Searching for “Flipped Classroom” online will render dozens of differing definitions and interpretations. Some teachers and schools are embracing it with great success while others are using the flip in controversial ways. The method is being touted as a panacea for schools where limited time and resources is always a challenge. Most discussions around the flipped classroom focus heavily on tools like Khan Academy, TED-ed, and teacher made videos but, after having lunch with Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, the originators of the flipped classroom, I realized that all of these discussions miss the point.
Jon and Aaron clarified that the flipped model is more philosophy than “thing”. Traditionally, during classroom time, the focus is upon low level thinking – the acquisition of new information, the mimicking of the teacher’s performance, following the recipe – while the higher order learning is relegated to be completed at home, often with little support. Jon and Aaron explained that “the flip” is really an inversion of learning demands. The teachers create resources for acquisitional learning to be delivered online, video or otherwise, which then creates time for more meaning making and transfer to occur in the classroom with the teacher serving as a guide for the students. The underlying purpose of the flip is not delivery of content but, rather to create opportunity for the teacher to better know his/her students and tailor classroom time to meet individual needs. It is the improved ability to form relationships with students that makes the flip effective.
When I asked Jon and Aaron about the explosion of online resources around flips, they acknowledged the quality of the videos and assessment tools being delivered. The superior resource, though, is one devised by the teacher for his/her specific community of learners. Jon pointed me to the four pillars of F-L-I-P: Flexible environment, Learning culture, Intentional content, and Professional Educator. He pointed out that the content, the videos, are just one of the pillars. While the content pillar gets the most attention, the flip does falls short without the three.
Ultimately, Jon and Aaron stressed that flipping the classroom has little to do with tools. It is about building relationships and creating a supportive environment, something for which all educators strive, flipped or not.