efforts. This video is a companion to the article.
Edmodo: Edmodo is a powerful, much loved application in the K-12 world. The rich functionality offered by this education-specific course deliver tool is very impressive for a free (and ad-free) application. Click over to this article, “10 Reasons Why Edmodo is an Excellent (and Hugely Popular) Digital Learning Platform” to dive into the many reasons why you will want to know about Edmodo if you don’t already have a digital learning platform. This video provides an overview of the article’s content.
As a champion of the popular flipped learning method developed by Eric Mazur, this phrase always hits me hard when I hear it from fellow educators. And I do hear it.
Over the years, I’ve run into many different accounts of experiments in innovative teaching and flipped classrooms, not just Peer Instruction, gone awry. I have heard many refrains about clickers, “I tried clickers and it was a disaster.” About flipped learning with videos, “I tried it but my students didn’t watch the videos.” And even about the student engagement all-star, project-based learning: “I gave it a shot but my students perform better when I lecture.”
Of course, there are sundry reasons why one venture toward innovative teaching succeeds and another stumbles. I don’t claim to have the one answer or a lock on the perfect explanation. In this 3-part series, I will offer possibilities to consider if your teaching improvement efforts have come up shorter than you expected starting with reason #1 why I think flipped classrooms fail.
Reason #1 Not targeting students’ attention
One big measure of success in a flipped classroom is how well students perform on high stakes assessments. I believe one reason flipped classrooms fail in this way has to do with neglecting to adequately target students’ attention to the things they need to perform well on those high stakes assessments before they take them [Authors note: Added for clarification on 2/11/16].
People only learn and retain what they pay attention to and think about. If students aren’t performing well on assessments,
one question to ask yourself is, “what are they paying attention to when they are preparing for those assessments?” The critical follow up to that is, “how am I directing students to hit the target…or the things I want them to learn and to be able to do?”
These targets are known as learning outcomes or goals. Many of us list learning outcomes on our syllabi and consider them when we write assessments. If we have time, we think about them when we select content and design lessons or assignments. Yet, generally, we direct students’ attention to content by telling them what to read (or watch), assigning related homework, talking about it during class, and then revisiting the topic only once through a test question or essay assignment.
The most powerful way to direct students’ attention is through that last strategy – assessment. However, that is the most infrequent thing we do – test students. And when we do test students, most of us do so only to measure learning, not to drive it.
Test-based learning, also known retrieval practice, is better way to direct students’ attention to the bulls eye. Retrieval is the act of trying to call something to mind and then successfully doing so.
Let’s try it: I am going to give you a retrieval cue and then you will call that information to mind.
What was the name of your first grade teacher?
Mine was Mrs. Brown. The act of successfully pulling that information from my mind is retrieval. The mental work to generate your teacher’s name is qualitatively different from reading the name on a piece of paper or looking it up on the Internet. And the exercise of retrieving content in an effort to learn it is called retrieval practice.
The trick to helping students’ learn, retain what they learn for the long-term, and even apply what they learn in novel contexts is to ask them questions that require retrieval of the key concepts that constitute your learning outcomes. You can do this in a variety ways – in quizzes, flashcards, clickers or other classroom response systems, immediate feedback assessment scratch offs, one minute papers, or any of the 50 Classroom Assessment Techniques by Angelo and Cross.
Warning: When designing retrieval questions, don’t get lured into asking things you don’t really care if your students remember or not. These are items around or outside the black ring of the dartboard, not totally unrelated but not critical. Sometimes we like to check to see if students have done their reading and we use verbatim questions as a stick, or to see if we can catch them not doing their work. Verbatim questions are ok, but only if they guide students to things you want them to learn.
For example, if we have assigned Pride and Prejudice as a reading we might ask students to identify Collins’ profession to determine if they did the work. He is in the clergy and you would have to read the text or watch the movie to get that and probably pay a little bit of attention. But his profession is tangential to the key themes of the novel. Successful retrieval is powerful, so be careful not to misdirect attention with unimportant verbatim questions.
