Things I Know and Don’t Know: Flipped Classroom Edition

'wheeling on the beach!I have absolutely no desire to watch a Khan Academy video.  It’s math.  I am scared of math*.  I know there is other stuff on there, but I have always associated Khan Academy with math.  And as I hear more and more about flipped classrooms (lecture on video, projects at school with the teacher to support student learning ), I started to wonder how much students like me wanted to watch a Khan Academy video.

Watching a video on how to graph a parabola does not sound fun. And while I am more than happy to watch a video with talking heads discussing the American Civil War (Ken Burns, I’m talking to you) I think many of my students would find that painful. And so I struggled with idea of assigning Khan Academy videos (or any teacher-lecture videos) as homework and saying it is innovative teaching.

And then I watched Sal Khan talk about the purpose of Khan Academy.  And he makes the point that the videos should be used to enable to students to learn about what they are interested in.  So a student isn’t assigned a video on functions, but is doing a project where a student wants to learn about functions in order to solve a real-world problem.  These videos shouldn’t be about teaching content in a vacuum, but giving students a chance to discover what is important.  And perhaps I would actually know what a function is, if in 11th grade I saw the real world application and I wanted to learn about what it is and what it can do for me. I wish I could have been in Dan Meyer’s math class and Khan Academy’s video could have helped me succeed in this type of class**.

Real-World Math Teacher from Manny Crisostomo on Vimeo.

As a social studies teacher, I have seen a huge shift in my teaching in recent years.  I really pride myself on my lecture skills.  I can keep a roomful of 17 year old students entertained and engaged in an hour lecture about Nixon’s ping pong diplomacy.  And I get a buzz out of having a whole class laughing at my jokes and scribbling down my every word.  But I don’t lecture anymore.  Some of it is a shift to middle school. While I can lecture 13 year olds, it’s not the fun for either of us.  And that influenced how I teach my high school classes.  You won’t see me in front of the class talking often.

Now I talk one-on-one with students and roam the room waiting for questions. Yesterday I was on the floor talking to a group about their world religions project.  I think it has worried past administrators….how am I teaching if I’m not talking?  But project based learning in the MYP has lead to what (I think) is flipped classrooms.  I don’t assign homework anymore in my humanities classes. We do projects. You may have to work at home on your project at times, but you won’t be assigned questions at the end of a chapter. But you may want to watch a YouTube video on the topic we are discussing or find a BrainPop video that helps you with your project.  I don’t need to overload my students with content anymore….they will find it themselves when they need it or want it. What I can do is teach them the skills and expose them to new ideas that they might want to take and run with. And my second challenge is to keep it real-world learning. Dan Meyer’s is great, but he must be exhausted.  I am finding that real-world applications possible with my geography units, but I do struggle with it on my history units of study.  I love history, but I will need to continue to work to help my students make the links between the past and what is going on in their lives.  So I will keep flipping and changing and evolving and trying and failing and see what happens next.

Credits: “wheeling on a beach” by wenchcatcher and


* For other math-phobics, I am bad at math, but KC Cole Book Universe and a Teacup actually taught me to appreciate math.

**Small caveat.  Maybe I still wouldn’t have liked math and would have resented not having the answers in the back of the book.

About Rebekah Madrid

MYP Humanities Instructor. International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. National Board Certified Teacher. Traveler & TV Watcher. This is where I write my thoughts about all of the above.
This entry was posted in COETAIL @YIS, MYP Humanities, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Things I Know and Don’t Know: Flipped Classroom Edition

  1. jamieraskin says:

    I like it.

    Sometimes I feel like watching videos to pick up skills takes the pressure off. I never really studied math independently, but this summer was sitting around and downloaded the Khan Academy app just for, whatever. Anyways, I watched a couple clips and suddenly found myself getting into the problem-solving, pausing and trying to work ahead. I feel like had the lecture been in-class, instead of online, I wouldn’t have been able to pause it, mess around independently, and then keep going when I’d absorbed what I needed to and come up with a nagging question that required continued viewing.

    Probably similarly to you, I took an arts and humanities bent pretty early on. I remember vaguely missing a few days in G12 and returning to someone saying the word logarithm. That set the rest of the class nodding sagely and me shrugging my shoulders with a “well that just about does it for math and me” sigh. I like to think, had someone passed me a simple video or some other resource to allow me to make some meaning of my own for a bit, I would have persevered.

    I suppose then, whether or not you rely heavily on this sort of resource in your teaching, just having students aware that they can potentially use it as a tool to get them over certain humps (yes, humps), might salvage a few teetering math aspirations.

    What I really wonder about Khan Academy is, seeing that he still produces all his own videos (something which must limit his speed and scope of production), how long before someone moves that idea into a bigger, cross-curricular tutorial project.

    Thanks for the post!


  2. Okay…you’ve inspired me to at least think about watching a math Khan academy video. The idea of “playing” or “exploring” math is intriguing.
    And I’m all about providing as many resources for my kids to just know about. I’m greedy for more videos that my students could access when they want to “play” or “explore” humanities. It’ll be interesting to see if Khan Academy becomes the main curator for those types of things in all subjects.
    Thanks for the comments!

  3. Hi Rebekah,
    Thanks for your candid thoughts and for telling the story of why you do what you do in your room. As a “flipper” in science, I would argue that your class IS a flipped classroom. There is SO MUCH emphasis today on the video rather than the in-class interactions that can occur.

