It’s Time To Flip Your Thinking . . . About The Flipped Classroom

The other day I was giving a presentation to a team of administrators and the concept of “21st Century Learning” came up.  Where I'm usually one of the first to get up and walk out on these conversations knowing that we are already 17 years into the century, I decided to turn the conversation from “learning” into “21st Century Instruction.”

Six years ago when TeacherCast first started out, I recorded a podcast with my good friend Brett Clark on the subject of Flipped Classroom. A concept new to me at the time, we learned that to truly “flip” your classroom, a teacher needed to create an environment of learning where the students would be able to gain the knowledge about the subject outside of class which would then provide the teacher time to help students during the actual class time because they would have previous knowledge of the subject by watching a video.

The times have changed and so have students learning styles and habits and I wanted to start a discussion with you on the subject of flipped learning.  Through this post, we are going to take a look at the traditional definition of the flipped classroom and follow up with a challenge for those interested in updating the traditional to the more modern approaches that are authentic, student-centered, and ultimately more engaging for everyone in the classroom.


5 Features of “Traditional” Flipped Classrooms

Role reversal between teacher & student

In the traditional Flipped Classroom model, the teacher creates lessons that put the students in charge of the learning.  Where most of these lesson ideas revolve around a teacher creating or providing video-based instruction, it often is a difficult task to ask teachers because there are simply some subjects that are difficult to find or even create video content for.  The way that teachers traditionally have worked around this is to video themselves standing up in front of the camera and giving the lesson or, by videotaping themselves in class teaching the lesson to students, the question still has to be asked: “are the students actually going to go back and watch this content?”

Sure, some students may find it useful, but overall, are the majority of our struggling students really REALLY going to go back and do this?

Prerecorded lessons followed by in-class exercises

As stated above, traditionally, when we think of the flipped classroom model, we think of videos, videos, and more videos.  The fact of the matter is that teachers are not always comfortable, and not always willing to record themselves on camera.  It's a messy process and you need to set up a camera, tripod, and then do all of the editings yourself.

It's true that not every video, must be . . . well . . . video and an audio file are just as important to the lesson, it still can be looked at by the teacher as “extra” and might turn them off from even taking the first step.

If a teacher is looking through YouTube for just the right video, they can also rack up hours upon hours of time searching only to either find nothing useful, or a video that might only have half of what you need for your lesson.

Using class time more for activities and less for lecture and instruction

Traditionally in a flipped classroom environment, a teacher might create their lesson in a way that requires (or requests) the student to watch a video at home.  What they end up with the next day is a class where maybe a small handful of students has done this and the rest of the students have not.  This is the same issue in many classes when a teacher asks the students to read a chapter in the textbook.  Just because a textbook is replaced by technology, doesn't make the lesson any better or improved upon.

Responsibility for learning is put on the students

The question comes up . . . Is it the job of the teacher to teach, or is it the job of the students to learn?  This is a heavy and healthy debate that happens at many conferences.  This isn't a part of the flipped classroom that I wish to see change.  I will argue (below) that the philosophy behind this question be ever so slightly updated.

Side Note: I am very much of the argument that it's the student that must want to first learn . . . but also must be inspired by the teacher at all times.

Flexible learning environment

Books can be read anywhere .  . . in today's classroom, video can be consumed everywhere.  One of the key components of the traditional flipped classroom is that learning actually CAN happen outside of the classroom walls and classroom time period.  Does this go out the window with so many school districts moving to a “no homework policy?”  I don't know . . . if you have any thoughts on this, please leave a comment below.

Is Traditional Really That Bad?

Can we leave tradition alone and just focus on teaching our students? Yes, of course, we can, but in today's age with ever revolving learning models, SAMR, 4C's, and of course stricter observations, I am suggesting that we updated the concept of the flipped classroom just slightly to a (here comes the buzz word), 21-st Century, Future Ready model.  (everybody takes a sip)

Is it time for us to revisit the concept of #FlippedClassroom ? Click To Tweet

5 Critical Parts of the “NEW” Flipped Classroom

Role reversal between teacher & student

When we rethink and redefine the term flipped classroom, it's important to understand that the concept of teacher-created videos was simply to make it possible for a teacher to be able to work with every student on a more personal level during the short amount of time they have during each class period.  Let's take a moment to reimagine this concept.

