Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘flipped

I discovered an unexpected source of ideas for flipped learning. It is a video of a teacher trolling his students after he banned them from flipping bottles.

Video source

At first glance, the teacher might come across as the embodiment of “do as I say, but not as I do”. After all, he did not want his students flipping bottles and did so himself.

Viewed through the lens of YouTube entertainment, the teacher was not only a master troll, he was also aware of memes and what connected with his learners. Even the groan-worthy references were gems.

Viewed through the lens of education, the video was a good example of practice, creative endeavour, and content creation.

The practice of bottle flipping required not just elbow grease, but also experimentation to determine the right amount of water. I have no doubt that there was much failure footage left out of the final video.

The teacher kept flipping bottles just like teachers might try flipping their classrooms. However, routine with both gets old quickly. Since the flipped classroom is still largely reliant on the teacher as driver, the teacher must design and lead interesting journeys. The teacher provided creative variations and levelled up the difficulty of bottle flipping. The same could be said about flipping classrooms.

The most important idea is that of having the agency to create content. This is one principle that distinguishes the flipped classroom from flipping learning. Learners must be empowered to create content so that they make their thinking visible, are teaching their peers, and acting on the feedback they receive. Only then does the flipped classroom transform to one that embraces flipped learning.

Bonus: This viral video also illustrated one strategy for creating videos for flipped learning. Every learner should show only what is critical. They do not need to create epic movies. They should be creating trailers that leave their peers wanting more.

Sometimes I think I no longer need to repeat some messages because they sound old. But I am constantly reminded that I cannot be complacent.

The messages are diverse. They range from “Singapore does NOT cane you for chewing gum” to “gamification is not the same as game-based learning” or “flipping the classroom is not the same as flipping the learning”.

The cane comment surface just a few days ago. Strangely enough, it stemmed from a tongue-in-cheek remark on Singapore’s Schooling being Number One (the swimmer and our PISA results).

Someone else wanted to know if caning had anything to do with our results.

My reply, tongue firmly in cheek, was this:

We had a short conversation thereafter:

This reminded me of my stay in the US over 15 years ago when I had to remind people that Singapore was not in China and that we did not cane people for chewing gum.

While the conversation was not about caning and gum, I had to inform someone on Twitter that we do not cane boys as easily as we would flick a switch.

In the teaching and learning front, the runaway trains are gamification and the flipped classroom. Both vendors and ill-informed individuals push these without first knowing or caring about their histories, research, or critical practice.

I laud their enthusiasm, but when it is misguided, I make my stand: Gamification is not game-based learning and it is not enough to just flip the classroom.

Sometimes I wonder if harping on these messages makes me the squeaky wheel or the proverbial voice in the desert. Then I remember this Jon Stewart quote: If you smell something, say something.

As a watchdog, I have to be vigilant. As an educator, I remind myself that the old messages are new to someone else.

I listened to a podcast on “flipped homework” yesterday. What my ears heard almost made my eyes roll. Almost, because I tried to take the perspectives of those trying to promote that idea.

The podcaster and his interviewee did not go beyond a general definition of flipped homework: Tasks that are meaningful to the student. So I tried to fill in the blanks. Flipped homework could involve its design and implementation.

The design of flipped homework could first start with research on homework [examples] and what makes it effective and meaningful. The redesign of homework could include on-going professional development for teachers on better homework models and practices. This should include the discarding of old, unproven, and frustrating practices like hand-me-downs, always-done-this-way, and homework for homework’s sake. Teachers could also share their practices for flipped homework models to emerge or be refined in context.

The implementation of “flipped homework” in a flipped classroom is more straightforward. What used to be homework (e.g., practice done outside the classroom) is done in class in the presence of peers, coaches, tutors, or teachers. In the conventionally defined flipped classroom, the “new” homework might be the consumption of materials (e.g., YouTube videos, web quests) before entering the classroom.

However, I remain critical of homework, flipped or not. If it is not critically examined and designed, it is busy work that takes away personal, social, and family time. Flipping homework in terms of where content is initially consumed or where practice is conducted merely changes the nature of homework.

Flipped homework is a misnomer because it is not necessarily work done at home. This might seem like a trivial argument, but it is not. If you are trying to address the mindsets of teachers and change their behaviours, they need to learn and use other terms that are not homework. Using that term again allows old practice to creep and infect new ones.

Practice without theory is blind. Theory without practice is sterile.

I am in favour of “doing what works”, but perhaps we should be more critical and humble and say “doing what seems to work”. We cannot be sure unless we have data and one or more theoretical foundations that altogether stand up to scrutiny. If we do not have that evidence, we delude ourselves into believing “what works”.

I was appalled when I read this article, For-Profit Coalition Seeks to Bolster the Flipped-Classroom Approach.

First it defined the flipped classroom like this:

A flipped classroom describes a wide range of educational methods, like just-in-time teaching, peer instruction, and the use of clickers.

It did not distinguish between the flipped classroom and flipped learning. JIT teaching and peer instruction can happen in both, but the former is critical in the flipped classroom and the latter is a key enabler of flipped learning.

How in the world did the “use of clickers” even get mentioned? My guess is the university context of lectures and trying to justify clickers as “interactive” or “participatory”. Clickers are neither and their novelty wears off quickly.

