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EdTech & Design, Engagement, Opinion, Promising Practices, Teaching

Flip This Class!

Claiming a Space for Innovative Practice

Supporters applaud the space that the Flipped Classroom provides for deeper and more engaged learning. Critics express concern that the concept de-values the importance of the act of teaching, and puts too much pressure on students to learn required material outside of the classroom–the very place where it should be taking place. After talking to Carolyn Durley and Quinn Barreth, two Canadian teachers that are working with the idea of the Flipped Classroom in their own schools, I was most excited by the fact that these teachers were being given both the permission and the space to engage in the innovative play that, I believe, is going to move schools out of the conceptual and practical ruts that prevent real change and transformation.

The version of the Flipped Classroom that is now capturing the imaginations of educators across the continent and around the world began about 5 years ago when two Colorado teachers were looking for a way to ensure that students who physically missed their science classes didn’t “miss the learning”. By creating a series of lesson videos that could be accessed outside class time, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams enabled absent students to, in essence, be in class while at home, albeit after the fact. Although taping lectures and lessons has been going on for years in post-secondary institutions, excitement for what this could mean for elementary and secondary education has grown, amplified by advances in access to and quality of technology.

Discussion around the Flipped Classroom has forced us to think about and challenge many of the assumptions that we make about school, about teaching and learning, and about the relationship between teacher, student and the content being learned. The conversation is not without controversy or objections. We’ll talk about some of these in future posts, not only in the context of the Flip, but in terms of what these points of contention can mean for the transformation discourse that is starting to gain some traction.

In listening back to the Teaching Out Loud Podcast featuring the voices of Carolyn and Quinn, however, I couldn’t help but smile at the enthusiasm and energy with which they talked about what they were doing. Although their Flip initiatives are substantially different in terms of age of students and the way that the Flip works in their classroom, one can’t help but pick up on the pioneering spirit that flows through their conversation. They know that they are entering new territory here, and they know that they are in a time where they, themselves, are playing with new ideas, working them, reworking them and redesigning their practice along the way.

This is not a case of adopting a best practice that everyone in their district is now expected to use. This is not a case of blindly jumping on a bandwagon and hoping for the best. Nor is it a case of one teacher flying solo on something that they think might work. Instead, the collective of teachers that are part of the Flipped Classroom movement, from what I can tell, are trying to bring an idea that makes sense to them to life in their own teaching practice. They are massaging it, changing it, talking to others about it and, in the process, exciting the imaginations of other educators.

There’s no telling where the Flipped Classroom movement will be ten years from now, but the spirit of educational entrepreneurship that I see bubbling up in the places where it’s being tried is hopeful. It’s a spirit of adventure that leverages creativity and innovation to bring the principles of differentiation and success for all students to life.

And, for me, that’s precisely what we need to happening in the 21st century schoolhouse!

You can hear Carolyn Durley and Quinn Barreth discussing how they are flipping their classrooms in the latest Teaching Out Loud podcast.