Doing the Flip - Flipped classrooms that work (and how they could apply elsewhere...)

For those of us in education, the flipped classroom model has been one of those nirvana-like strategies that sounds great, works for savvy teachers, but, well, there is just so much to learn.

In reality, and done well, the flipped model can be both as efficient, in terms of teacher effort, as  it is effective. The model leverages students' preference for video/visual information and the true expertise of a teacher in guiding application and understanding in the classroom.




So what is a flipped classroom? For those of you that work in a non-education context, how could it apply to your workflow?


The two videos below give a slightly different approach to explaining the concept:

The Worst of Flipped Classrooms

Many teachers are attracted to the idea of delivering less content, and using class time of application and and understanding. However, little PD in schools is directly targeted to correctly designing a flipped classroom process, leaving teachers in DIY mode.

The worst of these are where teachers see it as an escape from the tyranny of delivering content, relying on the IP of other educators in delivering a playlist of YouTube videos:

  • Little framing is provided for students, i.e. how to watch the video for classroom learning
  • Low validation of the appropriateness of the video to the learning content and context
  • Length of the video is too long for strong engagement with the concept
  • Purpose and integration into class planning is weak
  • Few or no strategies in managing students who did not watch or engage
  • The use of another teacher's content depersonalise the experience for students (far more powerful to have a teacher record the content themselves)

These situations often arise because of no explicit development in the flipped model - it looks deceptively easy to do. Failure leads to disappointment and criticism of the model.

A Flipped Classroom Template

The guys at Edutopia have a wonderful video and article on 5 key issues to address (hurdles) that give a good sense of deliberate pedagogical design around the flipped model:

Key hurdles addressed (which, by the way give a strong framework for design) include:

  • What if students can't access the internet at home?
  • What if students simply don't know how to watch an educational video?
  • What if students blow it off and don't watch the content at all?
  • What if you don't feel confident at making videos?
  • What if you don't even know where to start?

[See the whole article here:]

Another Step: Instructional Design and the ADDIE Model

The Instructional Design approach to flipped classrooms, authored and championed by Jacob Bane, takes a strong 'pedagogy-first' approach, similar to the collaborative planning model used at the Australian International School. Instead of the 'how can this app be used?' perspective, Elementary Staff plan the teaching and learning approach, and only then ask how technology can assist. Similarly, Bane's approach is to build the learning design first, before applying the flipped model.



The apparent simplicity of the flipped classroom has seduced many into simply applying the model without first nailing the mission, purpose and outcomes and design. The ADDIE model above is one of a range of design models, and clearly defining the purpose and outcome before the process.

To see more of Jacob Bane's approach, read this article.

A work in progress at AIS

Now that the Australian International School has newly deployed the FireFly platform, the opportunity to create strong flipped classroom sessions is significant. In combination with our device refresh to Apple Macs and iPads across the school, we will be providing strong professional development around 'Flipped by Design'. Further, using a range of instructional design tools, teachers and coaches will create the fabric of a robust learning environment using devices (iPads), key apps and one of three central content management and curation tools (FireFly VLE, iTunesU and iBooks Author).

One key success factor of flipped classrooms is video content created by the teacher themselves, rather than using 'off the shelf YouTube videos. This builds familiarity and legitimacy with the students. To take this one step further, we can conceive of 'student as authors' flipped model, where students create filled content for viewing by peers. Using our Teacher Inquiry Group (TIG) model, we hope to test both teacher and student-centred flipped content during the coming year.

The flipped approach will also be used for more effective teacher PD at AIS this year, giving teacher learning some oxygen amongst a crowded calendar.

So what does this mean for you? If you are not in a classroom context, I wonder what a flipped model would offer you. I can see it applying to key meeting content for discussion, for instance.


As Mary Beth Hertz suggests in her blog:

The primary reason is because it is forcing teachers to reflect on their practice and rethink how they reach their kids. It is inspiring teachers to change the way they've always done things, and it is motivating them to bring technology into their classrooms through the use of video and virtual classrooms...

She also suggests that flipping is only just the beginning. I could not be more agreeable.

Other resources: