Monday, July 4, 2011

Flipping 101

I've been running into lots of teacher friends over the course of the summer, what with us all being on vacation, and as it turns out, lots of people are interested in hearing more about flipping the class. I'm also hoping to do a presentation about flipping at the next QPAT convention here in Montreal (if they accept my late proposal, that is), so hopefully this post will help me prepare for that. I'm sure someone else has already written something like this before, but here is my attempt nevertheless at outlining the basics of flipping, as well as ideas for more advanced flipping.

What is "flipping the class"?

What gets flipped are the time and place that the teaching and the homework happen. The teaching happens outside of class time, and the work is done during class time, which represents the opposite of what most of us experienced in school.

In order to do this, a certain amount of technology is involved.  Flipping the class isn't about the technology, BUT how successful it is certainly depends on access to and facility with technology. For example, computers with internet access for your students are a huge advantage, if not absolute necessities. The most common vehicle of delivery of the lessons is via some kind of internet site, although some teachers provide their students with CD's, which of course would still require a computer to be viewed. Then there are the many tools that the teacher needs in order to make the lessons and keep track of their students' progress. I hope that doesn't scare anyone off the idea, because there is a TON of support out there for anyone who wants to have at it, including my own humble blog. You are reading the ravings of someone who does not know a lot, but has been able to progress nevertheless!

Why flip the class?

Well, it turns out that this simple idea produces some pretty amazing results. For example:
  • You no longer have kids saying to you "I couldn't do the homework. I understood it when you did it in class, but when I got home I just stared at it and didn't get it anymore."
  • You have more time to help kids during class, and I mean kids at both ends of the ability scale. Those that need help can get it from you OR their peers, and those that are interested in going deeper can do the same.
  • Your kids become more responsible for their own learning, by virtue of the fact that they control the speed with which they work through the lessons and the assignments.
How do you do it?

I have just started, so I am a relative newbie. I started in March of this past school year (2010-2011), so I will tell you what I have done, as well as what some of the more advanced flippers have done. Keep in mind that it's all a work in progress for me and, really, for everybody. I have chronicled a lot of my experiences in older posts right here on this blog, so if you are interested in how it all actually unfolded so far, please see the archives beginning in March. For now, here are the basics:

1. Give your students access to a recorded lesson.

You can either find one that someone else has already created, like for example, one of the 2000 or so free ones at Khan Academy, or you can make your own. I prefer to make my own because I want my students to hear my voice. Most of the teachers seem to prefer making their own, or teaming with other teachers at their own school, for the same reason - familiarity and comfort for our students.
  • What tools you use to make this recording is up to you of course - many use Camtasia, which I would love to try, but for now I am using Voicethread. Here are some of mine from the week of May 16:
  • Voicethread: In an earlier post, I talked about how I make, use, and share voicethreads, so if you're interested, it's all there somewhere. Yes I am lazy. Or you can find out more at 
  • Smart Notebook Recorder: I would think that anyone with a smartboard would be able to use the built-in recorder to make their lesson recordings. Whatever you use, make sure your students can open it at home. As far as I know, the problem with using Smart Notebook is no kids have it at home, because it is SO not free. Maybe it's possible to export it to some kind of mpg format? Not sure.
  • How you make it available to your students - if you're creating a video you can upload it to a website, or give them a CD if they don't have internet at home. For voicethread, the recording is stored on the voicethread site, so I just give them a link to the recording. More advanced teachers have a class site like a wiki, to which they upload their lessons.
2.  At the next class, assign work for your students to do to process the lesson. 
  • For everyone who has listened to the lesson, you are now ready to give them something to do. You can just stick with the usual textbook problems, or worksheets, or you can get more creative. The point here is to get them to do something during classtime so that they have immediate access to someone - either you or another student - to help if they need it.
  • I  found very quickly that I was compelled to do more interesting activities in class, (see post "Flipping with Fun Audrey") as well as assigning them more creative tasks, like using geogebra, or getting them to generate questions for a partner. It just felt like such a golden opportunity to get them to do more interesting things than just drill and practice. You can see one such activity in an earlier post that I did - it's a doc called operations on vectors. Still lazy.
  • This is where you get to spend the most amazing time with the kids - individually or in small groups. You will find that the learning that happens is more authentic, because it will be tailored to the immediate needs or interests of the student. It will be a correction, or a suggestion, or an enrichment offered just in time.
3. Make it possible for them to go at their own speed.
This is why flipping has been called the magic bullet for differentiation. They can go as slow as they need to, or as fast as they want to.
  • Which means you have to have as many lessons and assignments as you can ready to go in advance so that the keener beaners can go ahead. This is quite a challenge for the first year that you are flipping, as it takes time to put together a recording that you are happy with. Some mixing of your stuff and other peoples' stuff will likely be necessary. Feel free to use any of my powerpoints/voicethreads, such as they are!
  • Next year, I plan to get them to watch a variety of lessons on the same topic, and get some critiquing from them. For the time being, I would still like them to start with me, then compare with other teachers. Maybe I am still a bit egocentric that way...
4. Check in with each student on a regular basis.
Of course you want to make sure they are working their way through the course in a timely fashion, and grasping it as they go, so you need to have some system of keeping track, for the purposes of evaluation and pacing.
  • Some teachers have a regular Friday check-in/evaluation routine. Zero for anything not done type of thing. I use an online checklist that I created using googledocs, mainly because I don't get to see my students face-to-face. Every few tasks in the checklist is something they have to hand in to me, so that I can mark it. I also include online quizzes for them to assure themselves that they are on the right track before they zoom to the next lesson. Some of these quizzes are found at explorelearning, and some I create also using googledocs. Here is a checklist from the week of May 16:
  • Next year I will be using the googledocs assessment system, created by Andy Schwen, about which I wrote in another post.
5. Share with other teachers who are flipping. Join twitter and/or the flipped teacher ning at 

Because, as I said, a lot of technology is really necessary, and a lot of time needs to go into creating good materials, and hey, we're all in this together!


  1. Audrey, I love the idea of flipping classrooms, and these are some cool guidelines. It deserves a wider audience and I have just tweeted this to my PLN. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks so much Steve - I am a newbie at flipping and blogging but next year I hope to do both even better!

  3. I am still not sure I understand. I have heard flipping mentioned on Twitter, but I don't know what it is.

    Are you giving them VoiceThreads with the lessons to be viewed prior to class and they work on assignments during class?

  4. Hi Elaine. Sorry, now that I read my own post, I realize I was not clear on that. Yes, that's the idea, they listen to the lesson at home, then they do the assigned work during class. You're exchanging the homework and the lesson times. I started doing it in March, and it was really amazing. If you're interested, my earlier posts, beginning around then, chronicled my flipping experience.
    Thanks for your question!

  5. Hi Audrey
    Try - it's like Camtasia - but free!