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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I have decided to have my own dedicated blog website with more options.This Blog has moved:  It is now located at 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Flipped Class Revisited

Lately, there has been a lot of interest and controversy about the flipped classroom. For those of you who are still trying to get your mind around what the flipped classroom is, most people are currently defining the flipped classroom as a class in which the lectures are watched at home and the class time is used to work on what used to be assigned as homework. But this version of the flipped class, is only one iteration of the flipped classroom. To understand more, I would encourage you to read Aaron Sam’s post: “There is No Such Thing as THE Flipped Class.” His main point is that the flipped class is not a narrow methodology, but rather a philosophy, which has many different applications and modifications.

Let me share some more about the interest in the concept of the flipped classroom. Clearly, there is a growing interest in this idea. Below are some things I am noticing about the increased interest in the flipped classroom.

  • Over a year ago, Techsmith visited Woodland Park High School where Aaron Sams and I taught and made two videos about the flipped class. One of those videos has received over 100,000 views on youtube.
  • People are blogging about the flip with increasing frequency.
  • Educational conference sessions are being conducted (I write this from the Dallas Convention Center where I will be speaking to science teachers about the flip).
  • Research is being done about the effectiveness of the flip.
  • Grants have been acquired to fund the expansion of the flip.
  • The flip has it’s own twitter hashtag (#flipclass) and people are posting on a daily basis
  • We will have our second Flipped Class Conference in the summer of 2012 (In the Chicago area)
  • The increased number of people who are joining the Flipped Class Network: As of this writing we are approaching 2500 educators discussing the flipped class and how they are implementing it.
  • Aaron and I have written a book (published by and available June 2012) and we have a second book in the works.

So, there is a great deal of interest in the idea of the flipped class. Is the flipped class the future of education? Does it have serious flaws? Let me now address some of the controversy surrounding the flipped class. Most of what I am going to say has been said elsewhere, and probably more eloquently, by others, but I want to put in my thoughts.

As I see it, there are several misconceptions, which contribute to the controversy:

  • Fear that the flipped class would lead to less engaged students who simply look at videos: This is actually the opposite of what I experienced as a teacher and what others who employ the flip experience. We are discovering that what actually happens is that student engagement and student-teacher interaction increases. I feel this is one of the greatest strengths of the flip.
  • The flipped class will lead to huge classes with little engagement: The thinking here is that you could have many more students in a class if the video was doing the direct instruction. This would make education cheaper because you would be able to hire fewer teachers. One thing I say whenever I share the story of the flip with people is that I talk to every kid in every class every day. One of the hallmarks of how I have flipped my classes is this statement. But, if I had class sizes which were too large, even this methodology will fail. The key to the flipped class is actually not the videos, it is the freedom those videos give the teacher to have engaging class activities and interaction with their students.
  • The flipped class is just bad lecture on video: The assumption by some is that if ALL we do is move the lecture online, we are only using technology for bad pedagogy. Their argument is that we need less lecture and more hands on, problem based, student generated, and inquiry learning. And I agree with these folks. However, I see the flip as a stepping stone for teachers who have lectured for all of their career. For them the idea of moving to an inquiry, problem based learning model would be very difficult. But the idea of simply recording what they already do and then move that to outside of the class is not a huge step.
  • The flipped class hurts students who have limited access to technology: I am surprised at how often I continue to see this objection. When Aaron and I started the flip in 2007 we had a number of students without both computers and access to high speed internet. We HAD to solve this problem. We simply took 4-6 videos and burned them onto a DVD and handed the DVD’s out to students. Some students who had a computer at home but not high speed internet brought in flash drives and took home the videos that way. If you really want to see an example of how the flip is working with a school with low SES, watch this video of Greg Green’s school on the outskirts of Detroit.

I still believe in the flip. It not only can, but has changed the lives of many students. When implemented well, and in a huge variety of ways, it is helping students all over the world become better learners and preparing them for their futures.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Happens When You Give Students the Control? Part 2

I wanted to follow up on one of the stories I told in the last post. When I gave a group of 4th graders the freedom to learn about anything they wanted, they chose to purse the answer to the question: What is it about the human brain which causes it to make the decisions that it does? This question continues to floor me that it came out of the mouth’s of ten year old children. When they realized that they couldn’t google the answer, they looked for more sources. They then came up with the idea to ask a “super smart scientist.” They sought out scientists who study the brain. I emailed them, and Dr. David Wingate from MIT graciously agreed to spend 30 min with these amazing fourth graders.