The only things flipping when I read the article were my finger and my stomach. All it had to do to flip my life switch off was to suggest LMS, interactive white boards, and smart rooms as means to flipping.

All these and clickers do little to change pedagogy. I have written for years how these constrain pedagogy or maintain outdated methods instead of encouraging progression.

The article also mentioned how the Flipped Learning Global Initiative would be charging a $5,000 annual fee for groups be identified as partners. Why do this? Errol St. Clair Smith, the director of this group said:

…the initiative’s leaders believe there is a $500-million market for products related to course flipping. They include training, software and hardware, and other services. They expect demand to grow to about $2.4 billion by 2020.

So that is what the effort is about: Taking advantage of a financial opportunity. Never mind that university faculty do not really change how they teach. Just sell them clickers. Lots of clickers.

Yesterday I responded to a query about how flipping drives discovery and student-directed learning.

Today I answer a question about how students might not discover the “right” content by discovering or Googling. I have a few responses.

The first is doing away with the notion that students “get it” only when a teacher delivers content. This is merely an illusion because there is no indication or confirmation that learning has happened.

My second response is that one way to be more certain about student learning is to get students to create content and to teach it. These processes help both students and teachers to see evidence of learning.

My third reply is that teaching wrong content happens anyway, not just in the flipped classroom or when you facilitate flipped learning. Both the student and teacher can be guilty of this. However, when the learning is visible the teacher can jump in and intervene.

Three dimensions of flipped learning.

This is why I include content creation and peer teaching in my model of flipped learning.

Peer teaching is something that instructors can do with strategies like think-pair-share, any variant of the jigsaw method, and class presentations. Content creation might be viewed as a prerequisite for this form of teaching. Without artefacts students have nothing to show during the tell.

However, content creation does not always have to be on the teacher scale or standard. The content that students create can also be externalisations or manifestations of what is in their minds. These can take the form of short reflections, practiced problems, recorded conversations, summary documents, etc.

My fourth response is to agree that simply copying and pasting Google search results may not be valuable learning. Most teachers tend to focus on content from an expert’s point of view. This is how they judge if content is good or not, and right or wrong. However, this is not how a learner processes information because s/he does not have structure.

The structure is put in place by thinking processes. So instead of just focusing on content (what artefacts students find and use), the teacher should also model processes of learning. For example:

  • How do I look for information?
  • How do I verify information or evaluate it?
  • How do I incorporate it into my own work?

This response is not unique to flipping. But a focus on process over product is particularly important in flipped learning because one desired outcome is students who are more independent learners.

Yesterday I reflected on my long-running integration of Padlet in my courses and workshops. I intend to share screenshots of two sets of takeaways and questions from participants at the end of a workshop on flipped learning. I address one concern today and another tomorrow.

Flipped learning takeaway and question.

One concern was whether students uncover content in the way the teacher intended.

I am glad that the participant used the word “uncover” because that was something we practised during the workshop. Uncovering is based on discovery and not on the traditional notions of a fixed curriculum, recipe-like strategies, and narrow outcomes.

This does not mean that the process is haphazard. In the past, I have described the implementation as creating serendipity.

One way to design the learning experience is to envision a large plot of land in which you have buried opportunities for learners to unearth. They not only dig up treasures (content-based learning about), they also figure out how to problem seek and problem solve (skills-based learning to be).

My reply to the query is that a strategy like flipping is a means of transferring the ownership of learning to the students. While the teacher is concerned with curriculum, schemes of work, worksheets, and other standard practices, these are not always congruent with the overall design and ultimate goal of flipping.

To put it simply, the standard terms, practices, and tools that a teacher is comfortable with are not necessarily what learners understand and need. The teacher may be armed with a spoon to feed; the students need shovels and other more varied and complex tools.

The teacher may be prepared to deliver; the students need to discover. It is inevitable that the scope of what the teacher expects will be much narrower than what the students discover.

Returning to my analogy of the plot of land with buried treasure, what if students discover relevant and useful nuggets elsewhere? What if they go beyond just digging (e.g., clicking on links in web quests) to surveying with drones and satellites (e.g., Googling, YouTubing) or communicating with previous treasure hunters (e.g., tweeting content experts, consulting Facebook contacts)?

One concern that teachers might have is what if students unearth the “wrong” things? I address that concern tomorrow.


The flipped classroom swaps WHAT happens WHERE. Flipped learning changes WHO does WHAT.

After I help participants define the flipped classroom and flipped learning, I summarise by saying this: The flipped classroom swaps WHAT happens WHERE. Flipped learning changes WHO does WHAT.

That is not to say that the two concepts and practices do not overlap. I also try to illustrate how they do.

Three dimensions of flipping.

Nevertheless, I still advise teachers to flip so that students create content and peer teach. These are among the best ways to learn and based on sound pedagogical principles.

Both creating content and teaching are forms of visible thinking and visible learning.

Creating content externalises mental schema so that a teacher can diagnose and remediate misconceptions.

Teaching requires learners to process and reprocess content. It takes advantage of the proximity that learners have with one another in terms of their experiences, language, and examples. It brings order to the messiness of learning and provides an audience for learners to practice on.

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code

Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: