Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff
You might have stumbled across the flipped classroom by way of professional development or in one of your college education courses. If you’re a bright and shiny new teacher, maybe you’ve even experienced the flipped classroom for yourself.
But as the case often is, it’s one thing to study theory, and it’s quite another to put it into practice. That’s why the key to successfully flipping your classroom is finding resources that make your life easier.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of setting up your first flipped class, let’s get on the same page about what we’re talking about when we say flipped classroom, and how it came to be the educational juggernaut that it is today.
Flipped classroom 101: How did this become a thing?
The flipped classroom earned its moniker for inverting, or “flipping,” the traditional classroom model.
The traditional model is how you were probably taught in school. If you need a visual, just picture the Charlie Brown classroom where the teacher’s “voice” is a trombone muted with a rubber plunger head (haven’t you always wondered what that sound was?).
For this instructional style, you use class time to explain a new concept, usually with a lecture, which your students may or may not zone out. (Yawns are a telltale sign and kryptonite to teachers.)
Maybe you get through an example or two, and then assign some homework to check for students’ understanding.
Ready for the flip? In the flipped classroom model, the explanation, via video, becomes the “homework,” allowing students to learn 100 percent at their own pace.
That means that exercises, activities and projects that were once homework now become classwork, so you can circulate and give your students some much-needed one-on-one attention (especially the ones who are struggling).
Now that you know what the flipped classroom is, where did it come from?
While it’s a little foggy as to exactly who coined the phrase, the origins of the flipped classroom can be traced back to California professor of education Alison King’s infamous 1993 paper, “From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side.”
To break it down, the “sage on the stage” is the teacher in the traditional model, while the “guide on the side” refers to the teacher’s role in the flipped classroom.
Besides having a knack for rhyming, King was able to look into her crystal ball and predicted that the traditional model would “not be effective for the twenty-first century, when individuals will be expected to think for themselves, pose and solve complex problems, and generally produce knowledge rather than reproduce it.”
While it did take a little time for her ideas to pick up steam, the world of education eventually got comfortable with the shift of teachers from the stage to the side.
But what really sparked the movement were the advances in technology and the internet.
The flipped classroom and technology: the beginning of a beautiful friendship
In the ’90s, the OG’s of the flipped classroom got by with PowerPoints with audio voiceover and videotaped lectures. They might also tell you about walking five miles to school in the snow with no shoes.
Not quite a decade later, an article published in 2000 (anyone remember Y2K panic?) reported the findings on inverting an economics class at Miami University.
Like a quaint little time capsule, it shows just how far technology has come in the past 20 years: “the use of the World Wide Web and multimedia computers (and/or VCRs) enables students to view lectures either in computer labs or at home, whereas homework assignments can be done in class.”
Can you imagine believing in the flipped classroom enough to copy your lecture onto video cassettes for each of your students? #Dedication.
Today, there are so many online resources to make your teaching life easier, that it’s just masochistic not to take advantage of them.
With the popularity of podcasts and YouTube, students are better equipped and more motivated to learn using technology than ever before. It’s the perfect storm for the flipped classroom!
So, the stage is set for your flipped classroom debut … but how do you get started?
How to create your first flipped lesson
Start with baby steps. After all, flipping your classroom happens one lesson at a time.
Don’t worry about starting at the beginning of the year, either. Even if you’re in the middle of a unit, there’s no reason why you can’t flip your next lesson.
Start with your topic. What’s the next concept you were planning on teaching? A new Spanish verb tense? Introducing students to vectors, the origins of basketball or voting rights?
This is where video comes in.
First, you’ll need to choose between recording your own video or finding one online. If you like the idea of recording your own lesson, make sure you brush up on some tips for recording teaching videos like a pro.
The quicker option is finding a video on your topic that’s already been created. At Edpuzzle, we happen to be big fans of Crash Course and Khan Academy (big shout-out to Salman Khan’s TED talk on using video to reinvent education), but the options are virtually endless.
You can get set up with Edpuzzle and start using it to assign videos in less than ten minutes (yes, we’ve timed it), and make your life even easier by getting stats on student progress and understanding.
It’s one thing to throw a video link up on the board for students to watch at home, but it’s quite another to add comprehension questions to your video and see who’s watched it in real time.