I was very proud of our kids for both their questions for Dr. Wingate, and for the way they interacted with him. Below is a few excerpts of our skype conversation with him this past Monday.

As I ponder how these students both formulated their question, and how they went about trying to find the answer, I am struck with two things:

  • This was their problem. They wanted to know the answer to this question. When we give students the power to decide what they want to learn, they will go above and beyond the “classroom.”

  • Passion Driven Learning is more a mirror of how we all learn now. When I want to learn about something, I just go and learn it. I don’t usually take a class, I simply go out on the web, or find people to help me, and hunker down and learn. This is exactly what these students did (and are still doing).

Friday, November 18, 2011

What Happens When You Give Students the Control?

Recently I had the privilege of sitting in on a workshop conducted by Ewan McIntosh ( who took us through a process where he helped us (the students) become better “problem finders.”  He then challenged us to go out and help our students become better “problem finders.”  Giving up control is often hard, especially for educators, but I realized I wanted to move this way.   Thus, I thought of a group of forth graders I was going to work with the following week.

These forth graders come to see me twice a week for enrichment and I decided to see what would happen.  So on our first visit, I copied Ewan and took these ten year olds through an exercise to help them learn whatever they wanted to learn about.  The only stipulation I gave them was that they had to choose a science related topic, since this was my field of expertise.  After two thirty-minute sessions with these students they came up with two very good problems to be solved. 

They fell into two distinct groups and they came up with two VERY different questions:  The first group wanted to figure out how to solve the problem of groundwater pollution.  Once they settled on their topic, they realized they didn’t really know very much about groundwater pollution.  In fact, their understanding of what groundwater pollution is was incorrect.  I allowed this misconception to persist and encouraged them to learn all that they could about groundwater pollution.  Once they understood what groundwater was, they realized that the best way to “solve” the problem of groundwater pollution was to prevent it.  As of this post, these students have decided to make a 2-3 min video where they are going to educate people about the dangers of groundwater pollution.  They hope to put it on youtube and educate the world.

The other group came up with the question:  What is it about the human brain that causes it to make the decisions that it makes?  This question was truly advanced for a bunch of forth graders.  As they began their research they had a daunting task.  After about four sessions, they turned to me and said that this answer is not out their on google.  They knew some things, but they needed help.  One young man told me we needed to ask a “super smart scientist.”  So I told him we should do that.  He then replied, “Who would want to talk to a group of ten year olds?”  And I told him you might be surprised. 

So I encouraged them to reach out on the web and look for some neuroscientists to skype in and help them.  And you can probably predict what happened.  They are now looking forward to skypeing in with a professor of cognitive neurology from MIT this coming Monday. 

My take-away’s from these two events is that we do need to give up the control of the learning to our students.  They will pursue things with passion if we only give them the chance. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The History of the Flipped Class

How the Flipped Class Was Born

Tomorrow I am skyping into the Insight and Innovation for Technology Leaders Conference in Chicago. Scott Meech and Dan Rezac are leading a session entitled Flipping the Classroom. Dan has been asking me via email today about where the whole idea of the flipped classroom came from. I enjoyed sharing with him where all of this came from and realized many of my readers have not heard the story and the chronology before. So if you are interested on where the Flipped Classroom came from, here is my attempt at the history of it. Note that this is how we see this happening. There may be others who also came up with the same or a similar idea about the flipped class. This is only how I have see this develop.

In the spring of 2007 Aaron was thumbing through a technology magazine and showed me an article about some software that would record a PowerPoint slideshow 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. Thus, 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.

In all honesty, we recorded our lessons out of selfishness. We were spending inordinate amounts of time re-teaching lessons to students who missed class, and the recorded lectures became our first line of defense.

Our absent students loved the recorded lectures. Students who missed class were able to learn what they missed. Some students who were in class and heard the live lecture began to re-watch the videos. Some would watch them when reviewing for exams. And we loved it because we didn’t have to spend hours after school, at lunch, or during our planning time getting kids caught up.

However, we never could have expected the side-effects of posting our lessons online: the emails began. Since our videos were posted online, students and teachers from all over the world began thanking us for our videos. Students, just like ours, who had struggled with Chemistry found our videos and started using them to help them learn. We participate in several online science teacher forums and we began to share the links to the recorded lectures, and teachers from all over the country began to take notice. Chemistry teachers began to use our video lectures as sub plans and some new teachers used them to learn chemistry content so they could teach it to their students. All in all, it was amazing to see what we were doing in our small town being noticed across the country.

