No, it's not a lost episode of The Twilight Zone. (Or, if it is, where can we get our hands on that?)

To understand the flipped classroom concept, you first have to think about how class time is typically used.



 Classroom sketch upside down

That's one way of looking at it.

  • A science teacher explains a key concept and then has students go home and answer questions to demonstrate their understanding.
  • A math teacher goes over a new formula and then assigns practice problems for students to complete before the next class to make sure they've got it.
  • An English teacher provides background on Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Romantic movement in American literature before having students go home and begin reading The Scarlet Letter.

These are all perfectly valid uses of class time, of course—they'd just be handled differently in a flipped classroom. Instead of lecturing on each of these topics, the teachers might instead cover that same information via homework in the form of a video lecture—either self-made or mined from that vast land of informational and educational videos called the Internet.

Given the capabilities of today's technology, students can whip out their smartphone or school-provided tablet (you know, if applicable) to watch the video anytime before the next class: in study hall, on the bus, at home, during lunch, waiting for soccer practice to start, you name it. Then in class the next day, instead of sitting for what could be their fourth or eleventh lecture of the day, they can engage in activities to apply or expand on what they've watched.

Get the flip?

With all that direct instruction time happening outside of class, class time can now take the form of group discussions, lab work, Q&A sessions, project work, faux debates, or other activities that enrich the learning experience.

Another benefit of the flipped classroom is that students can take in the direct instruction materials at their own pace. They can pause the video, rewatch portions, or watch the whole thing multiple times if it's just. that. good. On the other hand, if they get it the first time, they can move on instead of having to wait for flurry of questions you'd get in an un-flipped classroom.

Sure, you run the risk of some kiddos skipping the video or watching just part of it. But that's what all those tasty activities the next day are for. If you plan the following class so that it tests that they've watched the thing and requires that they put that new knowledge into practice, your flip will be as flippy as Cirque du Soleil on uppers in Vegas.

Or, um, hopefully better.

For a great overview of flipped classroom learning, check out the video Teaching for Tomorrow: Flipped Learning, which features Flipped Learning pioneer Aaron Sams.

Or is that Sams Aaron? You never know in this flipped universe we're building here.


Need some resources to assist in "flipping" your classroom? Check out our Shmooptube or our online courses!