Have you been a part of the Flipped Classroom discussion yet?  If not, I can promise that it is coming to a school near you.  It’s an exciting and thought-provoking discussion, but it’s not necessarily new.  The flipped classroom model places the action of learning into the hands of the students.

What’s the big deal?

A while back, I was working on one of my “money-making Mondays” to try and find some grant funding or foundational funding for a project I’m working on for my school district.  I ended up calling a respected educational foundation out in California and spoke to the director, a woman with a very thick French accent.  I explained to her our model for change within teacher growth and she quickly stated in a very nasally tone  “we are not eenterested in a project like dis.  ‘ave you ‘eard of zee Khan Academy?  Zees is our idea to put money in.  Making movies zat students watch at home.  Yes?”

No.  A very BIG no.  I don’t want my students or teachers just “watching movies”.  I want them using the movies as a tool to ask probing questions, to seek new answers, to inspire a change or a way to empower them to create something new.  Just watching movies is the equivalent of Googling visual information.  I’m not interested.

And for a while, this is what I thought that the “Flipped Classroom” was referring to.  That it was simply a way for students to watch a movie of a lecture at home and then come to school to receive their next video.  It’s not exactly that, though it can definitely become that if we aren’t careful.  It can be a powerful medium to engage parents at home with how to learn the content, but it is then up to us to use the skills that we are providing to get students to participate in extending, applying and becoming versatile with that learning.  So, where am I going with all of this?

The next big idea

Well, it turns out that I did some further research on this flipped classroom concept.  There’s nothing like an irritating French woman turning you down for money to make you want to throw your phone across the office and prove her wrong.  (I do have a three year old at home, but try to contain myself from throwing a tantrum in public – my version involves arming myself with knowledge and then bulldozing my way through)  What I found was that the video version of the Flipped Classroom is just one popular model.  The essence of the Flipped Classroom is giving control of the learning to the students and the teachers become the facilitators of probing questions.  

Guess what?

The arts have been implementing this flipped “integrated” classroom model forever.  The very heart and soul of the arts lies in the idea that students are in control of their learning and the teacher is critical in facilitating the process of exploration and skill within that art.  Student-created work is the very center of what we do in arts classes – otherwise, all art classes would simply be expositions of our own work.  So my question is this: why is this “new”?  Yet again, we find another way that classroom teachers can learn from and model their classes through the fine arts.

Wouldn’t it be horrible if an art, music or dance class had the teacher performing the whole class and never allowing the students to play and experiment with their new skills in creating something new and personal to them?  Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening in many classrooms.  So this must be the big deal.  When I put it in that frame of mind, then I can wholly get behind the Flipped Classroom movement.

Now whether or not that French woman will ever understand all of this is yet to be seen.  At least I’m armed with my knowledge and my phone is still in tact.