As we began this journey we had no idea that what we were doing was going to spread beyond our four walls. Then, out of the blue, we got an email from a neighboring school district wanting us to come and share with them about the Flipped model. They even offered to pay us! So we packed our bags and spent a day in Canon City, CO. Most of you have sat in staff development training where your principal or superintendent has brought in some “expert:” someone from out of town with a slide-show. Well, we were those “experts.” When we started most of the teachers were sitting there with a glazed expression, as if they were daring these two yahoos to capture their attention.

As we shared our story, their slumped bodies began to become straighter. Soon the teachers in the audience were asking questions and seemed genuinely interested in the Flipped model. And then as we broke them into groups to begin practicing how to make their own videos, we realized we had stumbled upon something which was much bigger than ourselves. One seasoned teacher told us that in twenty-six years of teaching, our presentation and workshop was the most valuable professional development day he had ever attended. I do not know if his comment had as much to do with our presentation skills as it did with the simplicity and reproducibility of the model we presented.

A few weeks later our assistant principal came into our rooms and asked us if we were expecting anybody from Channel 11? Much to our surprise, the education reporter from one of the news stations had heard about us and just showed up on our doorstep. They made a short news-clip about what we were doing, and as they say...the rest is history. We got invited to speak at conferences, invited to train schools, districts, and even colleges. We have spoken in Canada, Georgia, Texas, Washington DC, South Dakota, North Carolina, Chicago, and right here in Colorado.

Channel 11 Video Clip (From 2007)

So What Did We Call This?

When we started out we didn’t call it the Flipped Class Model. We were trying to figure out what to call our model. We first called it the Pre-Vodcasting model. Since our videos were first being distributed as podcasts, but video podcasts, we called them vodcasts. However as we have shared our story we realized many teachers who are afraid of technology see the word podcast or vodcast and think they could never do what we are doing.

During this time frame we scoured the internet to see if anybody else had thought the flip. We didn’t find anybody and even went as far as considering copyrighting the idea. We contacted my cousin, a lawyer, and he told us how difficult the idea was and since we really wanted to see this change education, we never pursued it.

As we continued to struggle with what to call our new teaching methodology, we decided to begin calling it Reverse Instruction. This term stuck for quite some time, but in the Fall of 2010, Karl Fink wrote a blog about the Flipped Classroom and that term has stuck. Dan Pink wrote a blog and used the term the Flipped Class and that term has stuck like glue.

Dan Pink credited the flipped class to Karl Fisch from Arapahoe HS (He is the guy who made the viral video Shift Happens) ( but Karl had found out about the reverse classroom from one of his teachers who had attended one of our workshops and then he (Karl) started reversing his classroom. The good news about Karl is he is a very humble guy. When people started calling it the Fisch Flip he told people to not call it that and since he got the idea from a couple of guys in Woodland Park.

And of course this is just the beginning of the story. Our story has become the story of so many other educators across the world who have either experimented with the flip, have fully flipped, or who are still thinking of flipping.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The State of the Flipped Class Model.

Recently, the Flipped Classroom has gotten a lot of attention.   Sal Khan of the Khan Academy gave a TED talk ( ) where he talked about his vision for the future of education.  He received a standing ovation from the audience after he spoke.  During his TED-talk he referred repeatedly to the Flipped Model.  He spoke about utilizing videos so students could work at their own pace and how teachers could have more time to work individually with students in the classroom. 

Aaron and I watched with rapt attention as he wowed the audience.  He perfectly described the model of instruction we use in our classrooms and demonstrated some amazing student-progress tracking software his team had developed.  He spoke of students taking responsibility for their own learning, students really learning the key concepts of our classes, teachers roving around the room helping kids who struggle.  It was exciting to see the Flipped Class model shared with such a large audience.
As I watched this I thought of Melissa.  Melissa is struggling in my Chemistry class right now.  It may be one of the hardest classes she has ever taken.  I spent 15 min with her individually during one block this past week.  I was able to identify her need to understand some basic algebra skills so that she can really learn the chemistry topics she is struggling with.  I thought of my own daughter who is getting ahead in her flipped class so that she will have more time to prepare for her lead role in the spring play.  I could go on and on about kids who are learning and benefiting from the flipped class and how we are seeing it changing students lives. 
We have also been humbled as we have seen what started in a small school in the mountains of Colorado explode.  People are blogging about the Flipped Model, tweeting about it (#flipclass), and talking about it.  This past two years we have had many educators want to visit our classrooms and see the flipped model in action.  We had so many requests we finally decided to host one open house per month.  We have lost count as to how many educators have visited our classrooms, but in the past year it has probably been around 200 individuals.  We even had two teachers fly out from San Francisco to spend four hours with us.  This has been a humbling experience for us. 