I have to admit that it is demoralizing and painful to put intensive time and effort (always at the expense of other things that need your attention) into teaching improvement only to find no difference in how your students perform or experience your courses. Many students and teachers I talk to about student success suggest that aligning preferred learning styles is the answer.
Forget designing instruction based on students’ learning styles, an approach that has all but been debunked by the cognitive science research community. One reason flipped classrooms fail is because we don’t direct students’ attention effectively. If students don’t think about or pay attention to the right things, they won’t learn the right things. Direct their attention carefully and purposefully to get the pay off you are looking for.
Reason #2 – Students are not able to apply knowledge in novel situations
On high stakes assessments, especially standardized tests, we typically ask students to demonstrate their ability to apply what they know on questions they have never seen before. To me, this ability to transfer learning across situations and use it to solve novel problems is the holy grail in education. We hope we train students to take what they have learned in the context of our classrooms and apply it to an unfamiliar or new situations off campus. I propose that problems of transfer offer another reason some flipped classrooms fail on the student performance measure.
Application or transfer questions are more than procedural tasks that require plug and chug or rote problem solving. Such questions require students to transfer what they have learned to novel situations and are very common on mid-term and end-of-term exams. They are not as common in homework problems or quizzes. As such, students don’t generally have enough practice preparing for the transfer questions that are going to determine their overall course performance.
Transferring learning is a very difficult thing to do. Especially far transfer or transfer between very different contexts.*
My favorite example of the complexity of far transfer of learning is demonstrated in the movie The Karate Kid.
To prepare Daniel to compete in an upcoming tournament, Mr. Miyagi has him wax a car using very specific movements. Miyagi varies the context in which Daniel learns the movements with the commands “wax on, wax off,” “paint the fence” and “sand the deck.”
Daniel is flabbergasted at the ridiculousness of all this and feels he is being abused. Moreover, despite Miyagi telling him that he is Karate training by doing these tasks, Daniel never makes the connection that by practicing “wax on, wax off” he is actually learning to
block using his reflexes. Miyagi has to do a big reveal by simulating the connection between the movements in an intense showdown before Daniel gets it .
So, if I am facing a situation where I have invested time and energy in flipping my class and students aren’t performing, another question I am going to ask myself is –“have I trained my students effectively to apply what they have learned?”
Two Strategies for Addressing Problems of Transfer
According to Barnett and Ceci (2002), there are two overarching domains of far transfer: the content domain (what is actually transferred), the context domain (when and where something is transferred to and from) and multiple subdomains within. To help address the complexity of designing for and measuring transfer across far or unfamiliar contexts in education, Barnett and Ceci developed the transfer taxonomy displayed in Figure 1.
To help students apply their learning to novel situations and far contexts I recommend embracing a two fold strategy of variability and telling.
Variability: to prepare students to apply their knowledge of a single concept in novel situations, vary students’ practice by both content and context. Miyagi employees this strategy, he puts Daniel in a variety of situations using very different content and contexts (car waxing, fence painting, deck sanding) to learn the foundational skill of blocking at a deep level. By exposing students to content and contexts with such variety, you help them strip out what is extraneous and hone in on the deep meaning of the underlying concepts, topics, or skills. But as discussed above, varying the context isn’t enough.
Telling: Miyagi is like most of us educators. He carefully and artfully sets up an elegant learning experience and sits back and waits in anticipation for the fireworks to go off. He leaves his student to make the connection that what he is learning in one context can be transferred to another context. He’s almost as flabbergasted that Daniel doesn’t see the bridge as Daniel is that he is doing Miyagi’s yard work. It is critical to teach students how to apply their knowledge to novel situations; that is to do a reveal demonstrating the various connections before the high stakes assessment.
In conclusion, so far I have offered two reasons why I think flipped classrooms fail on the student performance measure:
1) Students aren’t paying attention to the right things for long enough (see Part 1 for more on this)
2) Students don’t know how to apply their learning in novel situations.
As strategies for addressing these two issues, I suggest asking yourself how and where you are directing students attention and how you are teaching students to apply their knowledge in novel situations.
