Flipping the Classroom

In my previous post, I made the point that in the education sector,  we have not (yet) seen the radical technology-driven advancement that has characterised other industries in the last quarter-century because rather than allowing technology to liberate us from the limitations of yesterday, we have typically rejected technologies that don’t fit our existing model and instead put our resources into tools that support the old, comfortable way of doing things.  We’ve replaced whiteboards with interactive whiteboards, text books with texts on CD ROM, Encyclopaedia Britannica with Wikipedia, and pens with Microsoft Word.  In themselves, these tools are all good – but they are good tools that don’t require us to change our pedagogy.

What then, would make a significant change?   One example, I think, is the flipped classroom model.  The “Flipped Classroom” is a term first used by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams some time ago but has started to gain traction in 2011, following Sal Khan’s TED talk.

At it’s simplest, flipped teaching involves using podcasts, (whether audio podcast, vodcast, screencast), to teach students at times when they would normally be on their own doing individual homework. This frees up class time for exercise work that would once have been set for homework, while the teacher is there to act as a personal tutor.  (hence the term ‘flipped’).

In my own experience (I started flipping my classes in 2005 – well before the term was coined),  it also makes time in class for more discussions, debates, role-plays, modelling activities, experiments and group work.  Each of these requires people to be together.  A lecture does not.   It’s not just about doing more online.  It’s about considering what works best online, and what works best face-to-face and curating each of these to make our precious class time more valuable.

This is not just squeezing technology into an existing structure.   It’s allowing technology to break us out of a model that served us before we had the Internet and when the only times teachers had to talk to their students was four class periods a week.

Note:  Since posting this, a reader has sent me a link to her fantastic blog post “15 Flipped Classrooms We Can Learn From“.  Thank you Carol :)

16 thoughts on “Flipping the Classroom

  1. Hi Andrew,
    I was speaking to a teacher at STAVCON today who said that you may have about five students at Wanganui who may be interested in Unit 3/4 VCE Environmental Science next year. I have the support of DEECD (Ultranet) to deliver the course online, using Blackboard Collaborate, email, my blog and the Ultranet. They can have a look on my blog at http://vceenviroscience.edublogs.org for more information about the course. I am happy to speak to students and parents on the phone or Skype (or using Polycom, now that we have it installed) if they have any queries.
    Please let me know if these students might be interested in a blended learning model for VCE Env Sci in 2012. Best Regards, Britt Gow

  2. Hi Andrew, I think this model is by far better than the classic one. My only question is what you do to encourage ss to learn at home. Do you test their knowledge at the beginning of the class? Or do you have other method? Maybe this might seem a stupid question, but in my own experience, they don’t tend to work a lot at home…

  3. Thanks for the question Mariana,

    I think that what becomes important is to use class time in ways that create a sense of loyalty to the group, and in ways that inspire a desire to understand and master a subject.

    I therefore think flipped teaching makes the art of teaching even more critical than it was when we had a captive audience for our lectures. If teachers are not skilled in the art of teaching, if what they do in the classroom doesn’t inspire devotion to the subject and loyalty to the group and respect for the teacher, and if the online lessons given via video are not engaging and finely crafted to meet the needs of students, then I think you are right – students won’t buy into it.

    In direct answer to your question, I do sometimes test their knowledge, but because this approach frees up class time – as a teacher you have more time to spend talking to students in class, you are therefore more likely to intuit whether they are up to date during those conversations. If your back is to the class for half of each lesson writing notes on the board, you need a formal test to efficiently expose any students who are not understanding.

    • Thanks Andrew. I’m going to try this with my students this year. (classes start in March in Uruguay) Thanks again!

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  5. I have operated a flipped classroom in the past and have to comment whenever I can on it’s success. In 2008 I was teaching a small year 12 History class of perhaps 10 students. Realising early on that to cover the course appropriately and with rigour required more class time I adopted podcasts and vodcasts to accompany the students set readings. The impact was astonishing, with students who had previously refused to voice opinions or ask questions suddenly bringing to the table a depth of comprehension and insight that I had previously dreamt of. At the time I used dream weaver and embedded the files for download via the school website, this enabled them to access them wherever they wanted to. Flipping a Classroom fore grew out of a desire to maximise class time and to encourage students to use it more effectively. How many of us sat through tutorials at uni not wanting to say anything because we hadn’t done the reading? The onus here is on the student to perform, not the teacher.

    • Thanks Andrew. actually I have never heard from someone who flipped their classroom (wholeheartedly) who has not reported similarly.

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  9. I think it is the teacher and parents who should make education relevant to students. Technology should become an inclusive tool. Where all are able to have access to hardware and applicationsif needed.On the one hand I think that using technology is not learning – just as using a remote control does not teach you about television. You are the slaves to the technology; not the technologist.

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