This past week Aaron and I had an interesting discussion about the Flipped Classroom Model in light of how it fits into the education reform movement.  Especially now that Sal Khan has exposed the model to a non-educator audience.  Our conclusion is that the Flipped Model is NOT a magic bullet that will fix today’s schools.  We believe education’s only magic bullet is the recruiting, training and supporting of quality teachers.   Our biggest fear is that the Flipped Model will result in teachers thinking that the model will solve their classroom issues and they will become apathetic.  We fear that some will choose to use other teachers’ videos (which is fine, and we encourage this in our upcoming book), but they will not adequately engage with the students and will bore their students to death with video.  We have seen this happen over the years with many technologies in the classroom: death by filmstrip, death by PowerPoint, death by VHS, death by DVD, death by online video, death by inquiry, death by any other instructional practice!  Good instructional models are never an excuse for bad teaching, and by teaching we do not mean direct instruction.  Bad teaching while using a good instructional model comes in thinking that the model will do the work for you.  Good teaching always has been, and always will be the gathering of constant feedback of students and modifying instruction to meet their individual needs.  Technology simply makes that possible.  The same is true with the Flipped Model.  If the Flipped Model is not carried out effectively, it will not work.  We know the most important ingredient in student success is not the teaching methodology, but rather the teacher.  That said, we believe the Flipped Model makes GOOD teachers BETTER and makes GREAT teachers SHINE.  But under no circumstances will it “fix” a burned-out or disinterested teacher.
We believe strongly in the proper implementation of the Flipped Model because it has so many benefits which speak to the heart of education reform.  The Flipped Model allows for:
  • ·         Students Taking Responsibility for their own learning
  • ·         Students who truly learn topics
  • ·         Students who are engaged in their own learning
  • ·         More time for teachers to help out students who struggle.
  • ·         True Differention in Class
  • ·         And so many more benefits

So what is the future of the Flipped Model? 
We see the Flipped Model growing exponentially in the coming years.  Educators and policy makers are seeing the value of the Flipped Model and we are again humbled to be some of the leaders in this movement.  This is best illustrated by our packed speaking schedule.  We have been asked to speak at a large variety of conferences and districts this summer.  We have gotten to the point where we can’t do them all!  This year we will have a pre-conference at our annual Flipped Class Conference where we will train six educators on how to conduct their own Flipped Conference.  We are thankful to the Morgridge Family Foundation for funding our pre-conference and getting behind this movement.  Here is the link to the flipped class pre-conference.

Other thoughts as to the future of the Flipped Model
  • ·         We feel fortunate that ISTE ( is going to publish our book on the topic and hope this book will continue the conversation about how to best use technology in the classroom.
  • ·         We continue to see better and better assessment systems being developed which will help teachers truly identify which objectives students don’t understand and which will really help kids learn deeply.  We are not computer programmers, and we encourage enterprising individuals to develop systems that will streamline this process.

  • ·         We are encouraged by the amount of research that is starting on the Flipped Model.  I was recently asked by an Education Professor if there is any research demonstrating the validity of the Flipped Model.  We have several people who have done either their master’s thesis or their doctoral dissertation on the Flipped Model.  Some have completed their work and many more are in the process of conducting research.
  • To summarize:  We are excited where the Flipped Model is heading.  It will make good teachers better and make great teachers shine. 

More Information:  If you are interested in learning more about the Flipped Model here are a few links for you to explore:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Less Us, More Them!

I had the privilege of listening to Gary Stager online at the TEDX NY this weekend.  He is an engaging speaker and he finished his talk with four words:  Less Us, More Them.

Profound words:  Words we educators need to heed.  Too often we as educators spend too much time “teaching” and don’t allow enough time in our classes for LEARNINING.  Our students need t ime,support and coaches, not lecturers, expositors, and experts.  In this globally connected world, students need to see us guiding their learning, but not scripting everything in their lives.

In our upcoming book on the Flipped Classroom, Aaron Sams and I talk about how we had to give up the control of the learning to our students.  This was hard for us, but when students are in charge of their own learning, they actually learn.  We even went as far as telling our readers (we shall see if this makes it into the book once the editors get at it) that control freaks need not apply.  What we meant is that the Flipped Classroom by its very nature is chaotic and those teachers who want total control of their classes won’t be very successful.  We argue however, students WILL, and DO learn better when they are given the control.

Thanks again Gary for your sage words.  You said in four words what I believe about education.