Flipped learning has no place in an inquiry classroom #coetail

When I was training to be a teacher, flipped classrooms were starting to gain prominence thanks to the emergence of Khan Academy. Educause defines a flipped classroom as:

 a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

In short, ‘front-load’ the kids with content so that they can spend time ‘inquiring.’ There are several reasons why I will not be’ flipping’

  • Developmentally inappropriate. The kids I teach are 8. I want to minimise the homework monster and the homework I do set encourages interaction with the adults in their lives.
  • Teacher time. Anyone who has ever tried record one of those flipped learning lectures knows you’ll need multiple takes. A quick ‘5 minute video’ often takes upwards of 30 minutes to record and re-record.
  • It isolates content from context. If there’s no purpose to the videos aside from ‘we’ll need it in class tomorrow’ the content will be quickly forgotten.
  • New tools, old methods. Kids can watch different videos, answer different questions in class. Is this really any different from a worksheet?

The idea of flipped learning isn’t new.

Back in the 1950s Arthur Radebaugh visualised a future classroom future that looked like this:

Image via Pale of the Future

Virtual lectures, kids working on problems, a little security monitor to make sure kids are ‘on task.’ If this scene seems dated, why is it that products such as educanon exist to enable teachers to scrutinise which kids have ‘watched’ the homework videos?

The problem isn’t the kids, the problem is the pedagogy.

Learning is not knowledge transmission – it is an act of understanding by the learner.

I passionately believe all things I just wrote.

But here’s my problem.

I frequently use YouTube as my go-to in my hobbies.

Cake decorating, hair styles and general tech questions. If I’m stuck, there is a high chance that someone has posted a YouTube video to provide a ‘fix.’ I’ll search for the video, watch it a couple of times, practice the skill, re-watch the video after making a mistake, repeat as often as is necessary.

Isn’t this what flipped learning is all about?

Yet in my case there is a purpose to the video, I am motivated to solve whatever problem has me searching online for a ‘quick fix.’ The problem is usually one that can be solved quickly, a quick skill that needs to be mastered.

One of the big failures of educational technology is that we think that the game changer is how knowledge is transmitted rather than looking at how classroom learning culture can be changed with the aid of technology.

So here’s my crazy idea.

It isn’t the classroom that needs to be flipped, it’s the curriculum.

Instead of becoming more creative with how we deliver the content to fit the demands of our curriculum maybe our curriculum needs to bend to our students interests and passions as well as current events?

Maybe instead of pushing out content to hit curriculum targets, teachers could be designing learning experiences that cover multiple areas of the curriculum. Student interest and real-life provocations could be used and then tagged to relevant areas of the curriculum much like how I can tag a blog post. It’s a concept I came across via Ewan McIntosh at a couple of years ago at workshop at the International Conference on Thinking.

The Haze situation in South East Asia has had a tangible effect on the quality of my students’ lives. Playtimes are cancelled, sports events have been postponed not to mention the physical symptoms the children have experienced.

If the children were inquiring into the Haze, a skilful teacher could help the children build up an understanding of sharing the planet, how the world works, who we are, where we are in place and time and how we organize ourselves through tagging learning engagements.

Hang on, that’s all six transdisciplinary themes of the PYP!

I don’t doubt they kids would be seeking out videos on YouTube amongst other resources, but with a strong purpose leading the the learning rather than technology.

That’s the kind of flipped learning I could get behind.

3 thoughts on “Flipped learning has no place in an inquiry classroom #coetail

Add yours

  1. Some interesting thoughts here but I think your initial definition of Flip Learning is very narrow. Flip Learning is not just content made into a video and done for homework its locating the content or key ideas in a place that can be accessed 24/7 for students to revise in a timely manner. Its also about facilitators packing relevant content in a more succinct and relevant form for their students. Students can still locate the videos and utilise them in an inquiry like manner and they can even make them for each other. The term Flip Learning also refers to a critical de-centralising of the learning and sure the videos can take time to make but often not as much time as it takes to locate, preview and edit existing videos. New Flip Learning apps can also help students engage with key ideas within existing videos through probing questions. High schools are using Flip Learning with astounding success and our special needs students especially are reaping the benefits.


    1. Hi Tim
      I tend see inquiry classrooms as already being student-centred in their approach to learning. As a result, teachers tend to spend less time lecturing and more time asking questions. Accessible content is important but the question always needs to be asked, why is this content important why are we teaching it?



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