To Flip or Not to Flip

ISTE is having a point-counterpoint discussion over at the ISTE NING and here is my submission.  I would encourage you all to go over there and join in the conversation. 

When Aaron Sams and I started flipping our classes six years ago, we started because we want to answer one important question:  What is the best use of our face-to-face class time?  As science teachers we know that instead of standing in front of students and lecturing to them, it was a better use of our time to be in amongst our students helping them with difficult concepts and problems.  We also knew that problem based learning and inquiry needed to be better incorporated into our classrooms.  Thus, we flipped both Chemistry and AP Chemistry classes and we have not lectured in our classes in six years.  

Some might argue that we simply have taken a bad mode of instruction, lecture, and put in on video and that we are simply perpetuating a bad that teaching method.  And to some degree, I agree with these folks.  But the amazing thing about flipping is that it enabled us to move from a lecture based classroom to a learner-centered, problem-based, inquiry-driven hub of learning.   In fact today, our videos are optional.  We give students choices in how they want to learn.  Most of our students watch our videos, but others are learning from their textbooks, or from online simulations.  We have essentially given over the responsibility of learning to our students.   

Some reasons you should consider flipping are the fact that your students will take more responsibility for their own learning.  They will be more engaged and active in your classroom, they will learn how to work collaboratively.  They will see you more as a mentor and a coach instead of a disseminator of knowledge.  I know for myself, I could never go back to the old stand and deliver method of teaching.  I will forever be a flipped teacher.

So should all teachers flip?  I think most teachers should consider the idea of flipping at least some of their classes.  Aaron and I flipped everything.  No more lectures.  But I am finding that this all-in approach doesn’t work in all grade levels.  In my new role as a technology facilitator, I am working in a K-8 school and I am finding that flipping makes more sense, especially at younger grades, as a teaching strategy.

What should you flip?  Are all subjects flippable?  Probably not.  It seems to work best with subjects that tend to be more linear.  Subjects like Math, Science, and Foreign Language.  That said and we have seen PE teachers flip, English teachers flip, and at every level from elementary to college.    

So should you flip?  Yes!  But… first, you must ask yourself one important question:  What is the best use of your face-to-face time with your students.  When you answer this, you will quickly realize that either the all-in flip or simply flipping a few lessons just makes sense.