    I teach biology and chemistry (most people look at me and ask “why?”) and there are times when I need to deliver discrete, algorithmic chunks. So, I use videos for that delivery. I wouldn’t do it any differently if I were in class lecturing to the whole room. But now, leveraging technology, I have those snippets archived and they can be starting points for remediation or extra review.

    The Flipped Classroom isn’t built around videos or technology. It is built around forming a community of learning that can leverage technology where appropriate to fulfill a need.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and have a great rest of the semester.


  4. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Brian! I think the concept of a flipped classroom is not being communicated well, for whatever reason. Because for the longest time, I thought flipped classroom was about the videos. And when I see critiques of flipped classroom, it seems to be about the videos. But the more I learn, I find myself more confused about how a “flipped classroom” is different from a classroom that is based around project based learning or inquiry based learning (if it is at all). Perhaps in some ways the word “flipped” over-simplifies what is really hard work. Because your statement, “It (flipped classroom) is built around forming a community of learning that can leverage technology where appropriate to fulfill a need.” sounds ideal.
    Thanks for stopping by…I hope we can continue this conversation. RM

  5. Kim Cofino says:

    A few thoughts:

    I also struggle at times with the Flipped Classroom idea. If I believe that learning is constructed then what place does direct delivery of instruction have (either in video or lecture format)? If students are working on projects, collaborating together, where does the individual assessment of mastery come in (which is one aspect of the flipped classroom)? I feel strongly that a project-based-learning classroom (or challenge-based or game-based) is not quite the same as a flipped classroom (at least as it’s being described at the moment – and how I heard Brian describe at ETC last year). I’ve been trying to wrap my head around it for quite a while. I think what you’ve described is a constructivist, project-based environment, which is exactly the same kind of learning I believe in.

    I really appreciate Jamie’s point about being able to pause the video, experiment and then move on. Last week I had the pleasure of subbing for grade 10 math. Like you, I’m not a big “math person”, but we ended up watching some Khan Academy videos and now I kind of know what functions are. I feel proud of myself for facilitating that class with absolutely no background knowledge and (as sad as this may be) for being able to follow and understand the Khan video in order to build some basic new learning for me. But again, in a humanities classroom, are things really so step-by-step and linear as they appear to be in the maths and sciences?

    • Thanks for making me feel like I’m not crazy for being critical of flipped classrooms. There is no group of teachers more married to content than history teachers. And history keeps happening and the textbooks get bigger. And the traditional way of teaching history is linear. It’s the way I’ve taught it most of my career. My concern is that history teachers would assign videos about content (Russian Revolution, US Civil War) and think they are being innovative because they are “flipping”. And all this would do is create more time for covering content. I’m incredibly lucky that I don’t have to cover content this way in humanities and can teach in a constructivist manner. But I could see myself, in a prior teaching life, jumping on a flipped classroom/video bandwagon without creating a meaningful project/assessment.

  6. jpayne81 says:

    Hi Rebekah
    Great post!
    It’s got me reflecting on how I use videos in my math and IT classes. I love the idea of giving students a real-world problem to solve, getting them interested and then letting them work out for themselves that Khan Academy or YouTube, for example, might be a good place to get assistance.
    I used to think that students must get excited at the prospect of watching a video for homework – it involves a computer, it involves YouTube. But, you’re right, watching a video on how to graph a parabola doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun. Thanks for the thought!

    • I am really learning that just because it’s tech, kids don’t automatically gravitate towards it. But if it helps the kids solve a problem, I think they would love to use technology. The best (simplistic) example I can think of is, you won’t find me watching a youtube video on how to fix a plumbing problem for fun. But if I need to fix my sink, then I would be thrilled to watch find an instructional video. So we as teachers (regardless of subject) need to create situations where students want to watch videos on something that initially seem boring or useless. We create value of content and the video is one way for students to access the content.

  7. Garry Baker says:

    Your synthesis of what a flipped classroom is helps me to see how I would approach it for my own students. I designed my AP classes using enquiry-based learning and UbD several years ago. This supports real learning and application. I have been dissatisfied in history with the balance needed to understand the elements and do the analysis. With your Nixon example, the question would be, “Was Nixon a great foreign policy President?” Students and teacher cooperatively generate and discuss the evidence (ping-pong diplomacy, invasion of Cambodia, etc.). I find that generating and discussing the evidence is very valuable for understanding. For example, students can read about the invasion of Cambodia but it makes more sense when it can be contextualized in discussions. However, we may be unable to take up the essential question for the day with the time remaining.

    Based on your high school and middle school experience, how might you use video with assigned readings to shift more time to the essential question?

    • For middle school, I do think videos can work well to transfer content. I think I have some BrainPop videos memorized b/c my students play and replay them. I’m a big believer in MS of providing as many resources of content as possible and then helping them organize it (research notes/graphic organizers) to prepare for a project of some sort. Videos are only one of these resources.

      For HIgh School history, there is a bit of a struggle. A lot of the higher level stuff (historiography for instance) won’t be found on copyright free stuff, though there is a lot of YouTube or some free documentaries online. So I may only use it for students who are struggling w/ readings or memorizing the basic content needed for exams or when they need context of something that I am not going to directly teach. I would also be teaching a lot of evaluative skills used for print sources (origin/purpose/value/limitation) should be applied to videos as well. I actually think videos are a good place to start with those skills.

  8. Pingback: The Simple Flip | Rebekah Madrid

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