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Some Flipped Thoughts

I spent most of yesterday at a conference dealing with the “flipped” classroom. It’s not an easy concept to explain in one or two sentences but the implementation most of us have heard about is where students are expected to do some basic learning outside of class (often by viewing videos) and then class time is used for more interactive activities.1

Flipped learning is certainly interesting approach to changing the traditional teaching process and all of the teachers I met at the conference are very interested in improving their practice as well as the learning of their students.

Even so, there are still a couple of fundamental things about this concept that bother me.

One is that, even with all the talk of change, the teacher is still in control, both of the curriculum and how it’s presented.  Real change will start with a serious reevaluation of what we expect students to learn during their time in K12 and that process must involve the kids themselves.

The second thought running through my head all Saturday is that the technology is still largely in the hands of the teacher. What about kids creating video, both to express their learning and teach each other? Maybe include projects of their choice, instead of the same assignment done by everyone.2

Anyway, I need to dig into flipped learning more and keep an eye on what teachers do with it. It could be a great way to shake up traditional classroom practice but I don’t believe it rises to the level of revolutionary. So much more needs to change as well.

1 If you’d like to dig deeper into the concept, take a look at the site of the Flipped Learning Network, the organization that presented the conference.

2 I’d love to see the Google 20% concept applied in high school, with the proper guidance, of course.


  1. Michael

    When I was in school the idea was to have the student read the chapter in the book before class. Now the idea is to view a video. I agree that it isn’t revolutionary. At all.

  2. brad

    I appreciate your thoughts but:
    -in a true flipped class a lot of power moves to the students hands.
    – the video is only 10% of the model.
    – I think flip allows kids time to use tech to apply their learnings to the standards.
    – the ultimate benefit is simple 1 long 25 to 1 convo is not as meaningful as 25 1to1 convos

    • Tim

      Thanks for the comment, Brad. In talking to teachers at the conference, the “ultimate benefit” of more opportunities for 1 on 1 time with students was something most mentioned. For that reason alone, using the flipped techniques is a good move to make.

      However, I think video is more than 10%. :-)

  3. David

    I think you’re putting the flipped classroom in a nutshell much too small. You write, “Real change will start with a serious reevaluation of what we expect students to learn during their time in K12.” You say “we expect” right after complaining that the teacher is still in control. The flipped approach must be a dialogue. There can be no “we” and “them.” Students need to feel comfortable enough that they can and will take ownership. This will take time and effort on the teacher’s part. Secondly, I don’t think all the tech is in the teacher’s hand. A true flipped approach puts almost everything in the students’ hands. I like that you’re critically thinking about the approach, but I think you’re still caught in the shadows of a lot of stereotypes and myths of the flipped classroom. I applaud your efforts to become more informed, thought!


    • Tim

      Thanks, David. When I say “we” I’m thinking of society in general and there are some basic skills and knowledge that kids need to learn before they graduate just to become functioning adults. However, most of that is not the same in 2012 as it was when most school curriculums were developed a half century ago or more. For a genuine reform of the education system, kids need to be fully involved in determining what that new curriculum should be.

      As to the technology, a true flipped model would put much more control in the hands of the kids. But that’s not what I’m seeing in the examples presented at Saturday’s conference and elsewhere. I will continue to look.

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