Now on to step two ... your students have all watched your video at home, and it’s time to see what they’ve learned!
If you’re using Edpuzzle, when your students come to class the following day, you’ll already know who’s got it and who needs a little extra help. If you’re flying blind, try surveying students at the beginning of class to see how the process went before you dive into activities.
Now, your class time can be used for students to work on practical application of their knowledge. You can circulate and work with students who need some individual attention, or match them up with students who are already ninjas in the new concept.
If you’ve done all that, you’ve officially become “the guide on the side” – how do you like the view?
Flipped classroom troubleshooting
If the flipped classroom is so amazing, what could go wrong? The potential challenges basically fall into three categories: dealing with the critics, handling the digital divide and creating content.
Since it’s such a departure from the traditional model, sometimes it can take a little convincing to get your admin, parents and even students on board with the flipped classroom.
While it can be frustrating when you’re just starting out, there’s an easy fix – let the results speak for themselves.
Talk to your admins or department head about how much better prepared your students will be for standardized tests with all the in-class practice and personalized attention your students will be getting. What’s not to love there?
Where parents are concerned, it’s a no-brainer. They might have as much homework anxiety as their kids do. With the flipped classroom, rather than trying to help their children with homework concepts they might not have a clue about, they can learn alongside their kids by watching the videos.
Then there are your students. Maybe they’re as gung ho as you are to shake things up, but on the other side, they might be a little resistant initially. Try letting them watch the first video during class time, so you can walk around and clear up any doubts, like being your own co-teacher! (How meta is that?!)
As soon as students realize that they’ll actually be getting more support from you and can take all the time they need to learn the concepts at home, you’ll start to see your students fall in love with the flipped classroom.
Once you’ve got everyone on your side, without a doubt, the biggest issue facing flipping your classroom is the digital divide – in other words, the gap in access to technology based on socioeconomic status.
If your school is one-to-one and each of your students has their own tablet or laptop, you’ve got it made (although you should still survey your students to find out what kind of internet access they have at home).
BYOD, or “bring your own device,” is another potential solution that lets students use their smartphones to watch videos at home. Still, the key is to identify what your students have access to in terms of technology.
If your students don’t have their own device or access to high-speed internet at home, you’ll need to get creative with solutions.
Talk to your students one-on-one to find out if they live near a public library or can access the internet at a friend or family member’s house.
If that’s not an option, then you’ll have to help your student find time at school in the morning, during lunchtime or after school, where they can access the videos in your classroom, the library or computer lab.
There may not be a perfect solution, but you’ll have to find the best possible fix to make sure that none of your students feel excluded or fall behind because of their lack of technology.
Once you’ve got all the logistical kinks worked out, then it’s time to get to work on creating your content. While starting out might feel as daunting as tackling Mount Everest before you’ve done your first 5K, there are plenty of ways to start flipping your classroom without burning the candle at both ends.
Start off by searching through the thousands of videos already available to you on Edpuzzle. Need a video on how a bill becomes a law? Check out Crash Course. Teaching your students about space? Then National Geographic channel has you covered.
You’ve also got YouTube’s arsenal of videos at your fingertips (and if you’re already shaking your head no because YouTube is blocked at your school, Edpuzzle’s got your back).
Another cool way to create content twice as fast? Get the rest of your department on board. You can divide up the units, so you have the benefit of sharing material with your coworkers, and your students can enjoy learning from more than one teacher.
The bottom line is, there’s no need to panic when it comes to creating video content. You don’t have to do all the heavy lifting yourself, and remember, for your first year, take it slow. Just flip a few units rather than taking it all on at once!
Becoming a flipped classroom hero
Time to let you in on a little secret … why do you keep hearing about the flipped classroom?
Because it actually works.
It’s fuel for the fire that sparks those magical classroom moments where your students are excited (and not because it’s an early dismissal day), you’re able to truly connect with them, and classroom management is a breeze, like it should be.
If you’ve been hesitant to flip your classroom because the whole thing sounds too good to be true, or because starting something new feels too overwhelming, it’s time to let go of the excuses and the fear.
Imagine what you would tell a student who refuses to try because of fear of failure. It all starts with that first step!
To dive in deeper, try our free online certification course on the flipped classroom. You’ll get a certificate of completion you can share with your school for a possible continued education credit and a snazzy badge to share on your social media profiles!