Khan and Beyond: The Many Faces of the Flipped Classroom

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As soon as Sal Khan mentioned “teachers flipping the classroom” in his 2011 TED Talk “Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education,” a new educational buzzword was born. Even though the concept existed long before Khan moved it into the classroom conversation, the increased publicity has many teachers interested in figuring out how/if this can work in their classrooms. Recently, some insightful and reflective blog posts by “Coach Brown” and “21st Century Educator” emphasize the need to address some of the common questions, concerns, and even misconceptions, about the Flip.

When it comes down to it, the tag “Flipped Classroom” is really just a catchy phrase covering a wide range of teaching practices. To quote one of the best educators I know (a.k.a. Brian Bennett), “the Flipped Classroom isn’t a methodology. It’s an idealogy.” In other words, there isn’t a single method that is everything to everyone, or an all-exhaustive list of bullet points that will spoon-feed you everything you need to know. For some, the vagueness of the previous sentences will be frustrating, but trust me, this is a good thing! It means the flipped classroom philosophy is fluid and adaptable. It means that when done the right way, it can positively impact student learning regardless of the subject or classroom.

Many who are just learning about the Flipped Classroom might jump to the conclusion that it’s all about Khan Academy videos in the classroom. Now don’t get me wrong here, I feel that resources like the Khan Academy are fantastic options, but need to be part of a much larger picture. So while I’m grateful for the recent buzz and opportunities for discussion, when it comes down to it, it’s not about the videos, it’s about learning.

What is most exciting is to see the innovation on the front lines, led by classroom teachers, who have taken this idea and modified it into something that meets the needs of their situation and students. In some classrooms, the flipped philosophy takes advantage of teacher or student made content libraries (similar to Khan Academy) or Mathtrain where students and parents can have on-demand access to class content that is rewindable and reviewable. In other scenarios, it addresses the problem of students having access to teachers when they need help the most by removing direct instruction from the classroom, turning that into the homework (hence the term “flip”), and freeing up class time for more effective learning activities and increased student-teacher interactions. At its best, it means students take ownership of their learning by choosing how they learn content and demonstrate understanding, all while being allowed to master it at their own pace.

When it comes to the top resources about the intricacies and nuances of the flipped classroom I suggest the following:

  • Crowdsourcing and networking opportunities for the flipped classroom are endless in the age of Web 2.0. One of your best resources is the Flipped Class Network with close to 2,000 members in its ranks. Once you’ve registered (for free of course), you will have access to the experiences and insights of hundreds of flippers. With such a large pool of educators, you are bound to find others who are in the same position as you and eager to share.
  • Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams are the flipped class gurus who started this movement long before Sal Khan made it popular. Their Flipped Classroom book from ISTE press will be published soon and some great descriptions of their classrooms can be found here, here, and here.
  • When it comes to the pedagogical art and science of teaching effectively in the Flipped Classroom, San Franciscan educator Ramsey Musallam is as good as they get. His Flipteaching website is a fantastic resource for those interested in research-based side of the flip. His recent post “Flip Instruction: Questions that Must be Addressed” (found on his website) is one of the most thorough explanations I have ever read regarding concerns over the Flipped Classroom.
  • This past summer Jon and Aaron hosted The Flipped Conference at their high school in Woodland Park, Colorado. Before the conference began the presenters met together in a sort of pre-conference and shared their insights and strategies for teaching effectively in the Flipped Classroom. One (of many) great resource to come out of those two days was a 3-part series of articles published on the The Daily Riff website: Myth vs. Reality, Are You Ready to Flip?, and What a Good One Looks Like.
  • And finally, a wonderfully written piece on the website MindShift, by guest blogger Shelley Wright – “The Flip: Why I Love It, How I Use It” describing how this is done in her classroom.

Hopefully, the resources above give you an idea about how the Flipped Classroom can look in your situation. As more and more quality resources become available we’d love to hear about them. Also, if you are still wondering how this can work for you and your classroom please leave a comment below and we’ll talk.

Next Post: Misconceptions and Concerns about the Flipped Classroom


Dan Spencer is the Educator Emissary for Techsmith, as well as the Educational Technology Consultant for the Jackson County (MI) Intermediate School District. Before that he spent a decade teaching his students to think and solve problems through chemistry, physics and engineering. Follow his tweets at @runfardvs.