Traditionally, the flipped classroom is described as teaching where videos take the place of direct instruction. This allows students to get individual time in class to work with their teacher on key learning activities. It is called the flipped classroom because what used to be classwork (the "lecture" is done at home via teacher-created videos) and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class.

Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, considered the pioneers of the Flipped Classroom Movement, talk about its history in How the Flipped Classroom is Radically Transforming Learning and contend that flipping increases student interaction and changes the way educators talk with parents. See Aaron Sams video, The Flipped Classroom Explained in 22 Minutes for more information. The Flipped Class: What it is and What it is Not, provides the definition of a flipped classroom, debunks myths, and identifies ways you can enhance the traditional method by “flipping” your classroom.

Thinking about flipping your classroom?

In the Edutopia article, Should You Flip Your Classroom? author Ramsey Musallam approaches flipping with caution. While he points out that flipping allows for differentiated instruction and more classroom time for collaboration and higher order thinking skills, the downside is that some students may lack access to the Internet (more on this later).

Musallam advises teachers to reflect on their own style of teaching and to consider a hybrid method of flipping by following these steps:

Step 1: Identify your current or desired teaching style.

Step 2: Ask yourself this question: Given my style, do I currently use class time to teach any low level, procedural, algorithmic concepts?

Step 3: If yes, begin by creating opportunities for students to obtain this information outside of the classroom.

Step 4: Include a system that encourages reflection and synthesis of homework-based instruction.

For an example of how Musallam has changed his online lessons for more student interaction, see his video, Tracking. And, for an interesting look at one educator’s self-reflection, see Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur’s video Confessions of a Converted Lecturer. Mazur says, "I thought I was a good teacher until I discovered my students were just memorizing information rather than learning to understand the material. Who was to blame? The students? The material? I will explain how I came to the agonizing conclusion that the culprit was neither of these. It was my teaching that caused students to fail! I will show how I have adjusted my approach to teaching and how it has improved my students' performance significantly."

On the flip side, well-known author Lisa Nielsen writes in Five Reasons I’m Not Flipping Over The Flipped Classroom that we should proceed with caution and consider the digital divide (access), the issues surrounding homework (i.e., less independent time), the fact that technology can’t eliminate ineffective teaching, and that the model still includes lecturing.

In Warning: Flipping Your Classroom May Lead to Increased Student Understanding, David R. Wetzel says, “Effective use of this way of thinking helps reduce student anxiety and frustration when studying science or math, especially when homework is involved.” Wetzel outlines the components of a flipped classroom and addresses how flipping makes for a more student-centered classroom:

  • You address student higher-order questions concerning homework.
  • Your opportunity to discover student misconceptions and procedural confusion is increased.
  • Students spend more time on experiments and investigations.
  • Students spend more time on project-based learning activities.
  • Students work in groups or independently to solve problems.
  • You can differentiate instruction as necessary.

Myths about the flipped classroom

Eight Observations on flipping the classroom argues the access issue and interactivity issues and questions the ability of students to watch what could potentially be hours of video each night. However, the Wired Magazine interview Flip This Classroom: Khan Academy Brings Lectures Home notes the success of the Khan Academy (see section and sidebar below.)

A flipped class is not just videos instead of live instruction. The videos are not a replacement for teachers. It is not distance learning. When done correctly the classroom now features structure, student responsibility, interaction between the teacher and students and student engagement. The Flipped Class - What Does a Good One Look Like? describes the characteristics of a flipped classroom:

  • Student-led discussions, tutoring and collaborative learning.
  • Critical thinking and problem-based learning.
  • Collaboration.
  • Student ownership.
  • Student exploration.
  • Student engagement.
  • Transformative learning.

One of the criticisms of using videos in or outside of the classroom is that they are not interactive. Interactive flipped instruction with YouTube annotations and time-markers shows you how to use freely available tools to allow students to annotate and mark their progress as they view videos.

Another common concern is how to track students’ use outside of class. Flipped Classroom: Tracking Student Interaction with Time-Shifted Material describes the  technology available that allows you to collect student usage data. Download additional assessment and tracking tools from the Flipped Classroom’s Tool Page.

If you’re not convinced about the advantage of sometimes using video in instruction, take a look at this chemistry lesson on Cesium:  The Flip: Why I Love It, How I Use It.

How to flip your classroom

Five Ways to Flip Your Classroom With The New York Times describes ways you can use Times’ lessons, videos and podcasts, and multimedia how to, send your class on a Times’ scavenger hunt, or when to use the lesson on creating how-to scripts and demonstrations.

