Flipping is a Flop

Original photo courtesy of Agribusiness Teaching Center via Wikipedia
Original photo courtesy of Agribusiness Teaching Center via Wikipedia

I have never formally tried to flip my classroom, and before this week’s research I wasn’t clear about my beliefs around reverse instruction or a flipped classroom. I will say that although I have used tools like Khan Academy and BrainPop to supplement instruction in class and out, I never got the sense that a full on flip was worth my time.

After digging in to the pros and cons, I feel that this is one of the many “technological” ideas that flops because it is still used to the things we have always done; just as Marc Prensky describes as “doing old things in new ways”.

One of the first posts I came across,  The Flip: End of a Love Affair, was written by a teacher who had formerly loved the idea of a flipped classroom. She explains her change in thinking brilliantly:

The reality is that many if not most teachers who opt for the flipped classroom strategy are not pursuing a student-centered approach to teaching and learning. The traditional model of learning is simply being reversed, instead of being reinvented. The lecture (live or on video) is still front and center.

Learning isn’t simply a matter of passively absorbing new information while watching a lecture on video; new knowledge should be actively constructed. When we shifted to a student-centered classroom, my students took control of their learning, and I quit lecturing. I haven’t lectured in almost two years.

A Flipped Classroom, a Slanted Classroom, or even a Fliperentiated Classroom are all variations of teacher-centered teaching. With these models it might feel like at first you are ‘getting more content covered,’ but in reality the kids aren’t learning more.

Furthermore, The Teched Up Teacher makes the great point that

A kid who does not do their homework normally will not watch the lectures at home even if you hold them accountable.

This is even more detrimental in a flipped classroom because now the kid can’t participate in that really cool activity you planned.

So flipped or not, you still have the same student motivation issues because school doesn’t feel relevant to their lives and as Rob Langlands says, “WTF?’

The exception to this is if teachers can flip their thinking and their classrooms as Jon Bergmann, one of the first “flippers,” describes

We started flipping our classes after a conversation with our assistant superintendent. She saw how we were recording our live lectures with screencasting software and told us how her daughter loved it when her professor at a local university recorded his lectures, because she didn’t have to go to class anymore. That’s when we asked the question, “What then is the point of class time if we make it so they can get all of the content by watching a video?” The obvious answer was that we could make class time more enriching and more valuable.

My thinking flipped from my class being about the content to being about the process of learning. I have said for many years, “I don’t teach science, I teach kids.” But today I want to change that and say, “I don’t teach science, I teach kids how to learn.” This was a seismic change in how I thought about my role as a teacher. I realized that I needed to get away from being a teacher who disseminates content, and instead become a learning facilitator and coach.

Photo courtesy of Dan Foy via Flickr
Photo courtesy of Dan Foy via Flickr

So all in all, it seems to me that a better use of time as an educator would be to learn strategies to create a student-centered classroom where inquiry and authentic ways of learning were at the heart. PBL, blended learning strategies, student video creation, peer and global collaboration, and many other techniques are ways that a teacher can use tools and strategies to funnel the right information, strategies, and motivation towards her students. And, like the educators stated above, the real trick is to teach kids how to learn so that when they don’t receive lectures from you in class (or on your YouTube channel) they will still know how to find the answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.

5 thoughts on “Flipping is a Flop”

  1. So much focus when flipping is put on the video or the homework when the real change in what makes it work is what you do with the kids when you have them in your classroom. How can/does homework lead to better use of class time not just practice of something we’re learning? To me that’s the real switch. We need to stop using homework as “practice” and start using it to drive instruction.

    I agree with you last statement….are we giving students the skills of search…and could them searching for the answer be the flip? Not us making videos for them, or giving them videos to watch but rather giving them questions to go and investigate on their own? What if flipping wasn’t about them passively watching content…it was them actively searching for content?

    It drives me nuts to watch teachers waste their planning time doing the searching for students and then tell me they don’t have time to “teach students to search on their own” if you took just 10 minutes a day for the first month of school to teach students how to search, curate and use information….teachers would free up their own time by allowing students the freedom to find answers on their own. Some kids watch videos, other students read, some look at pictures. I don’t care how they learn….as long as they can find the information themselves and with the guidance of a teacher start making sense of that information.

    I think we need to rebrand flipping.

    The New Flipped Classroom:
    Student doing the searching not the teacher
    Student doing the discover of the content not the teacher
    Students asking the questions and finding the answers not the teacher
    The teacher raising their hand asking clarifying questions not the student

    Just a thought…..


    1. Absolutely agree with your new version of a ‘Flipped’ classroom and it actually sounds like Flipped Learning. The ‘I’ in FLIP stands for “Intentional Content” and explains that teachers need to determine what they need to teach and what materials students should explore on their own. Educators use Intentional Content to maximize classroom time in order to adopt methods of student-centered, active learning strategies, depending on grade level and subject matter.
      You also made a great point with the question how can homework lead to better use of class time? Some teachers might argue that kids are less motivated these days, but I think it is because students have become wise to the fact that traditional school practices are irrelevant to their lives.
      Thanks for the comment and thanks for helping so many educators ‘Flip’ their thinking about 21st century teaching!


  2. Hi Randi,
    I agree with you that as educators our role is so much more than content delivery. Creating content specifically for our students, or selecting the appropriate clips for them to watch is a great time saver so that we can maximise our time with the students for more important things- like enhancing understanding, applying knowledge and developing social and emotional skills. I’m having some success with short video’s after a unit of inquiry that help sum up assessment tasks or provoke ideas with my student’s, especially EAL learners who may not get every piece of information from a learning experience the first time around.
    Thanks for an interesting post!


    1. Hi Amanda,
      The way you describe using video sounds more liked the Flipped Learning I mentioned in the reply to Jeff. I think the real difference is if a teacher is applying these types of techniques without ‘Flipping’ the way they see education; teacher-centered to student-centered, passive lecture learning to inquiry based learning, memorization to authentic problem solving.
      By the way, saw your Minecraft post for your course 5 project; interested to see your process and results! We’re trying something similar 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s