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A Modest Proposal - Let's Flip the Class

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In his June 5th Blog, Larry Cuban comments: “Lecturing is performing, a way of conveying knowledge in a fresh way, a way of bridging oral tradition and visual culture that teachers, professors, and so many others have continually adapted to new media … With all of the concern for student-centered inquiry and using tougher questions based upon Bloom’s Taxonomy, one enduring function of schooling is to transfer academic knowledge and skills (both technical and social) to the next generation. Social beliefs in transmitting knowledge as a primary purpose of schooling remain strong and abiding . So lecturing and questioning will around for many more centuries.”

Perhaps this is true, but it still leaves open the question of how the “lecture” portion of instruction is provided.  One promising practice is to “flip the class.”  This phenomenon seems to have originated with the Khan Academy, but it does note merely mimic that limited - some say flawed - approach and takes several forms.

For example, a teacher (or a department or a district or a province) can present the lecture portion of a course - in whole or in part - as a series of podcasts and require students to view the lecture outside of class as their “homework.”  The individual activity that students would traditionally have done at home then becomes a class-based tutorial in which students work together in groups to complete the assignment while the teacher circulates to assist as necessary and perhaps to interject with a brief comment to the class if a common misconception or difficulty emerges.

This is a good example of using digital innovations to create more personal contact time between student and teacher as well as creating cooperative learning time.  For students, it eliminates that sinking feeling that comes when one starts the homework and  suddenly realizes it does not make sense.  That’s when the phone lines heat up.  Wouldn’t it be better to make this discovery in class when there is a friend or teacher immediately available to talk about it.  For teachers, it eliminates the hours spent outside of class with students who come in desperately seeking help (and who then probably do their Chemistry homework surreptitiously in French or while they gulp down their lunch).

There is also an additional task for the teacher, which is creating the podcast.  However, this is now technically trivial so anyone can do it with ease and it is a task that could be shared with other teachers of the same subject, each taking their favourite topic and perfecting their lecture on it.  There is no need for it to be a polished production with multiple takes and so on.  After all, lectures aren't.  Students just want the goods, not another music video.  And once a podcast is "in the can" there is no need to change it unless some improvement can be made.

The lectures themselves can be posted to a Youtube or Vimeo channel so that students can view them, and review them as often as necessary, at a time convenient to them.

It would be foolish to suggest that video lectures are sufficient as instruction or that they replace teachers, but that does not mean that we cannot do them in a better way.  Flipping the class has been shown to have many benefits and its one more way for teachers to merge onto the high-tech highway.

Great suggestion Bruce. I've

Great suggestion Bruce. I've been investigating Flip lessons for a couple of months. Check out

http://vodcasting.ning.com/     for lots of practical help.

The other thing that appeals to me is the opportunity to enable many people to add value to the flip lesson by:

  • redoing it to improve it
  • tune it for a slightly different learning style or ?
  • build pre test questions to help adapt the instruction
  • build post presetation questions to help with re-teaching
  • build and improve re-teaching suggestions

in otherwords, enable collaboration between many people in improving lesson 'segments' that can then be shared by a large number of teachers and students.

Ray.  www.pita.ca

An excellent post Bruce. I

An excellent post Bruce. I think in courses where they are 'lecture' heavy (i.e. Chemistry and Math), this can be an excellent way to increase the hands-on aspect of the learning process. 

In my previous school, I attempted this and it was an amazing tool for students. They could watch when they had time, could rewatch if they needed, pause to go have dinner with family and then return. 

A couple of resources for people out there:

On the Educational Vodcasting page, they have step by step process and software/hardware recommendations. 

Thanks again Bruce :)

Chris Horton - SD59 - Peace River South

Good tip, Chris. Thanks.

Good tip, Chris.


We started podcasting our

We started podcasting our science classes last year as a response to feedback received at our Student Forum and our School Planning sessions.

Our students put forward their feelings that they needed more time to "get it." We as a staff already know that expecting every student to understand a lesson first time through in a scheduled block of time is unrealistic. By reversing our service delivery through podcasts, our students can now watch a lesson at their own pace and review pieces they may not initially comprehend (rather than trying to lean over and copy their peer's notes in class - which they don't understand - and give up on the lesson in frustration).  

One other benefit of the podcasts: the egalitarian approach to note taking.  Now every student is privy to the same notes as provided by the video lecture.  No longer is the unorganized student sifting through crunched up papers in the bottom of his/her locker scrambling to find October's notes. 

In podcasting we are not removing teachers from the learning equation nor are we minimizing their professional impact: we're allowing them to start their lessons from a place where students, through their "homework", have been critically reflective with the respective curriculum.  The classroom experience now allows for the second more important piece to unfold - inquiry based learning which moves from synthesis of the video lecture into creation of new understanding.  In all of this, the teacher transforms into the ultimate learning coach or to borrow from Larry Rosen, the knowledge broker.

Thanks for sharing your

Thanks for sharing your experience with this, Gino.

For the information of others, Gino Bondi is the principal at John Oliver Secondary School in Vancouver and the recorded lectures to which he is referring are provided to students at http://jo-online.vsb.bc.ca/moodle/login/index.php.  The teacher, Lester Leung, has permitted guest sign-in so you can take a look for yourself.