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The Flipped Class Revisited

Lately, there has been a lot of interest and controversy about the flipped classroom. For those of you who are still trying to get your mind around what the flipped classroom is, most people are currently defining the flipped classroom as a class in which the lectures are watched at home and the class time is used to work on what used to be assigned as homework. But this version of the flipped class, is only one iteration of the flipped classroom. To understand more, I would encourage you to read Aaron Sam’s post: “There is No Such Thing as THE Flipped Class.” His main point is that the flipped class is not a narrow methodology, but rather a philosophy, which has many different applications and modifications.

Let me share some more about the interest in the concept of the flipped classroom. Clearly, there is a growing interest in this idea. Below are some things I am noticing about the increased interest in the flipped classroom.

  • Over a year ago, Techsmith visited Woodland Park High School where Aaron Sams and I taught and made two videos about the flipped class. One of those videos has received over 100,000 views on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H4RkudFzlc
  • People are blogging about the flip with increasing frequency.
  • Educational conference sessions are being conducted (I write this from the Dallas Convention Center where I will be speaking to science teachers about the flip).
  • Research is being done about the effectiveness of the flip.
  • Grants have been acquired to fund the expansion of the flip.
  • The flip has it’s own twitter hashtag (#flipclass) and people are posting on a daily basis
  • We will have our second Flipped Class Conference in the summer of 2012 (In the Chicago area)
  • The increased number of people who are joining the Flipped Class Network: As of this writing we are approaching 2500 educators discussing the flipped class and how they are implementing it. http://flippedclass.com
  • Aaron and I have written a book (published by ISTE.org and available June 2012) and we have a second book in the works.

So, there is a great deal of interest in the idea of the flipped class. Is the flipped class the future of education? Does it have serious flaws? Let me now address some of the controversy surrounding the flipped class. Most of what I am going to say has been said elsewhere, and probably more eloquently, by others, but I want to put in my thoughts.

As I see it, there are several misconceptions, which contribute to the controversy:

  • Fear that the flipped class would lead to less engaged students who simply look at videos: This is actually the opposite of what I experienced as a teacher and what others who employ the flip experience. We are discovering that what actually happens is that student engagement and student-teacher interaction increases. I feel this is one of the greatest strengths of the flip.
  • The flipped class will lead to huge classes with little engagement: The thinking here is that you could have many more students in a class if the video was doing the direct instruction. This would make education cheaper because you would be able to hire fewer teachers. One thing I say whenever I share the story of the flip with people is that I talk to every kid in every class every day. One of the hallmarks of how I have flipped my classes is this statement. But, if I had class sizes which were too large, even this methodology will fail. The key to the flipped class is actually not the videos, it is the freedom those videos give the teacher to have engaging class activities and interaction with their students.
  • The flipped class is just bad lecture on video: The assumption by some is that if ALL we do is move the lecture online, we are only using technology for bad pedagogy. Their argument is that we need less lecture and more hands on, problem based, student generated, and inquiry learning. And I agree with these folks. However, I see the flip as a stepping stone for teachers who have lectured for all of their career. For them the idea of moving to an inquiry, problem based learning model would be very difficult. But the idea of simply recording what they already do and then move that to outside of the class is not a huge step.
  • The flipped class hurts students who have limited access to technology: I am surprised at how often I continue to see this objection. When Aaron and I started the flip in 2007 we had a number of students without both computers and access to high speed internet. We HAD to solve this problem. We simply took 4-6 videos and burned them onto a DVD and handed the DVD’s out to students. Some students who had a computer at home but not high speed internet brought in flash drives and took home the videos that way. If you really want to see an example of how the flip is working with a school with low SES, watch this video of Greg Green’s school on the outskirts of Detroit.

I still believe in the flip. It not only can, but has changed the lives of many students. When implemented well, and in a huge variety of ways, it is helping students all over the world become better learners and preparing them for their futures.

9 Responses to The Flipped Class Revisited

  1. Kevin says:

    Could you post that video from Greg Green? I love flipping my class!

  2. Jimison Family says:

    I am currently choosing my master's thesis and am thinking about researching the flipped classroom. I googled and your post, from today, came up. How timely! Thanks.

  3. Mary says:

    Thanks for this. I am hearing more and more about flipping the classroom all the time. I am always leery about jumping onto educational bandwagons, however, and usually prefer to wait until I understand the true value of it and the problems that I may encounter. You have addressed some of the main issues quite well. I think the point about the the flipped class being just bad lecture on video is interesting for two reasons. First, I think there is some truth to that statement. I have looked at number of videos made by teachers on the web, and yes, there are a number of examples of bad lectures out there. That said, I have come across more good examples of flipped classrooms than bad ones. Secondly, I think one thing recording your lessons on video does for teachers is make them think more carefully about the quality of their lectures. I know that if I am going to record myself lecturing, I am going to think a lot more carefully about the quality of the lecture than if it is just a one-time spiel that I give in the classroom. I think getting teachers to record themselves giving lectures/lessons will improve the quality of the lectures/lessons being given. After all, you are going to be "publishing" your work if you are recording it and giving it to the students to view outside of the school, and people often put more effort into the things that they publish. As Kevin said, could you post that video from Greg Green? I would love to know more about how to address issues of students not having all the technology required at home.

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