4 Reasons you should NOT flip your classroom

I have been long been in favor of the idea of exploiting the power of digital technology to help students learn. In fact, I have been a great proponent of the idea of the flipped classroom, so it may be odd that I am writing a post about why one should not implement the flipped classroom. But here we are.

The fact of the matter is that for every one good flipped learning model, there are dozens with fatal flaws. Forgive the hyperbole, but I think fatal is the reality. The death of learning, the death of hope, the death of the love of discovery.

Here are 4 of the many reasons why you should NOT flip your instruction:

1. You are looking to jazz up your instruction. This is a horrible justification for a major learning shift. If the instruction needs jazzing up, chances are that making a video is going to have the opposite effect. Brilliant, dynamic lecturers can come off as stale and boring on film, so imagine what lackluster instruction might look like.

2. You do not have a 1:1 environment. If you are not SURE that every. single. one. of your students has easy access to the type of digital device required to access the flipped lesson, take a step back and reevaluate. Most times, those students with the least access to technology are also those with challenging home lives. Ask yourself whether the addition of this learning tool will actually make some students’ lives even more challenging.  In traditional instruction, the lesson content is taught in class and the review happens at home. Even if the student is not able to do the review at home, at least they got the core instruction. In the flipped model, it’s the core content lesson that is missed if the student is unable to access the lesson at home. It’s reasonably safe to say that students in a 1:1 environment have access and opportunity. Even then, what of students who refuse to access the content outside class? If you are flipping your instruction or considering the shift, you will need to think long and hard on these questions, and come up with strategies that serve all of your students.

3. Everyone else is doing it. As much as we would like to believe that bandwagon thinking wouldn’t enter the conversation, the truth is that education trends are often misguided by the notion that if many others do, so should we. Check that. Flipping instruction is a major shift. It requires planning, research, and some sense of infrastructure. “I’m going to try it for a few weeks,” could turn into a few weeks of lost learning. First, ask if there is a need or distinct advantage. If not, perhaps your situation could simply benefit from an expanded online connection to materials. A true flipped instruction model is a commitment. It requires data collection, evaluation, and constant evolution. Trying it for a week or so and remarking that “the kids seem to like it,” is big trouble.

4. You want to do twice as much. Ok, this is a somewhat noble goal, but too often this becomes the recipe for covering more, and actually learning less. The flipped instruction model is about deeper understanding, by allowing students more time for practice, experimentation, and reflection. Simply using it to try to double the material is a fool’s errand.

Of course the flipped instruction model is marvelous when used by teachers who understand the scale of the undertaking, and implement with mindset of helping students who might otherwise struggle first. There are a variety of fabulous resources available, both in print and online to get a better feel for how really successful flipped instruction works. My advice is to spend time learning and collaborating first, and if the flip is right for your students, do so with the confidence that you are making a change that is great for all of your students.

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