What’s In a Name?

…or, “More Reflections on the Flipped Class.”

I’ve been inundating myself with discussion on the Flipped Classroom recently.  First, there was the FlipClass11 conference where we had about 140 teachers come from around the US and Canada (and even one Londoner I heard) to learn about the flipped classroom.  I was honored to be selected to be a member of the presenting team for that conference and I am still sorting through a lot of discussions I had with teachers about what a flipped class looks like.

Then, I was honored to co-write a 3-part article on the flipped class, hosted by The Daily Riff.  You can see all three parts in sequence on The Daily Riff’s website still.

Today, Jon Bergmann asked if I would set aside time for #edchat because it was going to be on…the flipped class and its implications in education.

The #edchat session was awesome with great thoughts coming from John Bernia, Michael Thornton, and Tyler Rice, especially.  The biggest question was “If you’re trying to move away from lecture, don’t your videos keep the lecture component as a major part of the class?”  To that question, I would unquestionably answer “yes, BUT…” because while I still have a “lecture” component, I can now do so much more with my class time.  Allow me to back up for a moment.

I’m only a second year teacher, so I know next to nothing compared to some of the veterans I get to talk with every day.  I was taught to stand and deliver, as were most other teachers working today.  It is deep-rooted tradition in American education, and there is nothing wrong with that. I began to question, though, how I can get more collaborative work and inquiry learning into my curriculum.  That slowly transformed into: “How can I use technology to enhance my class?” I found a partial answer in flipping…but I didn’t know it was a partial answer until very recently.  I saw amazing things happening in my class as I flipped that (unfortunately) probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise.  Students self-grouping and collaborating, “low-achieving” students finding more success than they’ve ever found, and kids that were terrified of chemistry growing to love it.

That being said, using video podcasts to deliver instruction may be lecture in spirit, but it is a stepping stone that allows us lecturers to move toward more inquiry and collaborative work in our classes. Without that time freed up, I never would have discovered other ways to help kids learn chemistry. The flipped class is so much more than the name implies, and that is the message I’m trying to spread now.

Yeah, videos work great…but I’m already bored with them and I’ve found other, more meaningful ways to help kids learn the material. Will I still keep videos? Maybe, because they can be useful for review or for learning very algorithmic processes. Will I keep them all? Probably not. I’d rather use my time (and have my learners use their time) to do more meaningful, collaborative work than sit and listen to me talk from their iPod.

So, is the “Flipped Classroom” a misnomer? Maybe. But don’t look at the name and instantly turn away because we’re all “hypocrites” (and yes, I have been called a hypocrite). Think beyond the videos and try to work out ways you can use some of the ideas the flipped class will give you time for. If videos won’t work for you, please don’t use them. If they will, then maybe they’re a good starting point.

Just don’t judge a book by its title.


More flipped class resources:

The Teacher Vodcasting Network: Over 1200 educators (and growing) using the flip or that are interested in flipping some of their classes.

Global Learning: My personal website elaborating on technology needs, philosophies, etc on flipping.

Learning4Mastery: Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams’ page devoted to sharing the Flipped Classroom and the resources they’ve built around this model.

What Does a Good Flipped Class Look Like?

The following is a co-post from The Daily Riff on what a good flipped classroom looks like:

The Flipped Class
What Does a Good One Look Like?

“The classroom environment and learning culture play
a large role in determining the best pedagogical strategy.”

by Brian Bennett, Jason Kern, April Gudenrath and Philip McIntosh

The idea of the flipped class started with lecture and direct instruction being done at home via video and/or audio, and what was once considered homework is done in class. So, the order of the “lecture” and “homework” components of the class are, well — flipped.

Now, it is becoming much more than that.

The main reason, maybe the only reason, to flip a class is to provide more class time for learning and that is the major shift that we are seeing as the flip gains popularity across content areas. Other than that, a good flipped class should be like any other in which good teaching and effective learning take place. Flipping the class is not the end-all solution to finding the “best use” of class time, but it does allow for varied forms of instruction. And after all, doesn’t anything that results in more in-class learning a move in the right direction?

A lot of flipped class discussions focus on moving away from a traditional lecture format. While some lessons lend themselves better to a lecture format, others will be more appropriate as a flipped lesson. The classroom environment and learning culture play a large role in determining the best pedagogical strategy. This decision-making is a vital part of providing a constructive learning environment for students.

Switching from a traditional classroom to a flipped classroom can be daunting because there are a lack of effective models. So, what should an effective flipped classroom look like? In our experience, effective flipped classrooms share many of these characteristics:

  • Discussions are led by the students where outside content is brought in and expanded.
  • These discussions typically reach higher orders of critical thinking.
  • Collaborative work is fluid with students shifting between various simultaneous discussions depending on their needs and interests.
  • Content is given context as it relates to real-world scenarios.
  • Students challenge one another during class on content.
  • Student-led tutoring and collaborative learning forms spontaneously.
  • Students take ownership of the material and use their knowledge to lead one another without prompting from the teacher.
  • Students ask exploratory questions and have the freedom to delve beyond core curriculum.
  • Students are actively engaged in problem solving and critical thinking that reaches beyond the traditional scope of the course.
  • Students are transforming from passive listeners to active learners.