Flipping for Beginners: Inside the New Classroom Craze from the Harvard Education Letter provides examples of how students will spend more time exploring, explaining, and applying concepts they learn.

In The Flipped Classroom Experiment from TeacherCast, a teacher describes his experiment with flipping from setup to creation of a global lesson and implementation.

The Khan Academy model

In this column’s sidebar (see pages 28-29), we feature Tom Shown, technology teacher at Monongahela Middle School in Deptford and avid Khan Academy practitioner. Like Tom, I had heard of “flipping” but became very interested when I read How Khan Academy Is Changing the Rules of Education in Wired Magazine this past summer (August 2011).

Education Technology Leadership Spotlight: Celebrating the Work of Salman Khan points out that the eponymous Khan Academy has over 20,000 educational videos. Salman Khan holds an MBA from Harvard and additional engineering, computer science, and math degrees. Embedded in the article is a TED Talk that features a montage of some of lessons from the Academy. The program is available to anyone, is a custom self-paced learning tool incorporating a dynamic system for getting help, and it includes custom profiles, points, and badges to measure progress. The system gives coaches, parents and teachers the ability to see any student’s progress in detail. It also provides a real-time class report for all students and allows for targeted interventions.

And did we mention that Khan Academy is free?

Beyond the hype, The White Paper: Lessons Learned from a Blended Learning Pilot is a summary of a recent study of a California summer pilot program using Khan Academy. While the authors admit that the pilot was statistically small, there were increases in test scores. It is interesting to read the full study and note the other observations that came out of this partnership between Envision Schools, Google, and Stanford University.

Learning from the Khan Academy tries to explain the success of the Khan Academy. Is it due to its tone: “down-to-earth, enthusiastic and rigorous without a trace of giddiness, pomposity or pedantry,” the raw knowledge relayed in digestible portions, or just the quirkiness and humanness of Khan’s delivery style. Whatever it is, it appears to be working. As noted above, millions of users access the site each month.

Access

Negotiating the Access Issue suggests a quick two-question poll to find out what kind of technology your students have access to. Some ideas for crossing the digital divide are to:

1. Allow greater access to classroom computers.
2. Find out what hours the school and local library provide Internet access.
3. Have the student ask a family member, neighbor, or friend to allow access to their Internet for a specified time each week. Depending on which system you use, videos can be anywhere from eight to 18 minutes each.

You can find other suggestions on the FAQ page at Flip Teaching.

Resources

In addition to the assessment instruments described above, there are other freely available tools. Screencasting iPad App and Web Interface combination: EduCreations describes the robust Screencast app for the iPad. See the example at Screencasting and Flipped Instruction: Beyond Math.

Screencasting Apps for the iPad reviews features and pricing for four screencasting apps for the iPad: ReplayNote, Explain Everything, ScreenChomp, and ShowMe.      

Time-Shifting instruction: Flipped Classroom and Teaching describes best practices and examples from several educators including Ramsey Musallam and six steps on how to “start the flip” from self-described “lead learner” John Sowash. Sowash has developed a comprehensive site, Flip Your Classroom Through Reverse Instruction, which offers tips, examples and tools for flipping.

In the News: Classroom Salon reviews a free product developed at Carnegie Mellon University. The software, Classroom Salon, is described as offering a “unique social networking approach to conversation in formal academic courses.” It allows for data collection and analysis and uses a blended learning approach. Sign up for a free account at www.classroomsalon.org.

In addition to finding lectures suitable for the flipped classroom at Khan Academy, iTunes, YouTube or university websites, educators have other resources including TED Talks (see the January 2012 Toolbox) and AcademicEarth.org.

To see how educators are flipping or using reverse instruction in the classroom read Seven Stories From Educators About Teaching In The Flipped Classroom, Lectures Are Homework in Schools following Khan Academy Lead and 15 Schools Using Flipped Classrooms Right Now (which includes a great infographic of the flipped classroom model.

You'll also find a wealth of information at Flipping your Classroom - 12 Resources to Keep You on Your Feet, Cybrary Man’s Educational Web Sites: Flipped Classroom and Flipping the classroom for mastery learning.

We invite you to join the conversation and share your classroom success stories with us by sending them to njeareview@njea.org.

Patricia Bruder, president of Linchpin Solutions LLC, consults for the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) located at the South Jersey Tech Park at Rowan University, Mullica Hill. EIRC is a public agency specializing in education-related programs and services for teachers, parents, schools, communities, and non-profit organizations throughout New Jersey. Learn more about EIRC at www.eirc.org or call 856-582-7000. Contact Patricia Bruder at linchpinsolutions@gmail.com.