Flipping Your Classroom with Online Tools


The past couple of months I have been conducting a little thinking and learning around online learning. This topic has popped up as a possible solution to meet a diverse array of needs including credit recovery, distance learning, independent study, and making better use of classroom time. While the first three tend to be the focus of our attention, I believe the real power is looking at how we can use online learning to extend the learning day and make better use of classroom time.

At the 2009 ISTE Conference I remember sitting in Alan November’s session where he introduced the idea that in the 21st Century, with the amount and type of technology students have floating around in their pockets, we needed to consider inverting the notion of schoolwork and homework. In many traditional secondary and college classrooms we spend our face-to-face time often listening to only one person talk – the teacher. Even when that teacher is a dynamic orator, capturing every student’s attention, and effectively using the occasional classroom discussion, one has to wonder if having 32+ students watch one teacher is really the best use of everyone’s time? After the teacher’s performance is over, the students head home to work independently on synthesizing the information they just heard. Ironically, when you consider the fact that learning is a social experience, it really makes no sense that we send all of the students home to piece everything together all alone. Even if you are trying to move your classroom to a more discussion-based classroom there will still be the need for occasional direct instruction lessons, especially in fact-dense disciplines like math, science, and history. Would there be a way to time shift the to a whole-class lecture experience so that students “watched” the teacher at home and use class time for hands-on inquiry, constructivist learning, and deep classroom conversations?

Recently I stumbled across this post on Connected Principals, where the author, Jonathan Martin describes this type of teaching as “Reverse Instruction.” Martin’s post is full of additional links through which I discovered two Colorado high school science teachers, Jon Bergman & Aaron Sams, who are using the technology many students are already bringing with them each day (iPods and iPhones) to “flip their classrooms.” Take a moment to watch their video below and you can see just how these two teachers are using online tools and digital technology to help make better use of their classroom instructional time.


Reflecting on what I saw in the video it seems to me that flipping the classroom should be a relatively easy process and would probably only take the following technology

  • Screencasting Software – Programs like iShowU, Screenflow, Profcast, Camtasia Studio, or even Jing would be needed to record classroom lessons
  • Student Devices – Students would just need something that plays vidoeo. Perhaps this could be a laptop, a cell phone, or an iPod/iPad type device.
  • Dissemination Platform – Some how you will need to get the videos to your students. Depending on the access your students might have to different types of technology or the Internet your dissemination platform might take different shapes. I could see some teachers placing videos on their class wesbite or Moodle page. Meanwhile others might make use of YouTube, Vimeo, or iTunes. Should your students have have limited home internet access, but a variety of video-capable iPod-like devices (iPod Touch, iPod Nano, iPhone, etc), and iPod syncing cart might come in handy too.

If I were going to try to “flip my classroom” this year I ultimately think I would have to survey my students’ access to technology and the internet to find out which combination would make the most sense. I would also work to take what has often traditionally been a 45 minute lesson in my classroom and narrow it down to a 15 minute or less mini-lesson video, because no one is going to watch me yack on and on for more than 15 minutes. I also imagine I would need to create a method for helping students begin to synthesize their learning while watching the videos. Perhaps this would take the form of a collaborative set of classroom notes via Google Doc or participation in an online discussion forum? Jon and Aaron have answered some of these questions for their own classroom here (Thanks John for posting the link in the Comments!). Regardless of the technology you choose, knowing the power of being able to spend instructional time engaged in hands-on activities or powerful conversations, I think the idea of using online tools to flip the classroom is definitely worth looking into.


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