The flipped class is not for everyone, but it offers the best way we know of to maximize in-class learning opportunities. If an individual learner or group of learners needs something akin to lecture, that can be done. Small group discussions? No problem. Plenty of time for interaction with the teacher? You bet.

The best way to understand how the method works is to see it in action. If you are interested in the Flipped Classroom, you are not alone…find and begin building a support network at The Flipped Class Network. Look at the network resources, connect with other professionals, or even visit a class and see what the buzz is about. Chances are the flip will be coming soon to a school near you, if it hasn’t already.


Once again, we recognize that the flipped class does not and cannot end with the flip itself.  You, as a teacher, have to make intentional decisions about how to best meet the needs of your students.  It might begin with videos, but it might (and probably should) move away from them as you and your learners figure out how they learn best.  There is no one “correct” model of a flipped classroom.  If you ask me, I would say a “flipped” class is one where the majority of class time is spent working collaboratively and intentionally to give learners a chance to explore, explain, and create content.

The vocabulary and title of the class are the biggest talking points.  Let’s stop focusing on the title of the class and start talking about all the opportunities students have in school, wether its in a “flipped” class or not.

Flipped Class Manifesto

I was at Woodland Park High School in Woodland Park, CO last week at the 2011 Flipped Class Conference.  This is my second year at the conference (last year, attendee, this year, presenter) and I was extremely excited about the size of the conference this year…around 130 participants!  We talked about everything from what a flipped class is to how to more effectively run your flipped classroom.

At the pre-conference, the presenters sat down to write a “Flipped Class Manifesto” of sorts to try and answer some of the major concerns that have been brought up about the flipped classroom.  You can read some opposition articles that raise valid questions about flipclass and its implementation here and here.  In response to this, we decided to begin drafting this document.

Essentially, too much discussion has been given to the videos in the classroom (Sal Khan, anyone?) and not nearly enough on what happens inside an effective flipped classroom.

The Daily Riff has agreed to post this article in a three-day series on the Flipped Classroom from the perspective of teachers that use it effectively. Each day will focus on a particular aspect, starting with what do you need to flip and ending with what a good, effective class looks like.

You can read part 1 and part 2 on the Daily Riff’s website. I’ll be co-posting part 3 (my part) after it is published on their site.

Let’s start to pull away from what mass media is saying and show what a true, effective flipped classroom looks like.

Note – I unintentionally misrepresented Dr. Jackie Gerstein’s article as opposition. I apologize for the mistake and I’ve made the appropriate correction. You can read more of her posts at User Generated Education

Notes on Organization

As my website and work has grown, I’ve tried to organize my resources and files a little bit better. There were some in my blog, on the main page, and on my Learn page. So, here’s a quick breakdown of what’s going on:


This is the landing page and will house all of my professional files. If you want to know about me, my philosophy, see resumes, or read summaries of work and presentations, this is the place to go. You can also find contact information for me if you would like to track me down for something.

the Blog

If you like to read ramblings, thoughts, opinions, or the occasional epiphany, you want to check out the blog. I’ll post links to interesting stories, my thoughts on class/curriculum/education-at-large, or even see some occasional student work. Probably the least formal of my pages, but maybe the most transparent.

Global Learning

Finally, this is where many of my files, presentations, and resources (both student and teacher) resources will end up. We are all learners and we live in a global learning community, and I’m trying to promote that throughout my curriculum. For presentations, I’ll usually link the presentation file for reference only. If you need the actual file, we’ll need to do some talking. For resources, you will be able to find those and use them however you want. This site is probably the most layered with sections for teachers and students, both organized independently.

Thanks to everyone for all the support I’ve gotten though the spring. I’m excited that the flipped classroom is gaining some attention in education and I’m going to continue to work hard to work with teachers and students on building a culture of active and productive learning.

#Flipclass Conference – Day 3

Unfortunately, I need to leave the conference early today, so I’m writing before I hop on an airplane for a few hours.  

There is some great stuff being shared again and the attendees are much more vocal with their ideas and thoughts as they get more confident with the ideas we’re trying to present.

I got drafted this morning to put a video together today highlighting some teachers as they think through some things they’re going to be doing.  It is very inspirational to me (as a presenter) to see people excited about the prospects of turning their classrooms around.  And, it isn’t even all teachers here.  There are technology directors, district-level employees, and other here that aren’t in the classroom but are committed to improving their methods.  You can watch the video in a pop-up player here or you can watch it on YouTube.

Right now, my presentations are sort of all over the place, and I will be working on consolidating them all on my Learn page. I’ll tweet it out when everything is consolidated for sure.

If you were at the conference, thank you SO MUCH for all of the discussion, encouragement, and inspiration you’ve given me this week. Please always feel free to write or comment because we need to continue the collaboration.

