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Flipped Learning in the Zeitgeist

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Last October, I had a week where three journalists got in touch with me asking about the flipped classroom. I don't get these contacts all that often, so three in the same week on the same topic was striking. The issues of technology-mediated learning are resonating more widely in the world.

One of those writers was a freelancer working for Spirit Magazine, the seatback magazine for Southwest Airlines. There is a certain cultural threshold that has been crossed when a topic is deemed suitable for an airline magazine. So to all of you who have been laboring so hard for this moment, congratulations.

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"Flipped Out", in this month's Spirit Magazine,, focuses on Marc Seigal, a chemistry teacher in northern New Jersey who teaches using flipped strategies. The highlight of the piece, for me, is when students announce at the start of a lab that only one of the 15 of them has viewed the recorded lecture before a lab starts, and Seigal brushes the event off and the lab continues. That gave me a clue that the writer made it into a real classroom, with real kids, and it raises all kinds of great questions about how much of the utility of flipped methods is in recording lectures and how much of the utility is in getting rid of them. (Later on, some of the students watch the lecture at their own pace during class.) The piece has some mind-brain research findings mixed in, some of which seem more closely tied to flipped methods than others. It also has a few overarching thoughts from me:

Justin Reich is a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and the founder of EdTechTeacher, a professional development consultancy that trains teachers to use tech effectively. The goal of flipping a classroom, he says, is not to bend education to the digital proclivities of kids, but to maximize student-teacher interaction during the most demanding lessons. "It's about how we use our time more than how we use our technology," Reich says.
Educators like Reich, who advocate for tech in the classroom, say that the first step in rethinking how we teach should be a renewed examination of how kids learn. Before we fall down the techno-rabbit hole and demand tablets in every classroom, we need to seriously reconsider, for example, whether teaching content, as opposed to cognitive skills, can adequately prepare our children for 21st-century professions. In other words, our nation's educational mindset--one that traditionally uses fact-regurgitation as a marker of success--desperately requires a reboot. 

The first paragraph I said and stand by, and you can see more of my thoughts on that topic from a year ago here. On the second paragraph, I'd just note that my name seems to be included in a paragraph that probably represents the author's own conclusions more than "Educators like Reich." Those who advocate for tech in the classroom have wildly different opinions on things like, what factual knowledge kids need to learn--I probably have much more sympathy for the importance of content knowledge as a foundation for developing thinking skills than many of my (even more) progressively minded colleagues.

For all that, the article is worth a read. Next time though, I'm gunning for a cover photo in Delta Sky Magazine.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my publications, C.V., and online portfolio, visit EdTechResearcher.

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