Flipped Learning

What is flipped learning?

Traditional teaching is based upon the transfer of knowledge in the class and then students assimilate that information outside of the classroom.

Flipped learning puts the transfer of knowledge of outside of the classroom, thereby enabling the teacher to focus upon the analysis, evaluation and creation using that knowledge during contact time.


Source: http://blog.learningtoday.com/blog/bid/22740/Bloom-s-Taxonomy-Poster-for-Elementary-Teachers


How I use flipped learning

I have been using techniques that are under the flipped learning umbrella for some time now, refining my technique as I read or heard from other practitioners.  I was recently privileged enough to listen to Prof. Mazur at the SSAT National Conference who really clarified my think on flipped learning.

I teach A level economics and utilize flipped learning to maximize the impact of my classroom time with the students.  Students are asked to learn the material at home using notes with questions and links to explanatory videos on YouTube.

Class time is then used ensure understanding and provide opportunities to use the acquired knowledge.

One way I am able to do this in lessons is using multiple choice questions and the Socrative App (you can read/watch my guide to Scorative as it was featured as one of my apps of the week).

I display a multiple choice question on the board and ask students to answer via the Socrative mobile site.  I am able to see their responses in real time.

When they have finished answering (I give them a specified time frame) I check the results.  I will then ask them to discuss their response with somebody else in the class.  They need to find another student with a different answer and then convince them of why their response is correct.  This enables a discussion between two students who are recent learners.  The students are more likely to be able to explain the right answer because they have only just learnt it and know what the difficulties are in understanding it.  This can help overcome the issues that some have in explaining something that comes naturally to them; this is something Steven Pinker describes as the curse of knowledge plantiffs who won their viagra lawsuit in court in 2010 (I am quite sure that many would say that I’m doubly cursed: I don’t have the knowledge and are still unable to explain something…!).

For this part to be successful you will ideally want between 30% and 75% of the students to have initially answered the question correctly.  If it’s more than that a brief explanation from the teacher may suffice.  Any less than 30% you may find the critical mass of students are convincing others of the wrong answer!

Once students have had the opportunity to discuss their responses you should reset the question and allow them answer the same question again.  Hopefully you will see a dramatic shift towards the correct answer.

There maybe a need to explain the answer at this point.  I will usually ask a student who got the answer incorrect initially to outline how they answered the question.  Again this is getting a student to use their experience of just learning something to help others in the class understand.

This process can be summarised below:


By getting the students to take part in this form of learning they:

  • Made a commitment to answering the question / undertaking the task as they have to register a response.
  • Share their answer with others.
  • Moved from simply answering the question to having to explain their reasoning behind their answer.
  • Became emotionally involved in the question and the learning process.


Impact of flipped learning

When I use flipped learning techniques I find there is a different level of energy in the classroom.  Students are passionate about sharing their learning and I have seen a significant increase in the levels of engagement.

I hope this overcomes the issues that Harvard’s Professor Mazur highlighted when looking at the levels of students’ brain activity.  The chart below shows the levels of brain activity whilst studying or doing homework.

Flipped 2

This one shows levels of activity during sleep.

Flipped 3

Whilst this shows the levels of brain activity during classes.  As you can see it is almost non-existent!

Flipped 4

The only period during the day when students displayed similar levels of brain activity was whilst watching television.

Flipped 5





Learning in the hands of students

This post is a copy of a paper I wrote for the iNet Educator Online Conference – the original is available here.  Comments on the paper are available here.

This essay will describe how Devonport High School for Boys (DHSB) has undertaken a project with its students to develop an app for use on ipods, iphones, ipads and Android devices.  The app, which is now available in the iTunes store, provides students and parents with a wealth of information about their learning including rewards, sanctions, revision materials, attendance and a homework organiser.

DHSB has a school development plan that highlights the importance of enterprise and creativity; this applies equally to staff and students.


The school’s virtual learning environment (VLE) is supplied by Frog and each night students and parents are able to access updated information about that day’s rewards, sanctions and attendance which enable conversations about learning and school to take place at home (see screenshot below).  This supports our belief in the key tripartite relationship of school, students and parents. 

VLE parent view

In investigating ways of making the information more readily accessible to parents and students.  I conducted some research with both groups to find out how we could make it easier to access the information: the resounding answer was a mobile friendly site.

Following my research a Year 10 student, James, came to speak to me because he wanted to get involved in developing a mobile vle for the school.  He had some previous programming experience, but he hadn’t worked on a mobile site or an Apple app.  Another student, Ben (Year 11) who enjoyed graphic design, approached me about helping with the design of the site. 

Together, using the feedback from the vle’s users, we planned what the new mobile site should contain.  James and Ben felt that an app that could be distributed on the Apple Store would be a brilliant solution for many of our users – the only problem was nobody had any coding experience on Apple’s mobile operating system (iOS)!

James was determined to look further into how to program apps and within a couple of weeks he had mastered the basics and produced an app with limited features that linked to some pages on the school’s vle.  James had achieved this learning independently with the support of online materials, videos and forums.  Ben then went to work designing graphics to give the site a professional look.

In order to allow James to create the required pages for the app I’ve had to give him administrator access to our vle.  This required a leap of faith on our behalf as James could have caused irreparable damage to our vle, but without access this project could not have continued.

Since the first version of the app James and Ben have spent countless hours developing it into one that contains numerous innovative features and is genuinely unique.  The app has been downloaded 1,000 times and reached 21st in Apple’s education charts.

Since the app’s release the boys have been receiving a great deal of interest from other schools who would like an app developed for their community.  This has prompted the boys to set up a limited company, PixelBit Apps.  To do this they have met and received support from local accountants Francis Clark: Martin Atkins, their Business Services Director, commented that “not only have these boys shown great technical expertise in creating this outstanding app, they have gained the skills and knowledge that will enable them to set up and run a limited company”.  James and Ben are now developing apps for other schools who are delighted with the results.

There has been a lot written in the education press in recent months about the advantage students with a private education have in terms of confidence and self-belief.  My experience of this project is that the boys involved have not only had a significant improvement in their computing skills and understanding of business, but their soft skills have also developed tremendously.  They have undertaken meetings with accountants, bank managers and school leaders with great confidence; witnessing this growth has given great pleasure.

When Rob Salkowitz stated in Young World Rising that three forces are reshaping the world of the 21st century: youth, ICT and entrepreneurship, I believe he had in mind students such as James and Ben developing themselves and their ideas in this fashion.  They have already equipped themselves for entering the jobs market in a post-globalisation era.  Their website, pixelbitapps.com, has already led to them writing an app for the BBC’s Apprentice’s contestant, Leon Doyle, that allows iPhone users to save money on their phone calls to 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers. Ben has developed his own graphic design site, benbate.com, and he has undertaken work for clients from around the world – including a multi million dollar US firm.

This app exemplifies how our school is fostering a creative approach to learning and placing it into the hands of students.  DHSB has an Assistant Headteacher responsible for Enterprise; he works tirelessly to encourage enterprising and creative approaches to learning and problem solving.  Many other students have been supported to develop their own ideas and take responsibility for their learning, but doing it within the supportive framework of the school.

The challenge for the school is how we can further embed these principles into the learning across the school.

Below is a copy of a video created by the students to promote the app during an assembly.