Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm flippin' busy

The Woodrow Wilson conference in Columbus featured some inspiring sessions. My favorite was presented by David Johnson, a Fellow teaching a flipped classroom near Indianapolis. In its purest implementation, a flipped classroom has students watching instruction at home, and doing homework at school. The teacher is then able to circulate among the students. To make this happen, you need a way to deliver instructional material at home. YouTube is convenient, but since internet access may not be available for all of your students, you could distribute DVDs. Typically, the classroom will also have some means for showing the instructional material.

Katie Gimbar has a nice presentation describing the process. If you've heard of the flipped classroom before, then you've likely also heard that it's a great way to use content like Khan Academy, with the teacher providing the missing personal link. However, Katie says that the content must be produced by the teacher (in short segments) to convince the student that they need to listen. While this places an upfront burden on the teacher, consider this: while the video is being replayed for some students, you are helping others. And considering that you likely have multiple classes with the same prep, the content is reused. This eliminates the "did I already show you this?" dilemma. If you are teaching four sections of Algebra 1, it would be nice to turn the discussion over to YouTube. Imagine being able to carefully observe your students while your digital self is presenting a short lesson.

These two chemistry teachers have several videos showing how they flipped their classroom. They have polished their content, and as one of them says, "we have not lectured in six years."

There is a very active Twitter hashtag, #flippedclass. If you have a Mac, you can get the Twitter app for free from the App Store app.


  1. Doing homework in school, where you can get help for it, does sound appealing; however, isn't not lecturing...kind of a cop-out? I'm wary of anything that has a purpose focused on making life easier for the teachers, without a clear improvement for the students.

  2. I like the idea of doing homework in the classroom because it gives the students time to ask for help. I do wonder how likely it is that all students are watching the lectures at home. It seems if the student knows the teacher is going to show the video if necessary, then maybe they would be less inclined to watch at home. I have not heard a lot about this teaching setup; It is interesting to me. I'm not sure I would enjoy just being around for homework and review of a few topics.

  3. I'll try to respond as I imagine the flipped classroom advocates would. They in fact do create "lectures", but they go to the effort of polishing a digital version of it. So the students always get the teacher at their best. The intent is not to make it easier for the teacher (in fact, creating those videos is work). Instead of sage on the stage, you'll be busy moving about in a student-centered classroom as students do work based on what they watched. Entrance ticket assessments can verify whether the student watched the video. A larger problem in some schools may be that students don't have access. The flipped classroom still can have group work and the other devices we use for assessing. It really only replaces the "lecture" piece, which I think we'd agree is not the favored way for our students to learn.

  4. Interesting...I see opportunities when distance to school, or weather (no more snow days!) makes this a worthwhile option. I've seen something on cable about something similar (if not this).

    I'm not sure how to take the comment "we have not lectured in six years." I am also aware of alternate learning sites like the Khan Academy (60 Minutes did a profile). I've looked at it, tried using it in the classroom - I have no firm opinion.

    Recognizing the need for this sort of instruction, and similar things like online classes, I personally believe that I will pursue classroom teaching as the best way to reach students in an interpersonal manner.

  5. Speaking of Twitter ... I recommend because you can set up columns of streams, which I find easier than itself.

    Glad to see you're getting a discussion going about flipped classroom! There's great flipped, good flipped, and please-don't-flip. :)

  6. I had not heard about flipped classrooms before, and it sounds incredibly interesting (well they were mentioned in class on Friday, but I did not have a clear sense of what they were). Thanks for providing samples so I would really get a feel of what a flipped classroom entails.
    I always hated when teachers asked, "did I tell you this already?" It always seemed like they asked that question when they had already told us said piece of information, and never when it was something they forgot (which us students would only find out about when we talked to other sections).
    I have always been leery about the trend of having instruction at home, but this seems to eliminate the shortfalls of many online courses by still providing personal instruction/ help.
    Thanks for the Twitter hashtag, I will have to look that up!