Flipping classes

by Richard Riehle

If you have already looked over Salman Khan’s Kahn academy, you may already have an idea what flipping a classroom is all about. The basic premise is to record your presentations in such a manner (via video: ala YouTube, Vimeo, or other hosting sites, or with recorded white board presentations using such tools as Prezi, or even ShowMe) that the students can watch this information online (at their own convenience), and to conduct the class period engaged in group activities and working with students. The result is supposed to be to become a learning facilitator instead of a teacher…

This following quote from the daily riff is as good a summary of what this involves as any I have seen. They make quite a good case for doing this too!

How the Flipped Classroom Is Radically Transforming Learning

How the Flipped Classroom was born
In 2004, we both started teaching at Woodland Park High School in Woodland Park, Colorado. Jon came from Denver and Aaron from Southern California. We became the Chemistry department at our school of 950 students. We developed a friendship and realized that we had very similar philosophies of education. To make our lives easier we began planning our Chemistry lessons together, and to save time we divided up much of the work. Aaron would set up one lab and Jon the next. Aaron would write the first test and Jon the next.
One of the problems we noticed right away about teaching in a relatively rural school is that many of our students missed a lot of school due to sports and activities. The nearby schools are not nearby. Students spent an inordinate amount of time on buses traveling to and from events. Thus, students missed our classes and struggled to stay caught up.
And then one day our world changed. Aaron was thumbing through a technology magazine and showed Jon an article about some software that would record a PowerPoint slide-show including voice and any annotations, and then it converted the recording into a video file that could be easily distributed online. As we discussed the potential of such software we realized this might be a way for our students who missed class to not miss out on learning. So in the spring of 2007, we began to record our live lessons using screen capture software. We posted our lectures online so our students could access them. When we did this YouTube was just getting started and the world of online video was just in its infancy.
Flipping the classroom has transformed our teaching practice. We no longer stand in front of our students and talk at them for thirty to sixty minutes at a time. This radical change has allowed us to take on a different role with our students. Both of us taught for many years (a combined thirty-seven years) using this model. We were both good teachers. In fact, Jonathan received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching while being the sage on the stage and Aaron received the same award under the Flipped model. Though as we look back, we could never go back to teaching in the traditional manner.
The flipped classroom has not only changed our classrooms, but many teachers from around the world have adopted the model and are using it to teach Spanish, Science, Math, elementary, middle, high school, and adults. We have presented all over North America and have seen how flipping your classroom can change kids’ lives.
Flipping has transformed our classes in so many ways. In this post we will address just two:  Student interaction and parent responses to flipping.

Flipping Increases Student Interaction
One of the greatest benefits of flipping is that overall interaction increases: Teacher to student and student to student. Since the role of the teacher has changed from presenter of content to learning coach, we spend our time talking to kids. We are answering questions, working with small groups, and guiding the learning of each student individually.
When students are working on an assignment and we notice a group of students who are struggling with the same thing, we automatically organize the students into a tutorial group. We often conduct mini-lectures with groups of students who are struggling with the same content. The beauty of these mini-lectures is we are delivering "just in time" instruction when the students are ready for learning.
Since the role of the teacher has changed, to more of a tutor than a deliverer of content, we have the privilege of observing students interact with each other. As we roam around the class, we notice the students developing their own collaborative groups. Students are helping each other learn instead of relying on the teacher as the sole disseminator of knowledge. It truly is magical to observe. We are often in awe of how well our students work together and learn from each other.
Some might ask how we developed a culture of learning. We think the key is for students to identify learning as their goal, instead of striving for the completion of assignments. We have purposely tried to make our classes places where students carry out meaningful activities instead of completing busy work. When we respect our students in this way, they usually respond. They begin to realize, and for some it takes time, that we are here to guide them in their learning instead of being the authoritative pedagogue. Our goal is for them to be the best learner possible, and to truly understand the content in our classes. When our students grasp the concept that we are on their side, they respond by doing their best.

Flipping Changes the Way We Talk with Parents
We both remember sitting in parent conferences for years and parents would often ask us how their son or daughter behaved in class. What they were really asking was does my son or daughter sit quietly, act respectfully, raise their hand, and not disturb other students. These traits are certainly good for all to learn, but we struggled answering this question when we first started flipping the classroom.
You see, the question is a non-issue in our classroom. Since students are coming with the primary focus on learning, the real question is now:  Is your student learning or not? If they are not learning, what can we do to help them learn? This is a much more profound question and when we can discuss this with parents, we can really move students into a place which will help them become better learners.
There are a myriad of reasons why a student is not learning well. Do they have some missing background knowledge? Do they have personal issues that interfere with their learning? Or are they more concerned with "playing school" rather than learning. When we (the parents and teachers) can diagnose why the child is not learning we create a powerful moment where the necessary interventions can be implemented.

Editor’s UPDATE: New "Flipped Class" Series – posted June 21, 2011
Part 1 –
The Flipped Class – Myth vs. Reality
Part 2 –
Are You Ready to Flip?