The flipped classroom

What is the flipped classroom?
Generally it is defined as “a model of teaching in which a student’s homework is the traditional content accessed outside of class generally using technology. Then class time is spent on inquiry-based learning which would include what would traditionally be viewed as a student’s homework assignment”

There is a useful visual of the above definition that has done the rounds at http://

In reality it looks like this New Zealand classroom: a PE Teacher, Carl Condliffe at Wellington High School has been using a flipped classroom model for the past year or so and he has shared online at www. Reading his thoughts and watching his video content, you can immediately see applications across a range of subjects.

I’m interested – how do I learn more?
Read a book – Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Your Class Everyday, Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams.

Join a ning – for example: www.

But wait, how does the flipped classroom model apply to primary?
The NZ Curriculum already gives primary schools the freedom to let students drive the planning and choose the content. The teacher then embeds in this the literacy, language and numeracy objectives for individual students. So what could the flipped classroom model add?

To answer this we need to look at the “pros” of a flipped classroom model.

Firstly, there is improved access to “content”. Students can learn at their own pace, reviewing what they need when they need it. Students who miss class can stay up-to-date and refer to videos or content outside the classroom. If a student does not understand a concept the first time, they can easily access it as many times as they wish.

Secondly, there is a positive impact on the classroom time. The teacher has more time to be the guide, working one-on-one with students and thereby strengthening relationships. Classroom time can be the much talked about time for collaborative learning.

Thirdly, it allows knowledge to be applied to different contexts – for example, the teacher (or students!) may have made a fantastic video on how to measure area. This concept video can then be used in topic work, art, tech, physical education and so on.

Thinking about these advantages, primary teachers may be able to identify two different elements of their teaching that could be “flipped”. In the first instance, by capturing those key bite-sized chunks of teaching and learning, then by making these available outside school, you will be able to tick the first bullet point above – improved accessibility for all. The second element involves a bit of re-organisation. It does not mean that every class has to be flipped, just when appropriate. Bergman and Sams advocate thinking about “What is the best use of your class time?” and focussing your class time on these types of activity. Fun YouTube videos of different vowel sounds, blends, simple numeracy concepts could be made available on a class blog or a school online learning environment. Web based games to practice these skills could also be provided for completion outside of class. Do you need to use valuable class time for content delivery or drill activities? As a result what would often be the homework activity, using these skills to produce or create something, could be shifted to the classroom, where the teacher’s facilitation and input can prove more valuable.

At this point many of you may be saying, “But I do this already!” You just didn’t realise that you were “flipping” your classroom.

OK I’m sold and I want to give it a go – do I need to create my own content?
Not necessarily. There are resources available on You Tube, Teacher Tube, Khan Academy (a not for profit database of 4,500 videos) and Ted-Ed. Have a look around first, and if you think you can do a better job then go for it. Personally, I would ultimately aim to have my students create the content. They could take what is out there and then apply it to their contexts and make this available to future students. Perhaps older year groups could make content for younger year groups, reinforcing their knowledge at the same time.

I think I or my students can do a better job – how do I do it?
Screen capture tools: as the name suggests you can capture whatever you do on screen. Many interactive whiteboard software packages come with built in screen recorders. Or if you have a tablet or ipad there are more and more apps becoming available with Show Me being a well-known example.

If you want to capture yourself “doing” something, a visualiser is the ideal solution. Andrew Riccardi of Waimea College is an advocate of the flipped classroom and uses a visualiser to capture maths tutorials (http:// . The beauty of the visualiser is the ease with which you can capture live teaching, those key bite- sized chunks of learning that students may want to revisit. Just press a record button and it will create a video with audio of whatever you or the students are doing. They are particularly popular with Science and Technology teachers because of the detail the top of the range models can capture.

Webcams, digital still cameras, video cameras: all of these can of course be used to capture video too. The decision about which comes down simply to the quality you require for your video.

You then share your videos on YouTube, via your blog or online learning environment.

What do I do in class time?
Assimilate. Sounds a bit Star Trek but essentially students problem-solve, discuss, debate, work in groups, craft and create. They are doing the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy at home and the higher order learning in class. Whilst watching the videos outside class, students are often asked to “watch, summarise and question” with the questions meeting the following criteria:

one question they don’t know the answer to

one question they do know the answer to and can challenge others on

one “hot” question; and they are givenquestion starters to ensure that the question will activate higher order thinking and discussion.

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 11.26.57 amWhat potential issues should I be aware of?
Equality of access is the first issue that springs to mind. Ideally you need a library with good computer access and broadband for students without home access. Other solutions range from school-sponsored lease arrangements where parents pay a weekly amount for a device, to the school providing wireless internet access for the local area. Community engagement is an important starting point and needs to include acknowledgement that both students and parents will keep up their end of the bargain and commit to supporting the “outside the classroom” component. Good community engagement at the beginning of the process can also eliminate many other issues that could potentially surround a flipped classroom such as agreement on appropriate screen time for different age groups, acknowledgement of who should deal with technical problems, theft, breakages and expectations around the amount/speed of data required.

There has to be recognition that there are different learning styles and the “outside the classroom” content should be varied, motivating and stimulating. Flipping the classroom can significantly increase teacher workload in the short term. Professional development, time and resources for course development all need to be considered. Teacher buy-in is therefore another important starting point.

Applying it to outside the classroom
Two other good starting points are to apply the concept to administration meetings and to encourage the library to get involved.

Firstly flip your staff meetings. Rather than use this time together to read documents and listen to announcements, staff can access information outside of the meetings and use time in meetings for valuable discussion and debate. This may even lead to a reduction in the time spent in meetings!

Secondly, ask the librarian to build a library of video and audio that teachers and students can choose from to form the basis of the “outside the classroom” component of the flipped classroom. To quote from the horse’s mouth, Carl Condliffe, the NZ PE Teacher, has found that “Every student is thinking, writing, interacting, reading, listening and speaking – EVERYDAY!”

Surely what every teacher wants.

With thanks to Carl Condliffe and Andrew Riccardi for permission to point people in the direction of their work.