#Flipclass11 Day 2

As we headed into day 2 of the flipped class conference, I was really excited about some of the discussions that are coming up with educators from all over the place.  Some of the big takeaways from today:

LiveScribe – If you can write with a pen, you can do a screencast.  This is a great tool if you’re not into using a tablet.  You can still have the feel of paper and pen without having to mess with learning how to use a tablet.

  • Pros – Easy to use, low learning curve, cheap ($50 for 2GB pen), all videos are taken care of LiveScribe (hosting, etc), very portable.
  • Cons – No editing power (what you do is what you get), no images or video can be included, audio and pen writing only.

I am not a Moodle user, but I’ve wanted to be and I am planning on working on using it on my own next year (unless my district has it already).  I’ve already tried to look at adding test questions with a lot of variation, but I couldn’t figure the interface out.  Then, I met Phil McIntosh.  He teaches MS pre-algebra and algebra and is the Moodle WHIZ.  You can connect with him on twitter by following @MisterMcIntosh.

Just to give you an idea, he has test banks that have almost 9,000 combined questions.  He has worked very, very hard over the last year to develop well-balanced, reliable, test questions that focus on best practices.  His seminar was incredibly precise and organized and you definitely need to get in touch with him if you’re having trouble with Moodle or if you want help setting up a thorough, well-organized test bank.

Again, today was a great time of collaboration with other educators and some great ideas being shared.  Its very exciting for me as I continue to meet other teachers that are feeling challenged and excited about flipping their class.  Tomorrow is the last day and I’m hoping we can make some new connections that will continue to push teachers to try and improve their methodology.

#Flipclass11 Day 1

I haven’t written in a long time and it is primarily because I’ve been traveling for a couple of weeks from Korea.  I have another longer post slated for later this week, so this is just a quickie with some good stuff from the first part of the day at the Flipped Class Conference in Woodland Park, CO.  You can follow some of the discussion here or you can follow the Twitter hashtag #flipclass11.

I presented this morning on making accommodations in the flipped classroom (or in any classroom for that matter) and the topic of mobile devices came up.  Some resources I’ve not heard of before are:

Cellular Education – From their website:

Cellular Education is primarily focused on consulting with Teachers, Administrators, and IT personnel to increase the use and effectiveness of wireless devices in Elementary and Secondary classrooms.

You can follow the founder, Victor Fitzjerrald, on twitter.

Mobile Learning Group – This is a branch of ISTE and they focus on bringing mobile devices into the classroom in professional and manageable ways.

SIGML is the ISTE special interest group that is an advocate for mobile learning worldwide, and promotes meaningful integration of mobile devices in teaching and learning in formal and informal learning environments.

Both groups work to promote mobile learning, especially in schools.  As students become more and more connected, education should be shifting that direction as well.  But, we can’t latch on to the technology as the perfect solution.  We still need to make sure we’re using the technology in a meaningful way, and not just for the sake of it.

More to come as the conference progresses.

More Thoughts on Open Doors

This week in #edchat we spent time discussing how to change teacher’s images in the media, community, etc.  Its a great topic and one that is certainly worth discussing.  Teachers are facing more and more scrutiny about testing results, summer break schedules, pay…you name it.  So the question that begs asking becomes: “How do we as teachers show that good work is happening inside schools today?”

I posted the following tweet when I joined in on Tuesday:

Schools need to adopt an open-door policy that allows other comm. members to see good teachers in action. #edchat

It was like the floodgates had opened.  I received tweets about “safety issues” and “security concerns” that can arise from opening school doors.  There are bigger ideas behind that tweet than what people initially read.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for safety and security for children in schools.  But we can’t let that fear of something going wrong stop us from making meaningful connections outside of school.  Open doors aren’t always a physical requirement.  To even begin to actually open those front doors, we have to be mentally prepared to make that shift.

How do we prepare to open doors?

First, stop worrying about what can go wrong.  If you’re afraid of people seeing your classroom, there are probably bigger issues at hand.  Learning is collaborative…we all know this from experience.  Why can’t we be okay with people – our colleagues, administrators, friends – stopping into our rooms?  We shouldn’t be afraid of sharing what we do with people that can push us to be better teachers.  Teachers complain all the time about being evaluated by test scores, but then they refuse meaningful evaluation when someone steps into the room.  There is a severe problem that needs to be addressed concerning this disconnect.

Second, step out digitally before you open up physically. It can be intimidating to share thoughts and ideas openly without knowing you’ll have encouragement from someone.  There are a TON of resources tutoring newcomers through Twitter, blogging, and connecting with other educators.  It takes some practice and commitment, but the connections that can be made really will build your confidence in your trade and you will come away feeling encouraged and supported by other teachers working for the same goals.

Third, be proactive. Education has always been very private…but that isn’t the way people work in the 21st century.  We need to make meaningful connections in order to stay relevant, but it doesn’t just happen.  No one is going to bug you about the way you teach unless you ask them to…and even then, it might take some prodding.  Be vocal about your desire to be more open to the public.  Take time to meet with administrators, parents, and other members of the community and let them know you want to build relationships, not just talk at their kids every day.

The mental shift is the hardest to make because you have to make it happen.  Be the change at your school and you’ll start to see amazing things happen.