Flipped classrooms sometimes fall flat. You will gain diverse perspectives and new strategies from expert practitioners in K-12 and higher education including flipped learning pioneer, Aaron Sams. This post is part of The Neighborhood, a special Turn To Your Neighbor series where we invite innovative educators from around the globe to discuss a variety of education topics. We encourage you to interact with us and contribute your own theories on flip class flops in the comments section or via Twitter.
Aaron Sams, Educator, Author Consultant of Sams Learning Designs and Saint Vincent College. The quickest way to derail a flipped classroom is to assign a video, get frustrated when a large percentage of the class did not view the video, then proceed to lecture the content. By doing so the teacher sends a message to the irresponsible student that the teacher will bail students out when they make bad choices and there is not motivation to make good choices. The teacher sends a message to the responsible student that their work was in vain and there is no motivation to complete the assigned work in the future. Instead, a teacher must have a procedure in place to monitor and deal with students who haven’t done their flipped assignment.
Crystal Kirch, Digital Learning Coach, Tustin Unified School District. Flipped classrooms fail when teachers do not design and differentiate the classroom learning environment based on student feedback and needs. I believe teachers need to have a method (such as my WSQ method) to hold students accountable for engaging and interacting with the video content and to give them structured processing and reflection time after the video. This helps to ensure students come to class ready to dive deeper and apply their knowledge, as well as gives the teacher information about specific student misconceptions to address during face to face time.
Ken Bauer, Associate Professor and Board Member, Tecnológico de Monterrey and Flipped Learning Network.Flipped classrooms fail when there is a mismatch of understanding of responsibilities. In general, students are waiting for faculty to “teach them” and the newly flipped teacher is eager for the students to grab this amazing opportunity to have control. This shift requires time and a building of trust in the learner/mentor relationship. In my experience, some students embrace this easily, the majority take a few months and others will take much longer to embrace this change; learning is a social process and a relationship of trust is essential.
Helaine W. Marshall, Director of Language Education Programs and Associate Professor of Education and Board Member, LIU Hudson and Flipped Learning Network. One reason for failure stems from the mindset of the educator – that flipped learning is a single concept. As with any comprehensive approach, flipped learning consists interlocking concepts that work together. Unfortunately, due to misconceptions, or the tendency towards expediency, some educators simply flip the classwork and the homework and call that flipped learning. Or, they may assess the students in traditional ways that do not reflect their mastery of deeper learning, such as standardized tests that favor discrete point evaluation techniques. And so on. Without implementing ALL of the elements of the flipped learning approach, success may prove elusive. Those who pick and choose do so at their peril. Follow Helaine @lainemarsh
Matthew Whitson, Teacher, English 1, Weatherford ISD. In my opinion flipped classrooms fail because of fear. Fear of the unknown factors that may drive or derail learning. Fear that people will not see the model as a legitimate model in spite of the research. As a teaching society we are slow to allow ourselves to relinquish control of that which we hold most dear out of fear. Our sense of control can empower us and give us comfort, but in retaining this control we fail to ask ourselves the question, “What would our society be like if learning really did have no walls and access for all?”
Julie Schell, Clinical Assistant Professor, Director, and Board Member, The University of Texas at Austin and Flipped Learning Network. Student resistance is the surest way to kill a flipped classroom dead in the water. When I first started using my favorite flipped method, Peer Instruction, at Columba University a student said to my face, “I am not paying $3,000 to sit in your class and learn from novice peers!” In the worst cases, student resistance shows up in the form of a down right revolt (i.e. students create an anti-you Facebook group or write no confidence letters to your chair). Often, resistance is showcased in horrible end-of -course evaluations that have their own brand of anonymous vitriol. It can also be more subtle and show up as a red herring. In Peer Instruction this often happens when students argue about unimportant details in clicker questions, like typos, to avoid the having to confront their own misconceptions in front of peers. Most humans have an internal drive to feel successful. Our students come to flipped classrooms with the deeply ingrained belief that education means passively sitting at the feet of the most admirable professors soaking up all of their knowledge and that they cannot be successful any other way.