Where I firmly believe that video is an important part of any modern learning environment and one that should continue to be used and often implemented, the concept that teachers need to focus on is creating an environment where they are facilitating the learning, rather than teaching the subject itself.

Instead of having students watch videos, teachers might wish to focus on creating templates that can be distributed through Google Classroom for students to complete or collaborate on.  One of my favorite blogs to visit daily is Alice Keeler's website.  Her blogs are not only filled with excellent content, but she often accompanies them with manipulative templates.  In the way, she has created a flipped classroom from her blog because as a user (or student) I can learn from her and take an active role in my learning by downloading the template and creating my own lesson materials with her manipulatives.

Thinking outside of the box with traditional applications

If I asked you, “what does Google Slides do?” You might tell me that it is some type of PowerPoint substitute.  The reality of this question is that it's actually a trick question.  As seen in this post, Google Slides can easily be thought of as a transformative application that can be used in an infinite number of ways that has nothing to do with being called a “slide.”

Taking a look at a teaching application . . . ANY application, it's important to not only discover how the creators want you to use it but come up with a dozen ways to use it outside of the traditional.

Flipping Google Apps

Inside of the G-Suite applications is an entire world of student engagement that the flipped classroom can take advantage of.  In additional blog posts, I will be showcasing why the six most important apps for flipping your classroom are Docs, Slides, Forms, Sites, Classroom, and YouTube. Do you have other apps in mind? Please leave a comment below.

Creating Project-Based, authentic lessons guided by student input

The keyword in this section is “authentic.” It's easy to visit Teachers Pay Teachers and purchase your own “innovative” lesson plan, it's something completely different to provide your students with a learning environment that they actually WANT to come to and learn from each day.  Project-based, Product-based, or any other way of looking at learning can be done on any subject in any grade level.  All it takes is thinking slightly out of the box and putting the ownership of the learning in the hands, eyes, and imaginations of your students. Then, repeating that process for the next chapter.

Many right answers . . . backed up by student discussion

As you are reading this and imagining what you might want to adjust in your classroom this year, I have an important announcement for you.  The truth is, multiple choice questions are not teaching your students anything important, real, or long-lasting.  When a teacher creates an assessment where there can be ONLY one correct answer they are creating a situation where a student has no creative freedom in the learning process and is not able to learn for themselves.

Now, before anyone calls me out on this concept, of course, I understand that there are several times where there must be only one correct answer.  For this conversation, I am referring to providing students with an open forum to demonstrate the learning process by creating something unique rather than having a class wind up with 30 of the same exact project.  It's important to provide learning outlets that not only differentiate the learning but allow the students to differentiate the path they take to provide proof of learning.

Promotes collaboration, Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity

Finally, we can talk about the 4C's.  When you flip your classroom, these items (SAMR included) should all fall into place.  When you stop being the Sage on the Stage and become the facilitator of learning, you automatically create a learning environment where students must sit with each other and talk about the topics, work in small groups and take learning into their own creative minds.  The end result is that you will have a much higher thinking classroom and you will ultimately have a better product at the end of the year.

Is it time to flip YOUR classroom?

I hope this blog post resonated in someway for you.  If any of this makes sense, please leave me a comment below. I'd love to hear from you.  If nothing in here makes sense to you, please let me know as well. I'm happy to have a fantastic discussion on this important subject.  Thank you for reading and continue sharing your passions with your students.

About the author, Jeffrey Bradbury

Jeff Bradbury, creator of TeacherCast, and father of the famous @EduTriplets Thanks for checking out TeacherCast today. Please take a moment to find me on all of my Social Media channels!

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