Flipped Classroom and The Kitchen Sink

Watch this Video

Watch this video for as long as you’re interested and not a second more.

Did you last more than 30 seconds? Did the bad lighting, the corny jokes, and poor sound quality annoy you? Was the subject matter of unclogging sinks not interesting? Did you wonder why I was making you watch it?

Now imagine, your sink was clogged. This is BIG and REAL problem that need to be solved IMMEDIATELY. And what if you lived in a country where you didn’t speak the language of the plumber? And perhaps the plumber doesn’t work on the day that you desperately need him?  How attentively would you watch the above video? How grateful would you be to these guys for taking the time to create the videos?  How many times would you pause, rewind and rematch that video?

For me, this sets up the challenges and the opportunities of Flipped Classroom.  We have the ability to make videos and to change how content is delivered. But do our students understand why they are watching the videos? Are they engaged in the videos? Are they grateful for the work you put into creating the videos? Are our students using videos to solve BIG and REAL problems?

Flipped Classroom: Not for the Passive Learner

Good teaching, regardless of discipline, should always limit passive transfer of knowledge in class, and promote learning environments built on the tenants of inquiry, collaboration and critical thinking. We, as educators, must strive to guide students through perplexing situations, and more importantly, work with one another to develop the pedagogical skills to do so. Keeping this in mind, good teaching comes in many forms, and the flipped classroom mentality can be one of many solutions for educators. – Should You Flip Your Classroom? Edutopia


To be honest, I have struggled with the idea of Flipped Classroom. I am a little wary of the hype around Flipped Classroom. Many articles (often written by non-educators) celebrate Khan Academy, Neo K-12Teacher Tube (just to list a few) for freeing up more time to get through content. Getting through content is the least inspiring reason to make changes to pedagogy. And they forget that just because something is on YouTube, it doesn’t mean our kids want to watch it. And just because a video is on their iPad, it doesn’t mean that our kids will rewind and rewatch. I’ve watched kids fall asleep watching boring videos in-class. And as someone who enjoys lecturing (though I’m doing less of it each year), I know that the best lectures are interactive and actually feed off of an audience.  And, as Jeff says, lecture as a content delivery is dead. So I know that showing a video is not enough.

That said, if introducing flipped instruction allows a teacher to differentiate instruction and create a more learner-centered classroom, I’m all for it. And if the videos can be used to quickly assess understanding and student learning, then we’re moving in the right direction. And if a teacher has found a way to have students want to watch the videos (or learn independently in general), then that’s amazing.

 Redefining Flipped Classrooms

In actuality, reverse instruction is more than videos. And it’s more than just technology.

At it’s best, reversed instruction is about empowering learners. 

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by m rkt: https://flickr.com/photos/markroquet/3047628132/

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by m rkt: https://flickr.com/photos/markroquet/3047628132/

Reversed instruction allows the walls of the classroom come down. And it can extend the school day, so that learning doesn’t stop at the bell. So if we are changing the very nature of school, we better make sure we are doing great things with our students.

Perhaps, you engage your students in a passion projectgenius hour20% time or a DIY project. Your students go home and learn what they want to learn. They Skype family, watch experts explain how to do something on YouTube, or poll friends on Googleforms or Survey Monkey. Perhaps they join Code Academy or a MOOC to learn more about something they are passionate about. They want to do work at home, because they’re geeked.

Perhaps, you flip who is learning from who. Have students read each others blog posts in preparation for a fishbowl discussion (link with a great description of what this looks like in a DP English Class). This can also mean teachers look to learn from their students.

Perhaps, you create problems that kids want to solve. The great math teacher Dan Meyers is a great example of someone who creates real problems where kids need/want to learn how to answer the problem. They watch videos about derivatives and functions, because they are desperate to know the answer.

Perhaps, students recognize their own problems worth solving. Design Thinking talks a lot about how students can recognize problems and find ways to solve them. Moonshot Thinking is about choosing to bothered by something, being inspired, and hard work.  A flipped classroom can help our students solve problems that we as teachers don’t even recognize as problems.

These are just some ways that we can redefine what the classroom looks like using reversed instruction. And maybe this resonates for your classroom. Or maybe you’re finding the  “traditional” model of Flipped Classroom is working for you and your students (I’m willing to be convinced!). So the question is – How is your classroom being disrupted, redefined, and flipped?


3 thoughts on “Flipped Classroom and The Kitchen Sink

  1. Profile photo of Jeff Utecht

    I couldn’t agree more! It’s the untraditional way of flipping that I love. There is no reason why students can’t go learn something themselves. Again this is where teaching search skills becomes essential. If we teach students how to search, how to find, how to ask, for information we empower them to answer questions on their own.

    The real flip in my head is this:

    Class time: Teach students skills (search, presentation, information literacy, etc)

    Out of Class: Students research, find, gather, answer questions. They learn something

    Class time: Teacher and class as a whole help take this content that they self-discover and find and put it into context…help them make sense of it and ultimately hit the outcome.

    So class time is spend on skills and putting content into context

    Out of class time is spent on gathering/learning content

    It’s an easy recipe in my mind and one I have seen work from 5-12 grade.

    1. Profile photo of Ian Gabrielson

      Agreed Jeff,
      Ever since you first shared your ideas about reversed instruction with me back in Learning 2 (Shanghai) I have been consistently second guessing myself on my more traditional lessons and striving to create activities that push the students to gather information on their own. It is something I am trying again this week- link to coetail.com

      The trouble I have found I found is getting them (students/parents/fellow teachers) to see/make connections during the “skills” lessons. “Why are we doing this?” or “What does this have to do with anything?” are common questions. Granted- they are easily answered with good instruction/planning and helping them make the link, but never-the-less getting students, parents, and other teachers to buy in is a struggle. Hopefully, as I get more efficient at this AND as time passes and results actually change, the evidence will speak for itself.. And, as I have told you before, I 100% buy into the importance of teaching search skills- the trouble/struggle is.. Getting colleagues and administrators to buy in with me..

  2. Lorin Pritikin @ 2013/12/03

    The problem I keep coming back to is that there is great diversity in the amount of responsibility that a classroom full of high school students is willing to take for his or her learning. As much as I teach skills during instructional time, it doesn’t mean that the majority of my students have acquired them. Or if I teach skills outside of class and use classroom time for “learning by doing”–the progressive model of experiential learning, I often find that the majority of my high school students have not spent quality time watching my videos or practicing their skills. I teach foreign language and most of my students require much more guidance from a human presence not because it is required for competence or proficiency to develop but because they simply do not take ownership for their learning without a warm body insisting on it. There are some that can work in any environment, flipped or reversed or whatever you call it. Those are not the students who keep me up at night wondering if this experiment in flipping instruction is developmentally or culturally impossible. The culture of learning has changed over the 25 years that I have been teaching high school language : most of my students want more entertainment (sound and light shows, power points, games) and listen less, read less, work less on gaining proficiency. They are less willing or able (I am not sure which) to put in focused, disciplined, consistent work on actually acquiring competence (not mastery) in the language. They assume, as many language instructors have decided, that communicating–regardless of accuracy–taking risks–is the point. Me want cookie now–is better than not saying anything and is intelligible–and that is what communicative competence is now in language. Accuracy has been deemed “language learning” NOT language acquisition. Learning has become a dirty word.


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