Even with these very common bumps, thousands of flipped classrooms around the world succeed. By practicing some of the strategies in these three posts my colleagues and I hope you will avoid the common pitfalls we have all blundered through. When students engage, like those in Professor Mizokami’s psychology class in Kyoto Japan, the power of flipped classrooms prevails.
In 2012, I attended the ISTE conference in San Diego, CA. While I was only there for about 36 hours, it was easy for me to pick up on one of the hottest topics for the three-day event. The “flipped classroom” was being discussed in social lounges, in conference sessions, on the exhibit floor, on the hashtag and even at dinner. People wanted to know what it was, what it wasn’t, how it’s done and why it works. Others wanted to sing its praises and often included a vignette about how it works in their classroom and how it transformed learning for their students. Still others railed that the model is nothing transformative at all and that it still emphasizes sage-on-the-stage direct instruction rather than student-centered learning. I engaged in a few of these discussions offline and online, and while I’m still on the fence about my feelings toward the model, I can offer some insight and interpretation.
What It Is
According to the description on ASCD’s page for the newly released book, Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, by flipped-classroom pioneers Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, “In this model of instruction, students watch recorded lectures for homework and complete their assignments, labs, and tests in class.” In part one of a three-part series of articles, Bergmann, along with two co-authors, tries to dispel some of the myths surrounding the flipped classroom. For instance, they state that the flipped classroom is NOT “a synonym for online videos. When most people hear about the flipped class all they think about are the videos. It is the interaction and the meaningful learning activities that occur during the face-to-face time that is most important.”
The authors go on to explain that the model is a mixture of direct instruction and constructivism, that it makes it easier for students who may have missed class to keep up because they can watch the videos at any time. The argument also goes that since students watch most teacher lectures at home and are receiving instruction as homework, they can spend class time working through any gaps or misunderstandings around the content with the teacher acting as “guide on the side.” Another flipped classroom educator,Brian Bennett, wrote a post explaining that the model is not about the videos, but about the learning. I had a chance to talk to Brian at ISTE, and it was great to hear him express his thoughts about the model in more than 140 characters. He also runs the #flipclass chat on Twitter every Monday night, which is a great chance to learn more about the model.
What It Isn’t
As with any new fad or trend, there are plenty of people trying to either use the model to make money or jump on the bandwagon without really understanding what they are joining. For instance, the company TechSmith has an entire part of their site dedicated to the flipped-classroom model. Now, I happen to think that TechSmith makes great products and are pretty good at keeping a finger on the pulse of education. However, it’s no secret why TechSmith, who creates screencasting software, would be interested in the flipped-classroom approach. For what it’s worth, their site does focus mostly on methodology and pedagogy, and they have consulted educators for most of their content. What is disconcerting to me is to hear vendors on the exhibit floor at ISTE talking about how their product will help you “flip your class.” If I were your average principal or tech director walking around the exhibit hall without much knowledge of the model, or a misconception of the model, I could really end up getting the wrong information.
I have often seen and heard the Khan Academycome up in discussions around the flipped classroom. (I can hear a vendor saying, “With our amazing display quality, your students can watch videos in crisp detail!”) While some teachers profess to using KA videos to present content to their students, the idea is not that KA will replace the teacher or replace the content as a whole. From my experience with KA, the content is taught in only one way. Good instruction, especially for math concepts, requires that ideas be presented in a number of ways. In addition, not all math is solving equations. One of the hardest parts about teaching math is making sure that students are not blindly solving equations without really understanding what they are doing with the numbers. For students to be successful on their own, videos used in the flipped-classroom model must include a variety of approaches in the same way a face-to-face lesson would, and they must also have good sound and image quality so that students can follow along easily. These videos must also match the curriculum, standards and the labs or activities the students will complete in class.
