April 1, 2014
Online Journal - Flipped Learning
Janet Hall, Associate Superintendent, Alberta Conference, Lacombe, AB

Flipped learning, flipped classrooms, and inverting the classroom are terms that have been around since the early 1990’s. Flipped learning is defined as “a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”1 I became interested in flipped learning when I read the book “Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day”2 written by two chemistry teachers, Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann.  They now have become a traveling duo and provide Professional Development throughout North America.  They have joined forces with “TechSmith,” a company that sells Screencasting software, and together they hold an annual conference.  You can attend virtually if travelling is out of the question for you.
In a nutshell, the concept behind flipped learning is to front load, by video, the information students need so they can do projects and other creative learning activities together with their teacher during class time.  It’s like having your personal teacher with a rewind, fast forward and stop buttons to control his/her instruction pace. The gifted student can fast forward over material they already know, while a struggling student can rewind over difficult sections as many times as needed and they do so without the whole class knowing that they had to do that. Khan academy, for example, was established with “flipped learning” methodology in mind.  Salman Khan had a younger cousin who needed tutoring and felt that recorded lessons would let her skip the parts she already knew and replay parts of the video that were troubling to her.  So he started tutoring her by putting videos together and, from these humble beginnings, it has grown to become a very popular site.3
In a flipped learning class you can use premade videos from sites such as Khan Academy, TeacherTube, YouTube and a host of others, or you can make your own with the help of Screencasting.  A group of us from the Alberta Conference attended a Flipped Conference in the spring of 2013 and subsequently two PACeS teachers started flipping their classes in the fall.  Because PACeS is an online school, it was relatively easy to implement flipped learning because each child had a device for watching videos after school.  This could be a problem in some schools and jurisdictions where not all students have devices at home.  Some teachers get creative and have lending DVD libraries or allow public access to school computers after hours.  I watched a video produced by Lori MacDonald, a PACeS teacher, this week in preparation for her teaching evaluation.  The video was well done and freed Lori up for doing a guided activity during class time.
In multi grade classes flipped learning works very well.  The instructional video can be used for one grade while the teacher is helping other grades with interactive activities and if necessary the teacher can rotate through their various grades with this technique. Flipped learning provides for inclusive instruction so that individual students can control their own rate of learning.  Multi grade classes can provide each grade with appropriate learning outcomes without having to do odd/even year content with the whole class.
Mary Beth Hertz in her article entitled “The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con” says the following that is apropos for all to bear in mind whenever we consider implementing something new such as “flipped learning” in education.  “So in the end, why should we care so much about the flipped classroom model?  The primary reason is because it is forcing teachers to reflect on their practice and rethink how they reach kids.  It is inspiring teachers to change the way they’ve done things, and it is motivating them to bring technology into their classrooms through the use of video and virtual classrooms like Edmodo and similar tools.  As long as learning remains the focus, and as long as educators are constantly reflecting and asking themselves if what they are doing is truly something different or just a different way of doing the same things they’ve always done, there is hope….”4

1 New definition of Flipped learning. The Flipped Learning Network (March 12, 2014) Retrieved from http://fln.schoolwires.net//site/Default.aspx?PageID=92
Sams, Aaron and Bergmann, Jonathan.  Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. International Society For Technology In Education (ISTE), 2012
3 History of Khan Academy (2008) Retrieved from http://khanacademy.desk.com/customer/portal/articles/329316-how-did-khan-academy-get-started
4  Hertz, Mary Beth. The Flipped classroom: Pro and Con. Edutopia.org (July 10, 2012). Retrieved from  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/flipped-classroom-pro-and-con-mary-beth-hertz