Thursday, October 11, 2012

From flipping to empowerment

CC BY Some rights reserved by MillionaireAt19
The flipped classroom has been one of the main educational trends of the past year or so. The idea is to move the input sessions to net-based videos that can be watched at home and spend class time on discussion, practice and feedback. Teachers can either record their lectures and demonstrations or use other teacher's material that is available as open educational resources. It means that class time is used for real contact between students and teacher and not for one-way communication.

However an excellent article by Shelley WrightThe Flip: End of a Love Affair, takes the flipped classroom several steps further. Just flipping the classroom is only the beginning of a process. It's still a traditional model where the lecture still dominates even if there's more flexibility. Shelley wanted to teach the students to learn for themselves and noticed that as they became more confident they didn't need to be given videos to watch at home, they started finding material for themselves. The flipped classroom evaporated and became the empowered classroom.

"As this new way of learning played out over time, my students found they didn’t need me to locate or create videos for them. Instead, they learned how to learn, and they were able to find their own resources. For me, this was a much more important skill than following my directions or using the resources I told them to use. As this shift occurred, the flip simply disappeared from our classroom. It took almost a year for me to notice it was gone. Instead, our classroom had become a place where students discovered and shared their own resources, while engaging in projects with each other. There was no need for me to assign video homework or create portable lectures. It all happened during class."

The students had assignments to carry out but were empowered to choose the route and the tools for themselves with the teacher as a constant facilitator and advisor. Interestingly they were also enthusiastic to combine digital with traditional media. Some used textbooks, others digital resources. Some designed web resources whereas others built physical models in the classroom. Most combined all forms. We learn in different ways at different times and using different media. Digital and analogue thrive together and so it must be. Using technology in education is not about replacing; it's about adding new dimensions, new methods and new combinations. So the flipped classroom eventually evaporates and you have empowered students who have learnt how to learn. Surely that is the objective of all education.


  1. Well, allow me to act as the devil´s advocate: I´m sure there are students and entire classes where this goal is within reach. In fact, this is how education was run in Sweden not so long ago (and probably still is here and there), with the PBL and what have you, the teacher being "a constant facilitator and advisor", while the students are doing research very much on their own. For many students, however, this requires far too much on their behalf. What they do is they slip in to copypasting not understandinging neither what they are doing nor where they are heading. Time, however, elapses ...
    Rather, the model is a dream model for schools who seek to maximize their profits since computers are cheaper than teachers.

    This was the devil speaking. Now what? ;)

  2. Thank you Mr Devil! Computers may be cheaper than teachers but without teachers they're useless. The teacher's role in the above example was crucial. You can automate instruction quite easily but you can't automate teaching as Tony Bates wrote recently.