Why It Works
Most of the blog reflections I have read and the conversations I have followed point to the way that the flipped classroom has truly individualized learning for students. Teachers describe how students can now move at their own pace, how they can review what they need when they need to, and how the teacher is then freed up to work one-on-one with students on the content they most need support with. They also point to the ability for students to catch up on missed lessons easily through the use of video and online course tools like Edmodo or Haiku Learning. In addition, a 2009 meta-analysis done by the Department of Education showed that in many cases, online learning has some advantages over face-to-face learning.
Why It Doesn’t Work
When I first started learning about the flipped-classroom model, my immediate reaction was, “This won’t work with my students.” This continues to be an argument made by a lot of rural and urban teachers. Our students just don’t have the access required for the model to really work. I’ve had people tell me, “They can use the public library.” To which I explain that there are usually three computers available and there is usually a 30-minute limit per user. I’ve had people tell me, “You can burn DVDs that they can watch in their DVD players.” To which I ask how much of the day can a teacher devote to burning at least 10-15 DVDs at a time? I’ve also been told that students can use the school computer lab after school to watch the videos. To which I explain that we have only 27 computers available for the whole school, and that it would require an after school program to be put into place. (This last option, by the way, is the most realistic.) Another tough sell for me is the fact that if everyone starts flipping their classrooms, students will end up sitting in front of a screen for hours every night as they watch the required videos. And as many teachers can tell you, not everyone learns best through a screen.
Why It’s Nothing New
Listening to Aaron Sams talk about his experience with the flipped-classroom model, one can’t help but imagine that what he is describing doesn’t require video at all. What he describes is, in essence, what John Dewey described at the turn of the 20th century: learning that is centered around the student, not the teacher; learning that allows students to show their mastery of content they way they prefer. These are not new concepts. I am often brought back to the question: “Are we doing things differently or doing different things?” As educators around the globe try to flip their class, it’s an important thing to reflect on.
Why It Matters
So in the end, why should we care so much about the flipped-classroom model? The primary reason is because it is forcing teachers to reflect on their practice and rethink how they reach their kids. It is inspiring teachers to change the way they’ve always done things, and it is motivating them to bring technology into their classrooms through the use of video and virtual classrooms like Edmodo and similar tools. As long as learning remains the focus, and as long as educators are constantly reflecting and asking themselves if what they are doing is truly something different or just a different way of doing the same things they’ve always done, there is hope that some of Dewey’s philosophies will again permeate our schools. We just need to remember that flipping is only the beginning.
- 9Slides– A wonderful way for teachers to create an interactive/guided presentation for their students flipped learning.
- Answer Pad– The ultimate assessment tool for teachers to use with their mobile devices or browser to gauge student’s learning.
- Ask3– A fantastic iPad app for turning your iPad into a recordable whiteboard. This allows for a teacher to create guided lessons (by adding text/drawing/narration) that students can view at home. Students can then use the app in class to answer each other questions before asking the teacher, while teachers can use it to assess student’s learning.
- BoomWriter– An excellent innovative site that allows students engage their creativity by completing chapters of a book/story and then having other students vote on which one should be included in the finished product. Once a book/story is completed a trade paperback copy can be ordered, turning students into published writers.
- Educreations– A terrific iPad app that is very similar to Ask3 as it turns the iPad into a recordable whiteboard. However, teachers can not only create a guided lessons, but also post them on the web for their students to view at home for flipped learning.
- GoClass– A wonderful iPad/web tool that allows educators to create lessons and then assess students learning in real-time. Also, students can view the lessons at home on their mobile devices and learn at their own pace.
- Knowmia– One of the most popular sites/apps for creating and searching for video lessons for students. Simply put, Knowmia is one of the best and easiest ways to flip a classroom.
- Math File Folder Games– A great site/company for educational iOS Math games that can be used to create 21st Century “Math Centers”. This is a great way to use educational apps to reinforce flipped learning.
- MentorMob– A fantastic site for educators to create guided learning playlists that students can use at home for self learning. One of the best sites around for creating a flipped classroom.
- Nearpod– A terrific all-in-one solution for mobile devices in education. Teachers can use it to create engaging lessons that students can do from home.