classroom is on the tip of many educators' tongues these days as
more K-12 schools and districts embrace this blended form of learning and
teaching. In the flipped classroom model, educators deliver their instruction
online for students to access outside of class, and then use classroom time to
deliver personalized, guided instruction as students complete assignments based
on what they've learned. The flipped classroom model can transform the learning
and teaching process and, when implemented properly, improve student
When I became
superintendent of New Braunfels Independent
School District (ISD) in New Braunfels, Texas, four years ago, I
asked our school board to designate $3 million to technology so we could integrate
such as projectors, iPads and other devices, throughout our district.
this request was my firm belief
that education and learning is a 24/7 experience and that technology provides
the tools teachers need to enhance instruction in the classroom. Convincing
teachers to embrace technology in the classroom was the first step in the
process of getting students to use technology at home for learning.
To flip or not to flip
classroom model gives students an opportunity to apply what they learn using a
problem-based approach. Watching prerecorded lectures or videos at their own
pace is just one way this approach can transform homework into a more engaging
When we require
students to take notes, which they are then expected to "memorize" for test
purposes, we are not using class time effectively. Research indicates that
problem-based learning, which is an approach to learning that focuses on
students investigating problems rather than receiving direct instruction from
teachers, has shown positive gains in cognitive outcomes when compared to
traditional, lecture-based learning.
I believe that
notes, if required for a lesson, should be posted online for students to
download. This ensures that all students can access the material they are
responsible for learning, no matter where they are. If you expand these
materials with interactive media and post them to iTunes
U or the web, you can use class time to support students' work with
problem-based new material. This approach allows for collaborative learning
rather than teacher-centered teaching.
Implementing technologies to enhance the flipped
During the 2012-13 school year, our ninth grade center
opened with a 1:1
, and all 610 students received iPads
to use at school and home. This year, we incorporated this iPad 1:1 initiative
for grades 10-12, and next year we will follow suit with grades 5-8.
can now easily download a lesson from iTunes U — the portal our educators use to
store content — during school hours and then view it at home. At least 40
percent of our students lack internet access at home, and putting iPads into our
students' hands provides a way around the connectivity issue. Now that students
have the option to view lessons prior to class, their homework is their
introduction to the material and they spend class time exploring and applying
in our district has an Epson projector connected to the Epson iProjection app, so students can share content
from their devices with the class. This allows them to collaborate and take part
in robust problem-solving discussions. We've found that these hands-on resources
have engaged and motivated students to participate in learning.
Where to start
I would be lying
if I said our flipped classroom model was a seamless transition. During the
first few weeks, several teachers and students became frustrated with the change
involved in substituting iPads for whiteboards and asking the students to help
design their learning.
Flipping instruction and moving from teacher-centered
instruction to student-centered instruction is a huge paradigm shift. There are
many broad pedagogical changes that need to take place. To the beginner, it
might seem that the answer is to provide a curriculum that includes 175 days of
iPad-based instruction in a canned format to all teachers and to just allow them
to follow the plan. In reality, through professional development and campus
leadership, we must empower teachers to take risks and use the great subject
knowledge base they already have to develop new methods and activities that
foster student-centered and collaborative learning. Simply adding technology to
the old methods of learning and teaching won't add any value to
Our iTunes U
training helped ease the stresses, and teachers have learned to create
introductory lessons to help students engage in problem-based learning at home.
It did not take long for our teachers to start creating lessons in iTunes U or
uploading content to YouTube channels.
Learn from others
I can't stress
enough the importance of observing other districts before you begin planning. We
were fortunate during our planning phase to visit a couple of districts,
including Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas, and McAllen
Independent School District in McAllen, Texas. We visited classrooms and saw the
flipped classroom model in action. We also talked with administrators and the
technology teams who were implementing it.
with other districts was key to creating an effective flipped classroom model
that used our multimedia technology tools. Questioning fellow education industry
peers about what worked and what didn't helped us avoid unnecessary
We also looked to
great flipped classroom resources, such as the book Empowering Students with Technology
(2010), which provides educators with practical strategies for using
technology to better prepare students for success in the digital world. iTunes U
also has several free podcasts on flipped instruction, including materials from
the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), 21st Century
Learning, eLearning and The Center for Teaching and
Flipping in action
My goals were to
ensure that this tech implementation would be cost efficient and sustainable and
that it would make a positive impact on student learning. The reduction in
paper alone led to great savings. And many teachers, like Audrey Alamo, have
turned traditional instruction on its head.
teaches world geography, does a genius hour every Friday where students learn
how to become problem solvers and learn strategies for becoming lifelong
learners. Her students have worked on real-world projects involving photography,
gardening, clothing design, podcasting, bullying, the stock exchange and more.
student made his own set of golf clubs, video-recorded the process and posted
the video on the Genius Hour section of Alamo's website, which students can access from any
internet-enabled device. Another project involved a student making a Claymation
video about bullying to teach others how to best handle this situation.
mature and progress, they'll have more of a say over how they learn and what
they learn. My staff and I hope that once students see that they can be
successful at one thing, they will believe that they can be successful in other
is moving at an exciting and ever-so-rapid pace. As districts look to adopt
these technologies and new learning and teaching initiatives, it is important to
remember that implementation won't always come easy. However, an examination of
best-practice examples, calculated planning and staff training will lead to a
smoother process — and ultimately improved student outcomes.
Need help transforming your district into a digital age learning
environment? Join ISTE's Lead & Transform
movement. Start with our free diagnostic tool
to find out where you are on the path to true tech integration.