Image courtesy of the San Jose Public Library

When I was a young boy growing up in British Columbia, we had an educational channel on TV called The Knowledge Network. One of the unique features at the time was that you could take distance classes from Athabasca University that used content being broadcast on The Knowledge Network as part of the lecture material for the course. I remember thinking as a kid that this was pretty cool.

Fast-forward to today and this is hardly groundbreaking. We can access material on-demand and on various platforms. We can even interact with one another using Skype or Google Hangouts, attend webinars, and tweet with professionals from around the world including renowned authors, professors, and other professionals.

So, where does this leave us? The latest trend is in the area of blended learning called flipping. For those who are not aware of what the flipped classroom looks like, it essentially moves part of what was done in the classroom, mainly the things that would have been done in a lecture style in class by the teacher, to the home by means of video or interactive multimedia. This is primarily done by the student outside of classroom time so that classroom time can be used for applying and practicing what they have learned on their own. I am not an expert in flipping, so I will direct you to those who have talked and written about it in depth.

Here are my thoughts and concerns about the flipped classroom. Remember, this is my personal viewpoint and could be completely off base. If so, I am sure you will let me know.
  1. The video portion of the curriculum is primarily product driven. The body of knowledge is decided on by the teacher (or above) and given to the students. It meets pre-determined objectives and is easily measured since it doesn’t have any other factors to take into consideration. Despite what advocates say about how the in class time gives the students more time to explore on their own, that time at home in front of the computer is nothing more than a knowledge vending machine at a busy hospital at 3am which only has one sandwich left, and it’s tuna salad, and you hate fish, but you are hungry, so you eat it.
  2. There is an assumption that students have regular access to the material. This includes internet bandwidth, hardware, time, and energy. Students who are financially disadvantaged don’t always have the most recent computer hardware capable of handling streaming video or that computer is being used by more than one person in the household (think about families with 2-3 school-aged children). Adult learners often have to work after class and are tired and don’t have the time to watch the videos or do the work. Also, some students might not even have internet access at home or have limited bandwidth.
  3. There is an assumption that there are parts of the learning process that are more important than another. The video portion is relegated to home because it is a class time ‘waster’. I am one who believes that all parts of the learning process are important and need to be done in community. Think of it as a football team. The coach is there at all times to see what, or what is not, happening. He can read body language, attitude, etc. and make adjustments as they go. This is the formative part of assessment. The thing I do in class while students are in the classroom, whether I am talking or they are, is to watch how they are responding. It tells me a lot about how students are learning. Flipped learning says that students can watch the video over and over again to help students who take longer to learn. How does the teacher know how long it takes them? This could be a sign of a learning disability and you are missing out on a key part of the initial diagnosis! Basically I am saying that all of the learning process can be used to coach a student, even the part that seems like it isn’t as important.
  4. Despite the fact that flipped classroom advocates talk about creating their own videos for their classroom, I suspect that most teachers are either recording once and using many times or are borrowing from others such as Khan Academy. My concern is the same as it is with anything else being recycled or created for a different audience; each class is unique and special and needs to be treated as such. Turning over your classroom to someone else is unfair to the students. You are there seeing what they need and you are responsible for their learning, not Sal Khan.
  5. It is a huge time problem for teachers. Creating your own videos take an incredible amount of time, and that’s if you can figure out how to do it. That time could be used on giving feedback on students’ work, on preparing for lessons, or on professional development. All of these things I would put ahead of creating a slick video for my students on something I could do in class while taking questions and dialoging with students. I don’t know about you, but I don’t get together with other teachers at conferences, seminars, etc. just to for the presentation, but to interact with them, debate, and work through things together. I see the same thing with the students in the classroom.
  6. What happens when students don’t do the work at home? This is different from homework (another topic for another day) in which students who don’t complete the work only hurt themselves. In this situation, a student can actually slow down a class by not doing the work ahead of time (which could be for very valid reasons). This is assuming that you have the students work together on things in class. If not, well, that is also a different topic for a different day.

Okay, I have given my opinion on the topic, but now it is your turn. Go ahead, I can take it.

5 thoughts on “Flipping

  1. IMHO, flipped classes are good for an ideal school where each student is a highly motivated and conscientious learner and teachers have only a few classes so they have time to prepare and record videos, design multimedia quizzes, publish tasks/ questions + put together the feedback lesson.
    I haven’t had the luck to work in such school.

    1. I think that is the problem I have as well. It works if all of the pieces work perfectly, but we all know that this is not the case. There are still a lot of conditions that need to be met for it to be successful.

      Thanks for commenting, Baiba. I always appreciate your input.

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