Flipped learning in the classroom isn’t a totally new idea. The concept of ‘flipping’ (classrooms, not houses!) has been around for a decade or more, but with technology now more widely accessible, both in schools and at home, flipped learning is starting to turn the tide on the more traditional sequence of teaching and learning.
It’s a teacher’s job to introduce new topics, concepts and ideas to their students. This usually begins with direct instruction, maybe a story or a video, right? Filling those passive, empty vessels and all that jazz. Though, as 21st Century teachers, we know that’s not where our students’ real learning occurs. So, after cramming the introduction of a new concept into the allocated time, we move our kids onto a more practical or independent activity in which they can cement their learning. We do our best to differentiate, trying to cater for different levels of understanding and ability in the short class time that we have, and then hope that our kids will be able to catch up during homework if they need to.
And, the curriculum is crowded.
You’ve dozens of descriptors to assess.
There’s an extra long assembly this week for a special event.
Johnny, Abel and Nixon are at district sports for the next two days.
What’s that? Oh, a fire drill!
There’s no doubt that teachers juggle the equivalent of 15 flaming batons at any given time. And yet, it’s exactly that, time, which is the most precious teaching resource that you can get.
What is Flipped Learning?
Flipped learning won’t make assembly shorter, nor will it keep Johnny, Abel and Nixon from smashing their competition at districts. But what it can do, in the right contexts, is give you more time to spend supporting your students in active learning by reallocating teaching and learning time.
“The flipped classroom describes a reversal of traditional teaching where students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or videos, and then class time is used to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge through strategies such as [active learning]…
At it’s most basic level, flipped learning means students are ‘taught’ new content at home, and then engage in further practice, experimentation and extension in the classroom.
… In terms of Bloom’s revised taxonomy (2001), this means that students are doing the lower levels of cognitive work (gaining knowledge and comprehension) outside of class, and focusing on the higher forms of cognitive work (application, analysis, synthesis, and/or evaluation) in class, where they have the support of their peers and instructor. This model contrasts [with] the traditional model in which “first exposure” occurs via lecture in class, with students assimilating knowledge through homework; thus the term “flipped classroom.”
How Do Flipped Lessons Make Differentiation Easier?
What’s that I hear you say? How do flipped lessons make differentiation easier? Experienced elementary school flipper Justin Birckbichler explains it to his parents and students this way:
“I play up the fact that they can learn at their own pace by rewinding certain parts, pausing, and even rewatching the whole video multiple times over. I share how I nor anyone else in the class will know if they understood it after one watch or sixteen views, which saves them some dignity if they are a student who has traditionally struggled in front of their peers for years on end. The flipside is also true – if they get it after one viewing, they don’t need to rewatch it and be bored to tears.”
Birckbichler also says that flipped learning improves communication between teachers and parents, as parents can tell you specifically where in a process their child is getting stuck or which part of a concept they are struggling with, rather than saying that their child “just doesn’t get it”.
How to Structure a Flipped Lesson
Flipping experts (and I say that with a great deal of respect!) will tell you that there are many ways to flip a lesson. Instead, new flippers are encouraged to choose just one lesson or concept and give it a go.
Here is a brief overview of the most common way to flip a lesson.
1. Replace Traditional Homework with Videos Introducing New Work
Teachers create short videos introducing new concepts that students watch at home. Often the videos will explain the concept (e.g. a new strategy for division), give one or more examples of the concept in action (e.g. showing students a division strategy), and then require students to complete an exercise on their own (e.g. complete a given exercise using the new strategy) which they bring to class the next day.
The following TedEd clip shows how the concept of gravity can be briefly taught through a simple animation, which can be distributed to the class as a homework task. The students would watch the video and be ready for understanding more about the topic the following day.
Videos can be watched by parents too, who in turn increase their own understanding of their child’s homework topics and can support home learning in a more confident way.
2. Begin in-Class Lessons with Concept Review
Upon return to school, students review the concept explored in the flipped video they watched at home. This can occur in a variety of ways including teacher questioning or peer review.
3. Group Students for Active Learning Experiences
Use the activity completed for homework or the review/questioning time to assess student understanding before breaking the class into groups for differentiated activities. Whether that be further support in practising the concept explained in the video, or extension work.
4. Spend Less Time Instructing, More Time Facilitating Learning!
With students arriving to the lesson with more prior knowledge, you will find the time needed for direct instruction to be significantly reduced. This allows you to spend the bulk of your class time working with student groups on activities that meet their needs.
This flipped learning video introduces universal human rights to the students. By forming a basic understanding at home, students were then able to spend their class time developing a research task based on the open-ended questions at the end of the video, while also benefiting from access to teacher support.
Tips for Beginning Flipped Learning
- Communicate with parents.
Take time to make sure that all students will have access to the internet in some way at home. And that parents are happy to support their child accessing their homework in this way. Highlight the parental benefits of flipped learning for homework, such as being able to understand “new” ways of doing things so they can better support their child.
- Start small and just give it a go.
Choose one lesson to flip in a subject area you feel comfortable with. It could be introducing a maths or science concept, or providing students with a History research task so they can spend their lesson time creating a poster, writing a letter, or crafting a presentation with their peers.
- Kick perfectionism to the kerb!
There is no need for you to worry about making amazing animations or carefully edited videos. Your students get more value from having YOU explain the work to them in your voice, in a way that you know they will understand – just as they would in class!
- Make Videos Short and Succinct
Videos are ideally no more than 10 minutes long, or if suitable a series of short videos (such as 3 x 3-minute videos) will be easier for your students to work through. Longer videos mean that a student who needs to watch it three times might end up spending an hour watching the video in order to complete their work.
Planning what you are going to say, and how you are going to show it before you make the video will help!
- Set Up Clear Expectations
Make sure students know what the expectation is regarding incomplete flipped homework. Whether or not you allow students to complete the video and associated activities during class time using technology, or if they have to work through it using a handout instead, or if they need to complete two videos for homework next time.
Flipped Learning Resources
There are a huge number of websites, apps and resources to help you develop your flipped lessons. Here are a few great places to start:
- Miss Dodds’ Videos – Hannah Dodd is an Australian teacher and advocate of flipped learning. Take a look at some of the videos she uses for both at home and in-class flips.
- Flipped Learning Simplified – Jon Bergman is one of the pioneers of flipped learning. His website contains excellent information, links and resources for teachers.
Tools for Video Creation:
- Explain Everything – Interactive Whiteboard App
- Tellagami – Simple Animation App
- Screencast-o-Matic – Desktop Screen Recording
- DoInk Green Screen – iOS Green Screen Animation App
Places You Can Share Videos:
- Google Drive
- Google Classroom (or your school’s equivalent)
- Class Blog (e.g. WordPress or Weebly)
The Future of Classroom-Based Learning?
There’s no doubt that technology has already made dramatic changes to the modes and mediums of Education. The concept of flipped learning takes that a step further, encouraging our reassessment of the sequencing of teaching and learning.
Flipped learning does, however, push against other movements towards less homework for school students. Which is another conversation in itself!