We Didn’t Know What We Didn’t Know: Flipped Learning 3.0

By Jon Bergmann and Errol St.Clair Smith

Pop Quiz: Most educators know about the Socratic method. True or false?

Let’s go with true.

But why was Socrates called the wisest man in the world?

The answer?  Because he knew what he didn’t know.

Fast Forward a Couple Thousand Years.  

Today, with a swipe and a few keystrokes, we can access virtually all the knowledge in the known world from a device that’s smaller than an index card.

Best of all, when we’re feeling particularly lazy, we can simply say, “ Hey Siri, who the heck is Socrates anyway?” and voilà!!  Siri replies,  “I’ve found something on Socrates… Do you want me to read it to you?”   Amazing, we have the smartest person in the world living in our pockets!

Yet, despite the super-human ways we can now access knowledge, it’s astounding how often we still don’t know what we don’t know.

Five Things We Didn’t Know about Flipped Learning

Together we have over 40 years experience in education.  One of us pioneered the flipped learning model, wrote eight flipped learning books and traveled over 500,000 miles delivering flipped learning training. The other co-founded the largest all-education radio network in the world and has been covering education topics for over a decade.  If you were looking for two people who should have their fingers on the pulse of flipped learning we were reasonable candidates.

But in 2016 we discovered that we were blind men walking around without a cane. We knew quite a bit about flipped learning, but we were painfully unaware of what we didn’t know.

We eventually tripped over the depth and scope of our ignorance and myopia.  It turns out that flipped learning was reinventing itself right under our noses — morphing organically into something new and exciting.  Once our eyes were opened, we discovered that flipped learning is very much like the famous perceptual illusion; when you look at it one way you see an old hag.  Look at it another way, and it’s a promising young girl – it’s just a matter of perspective.

Sure, we both knew that something was going on with flipped learning, but here are five things we couldn’t see and didn’t know:

#1 Flipped Learning Is Not Static

There’s a largely unspoken, but widespread belief that flipped learning is a simple, static teaching strategy. Watch the video at home, and come to class prepared to do something with what you’ve learned.  What else is there to know?

This sentiment bubbles to the surface in many ways.  We’ve long lost track of how often we hear:

“Oh, I know all about flipped classrooms, it’s when you record your lectures on video, so students can watch them at home.”

Or, “…yes, I know all about flipped classrooms, I read Jon and Aaron’s first book and attended a conference in 2010.”

Or,  “…flipped classroom? Been there, done that, read the book, saw the movie, and bought the tee shirt. I know all about the flipped classroom.”

Or the most impressive, “Yes, I’ve been flipping for five years, and now I’m teaching how I flipped my classes to others.”

Often, the common theme in these and similar proclamations is that flipped learning is “static.”   For months we simply accepted this worldview.  Then we discovered that flipped learning is significantly more dynamic than most of us realize.

Like a raft of ducks paddling across an apparently placid pond, the frenetic dynamism of flipped learning is largely hidden below the surface. To see it you have to peer behind closed classroom doors, find portals into remote academic silos, and gain access to private back-channel discussions.

Consequently, much of what’s emerging in flipped learning does not show up on the radar screens of even the most passionate practitioners, astute observers, or enthusiastic evangelists. Then came the awakening.

The 2016 launch of the Flipped Learning Global Initiative (FLGI) gave us a subterranean view of the flipped learning world.  A panoramic, underwater window into how flipped learning is changing; where, why, and how.

Now, rarely does a week go by in which we don’t discover some novel flipped learning life form tucked away in an obscure sector of the flipped learning ecosystem.

Our eyes have been opened, and we now know that the science, art, and practice of flipped learning are more dynamic and changing more rapidly than even the most experienced and knowledgeable flipped learning advocates realize.  But why?

#2 Flipped Learning is Evolving Because of Three Factors   

The ground underneath flipped learning is shifting because of three tectonic forces changing the field of flipped learning every day.

  • Research
  • Classroom Innovation
  • New technology

Research: The scope of research being done on flipped learning is staggering.  The global research being translated into new books and multiple languages is equally astounding.  More importantly, researchers on the leading edge of flipped learning have shifted their focus from asking, does flipped learning work? The question they are now exploring is, what factors make flipped learning work better?

Classroom Innovation: The second force driving the evolution of flipped learning is happening in classrooms where creative teachers are pumping out an endless stream of innovative ways to use the group space.  This week, Matthew Stratmann, an FLGI Flipped Learning Master Teacher, blew our minds as he shared some strategies he’s using with his 12th graders. “You’ve got to come on Flipped Learning Worldwide Radio to share this story,” I said. Fortunately, he agreed.  So stay tuned.

Matthew’s story is not atypical. Indeed we hear more of these stories than we’ve been able to cover.  But there’s more.  The practice of flipped learning is being “localized” to fit diverse cultures around the world giving rise to new hybrid forms and techniques.

Technology: The final factor animating flipped learning is technology. Education technology developers are innovating, iterating and introducing a blizzard of new features that make flipped learning easier to start, manage and evaluate. In fact, a new group of Certified Flipped Learning technologists are now collaborating with FLGI researchers and Master teachers to create the next generation’s flipped learning tools and resources.  If they achieve a fraction of what they are developing, they will have a game-changing impact on flipped learning.

Before 2016, we saw these factors in the side view mirror.  We had no idea how vastly, deeply or quickly these forces were reshaping the flipped learning road ahead. We’re now closely watching these three elements through the front windshield, and the landscape is evolving rapidly.

#3  Flipped Learning Has Emerged As a Global Movement

A reporter recently challenged us, “What makes you believe that flipped learning is a global movement?” Well, we replied, in the past twelve months we’ve participated in project discussions in China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Argentina, Switzerland,  India, Uzbekistan, Croatia, Italy, Brazil, Singapore, Iceland, the UK, Japan, Nigeria, and Turkey.  Twelve months ago, neither he nor we had had any idea that the global activity around flipped learning was so robust.

More importantly, because educators in these countries are building on the shoulders of the US experience, most of the fundamental questions have already been answered. The result?  Many are embracing flipped learning with more confidence, enthusiasm, and speed.

Yes, our research has confirmed that flipped learning is rapidly expanding around the globe.  Indeed, Flipped Learning may very well be the most established, robust and organically expanding education movement in the world.

#4 There Is a New Awareness Emerging About Flipped Learning 

Reports, hard data, anecdotes and news stories are streaming in from scores of countries around the globe.  Flipped learning is solving some of the most intractable problems in education. Indeed, many are realizing that flipped learning is not just another teaching tactic but a meta-teaching strategy that supports all others.

Increasingly, the leading flipped practitioners are starting to recognize the difference between the original Flipped Learning model, blended learning, Flipped Mastery and the next wave that we’re calling Flipped Learning 3.0. The centerpiece of the next wave can be summed up in one word – Awareness.  Awareness that there is more, much more, to flipped learning that we all thought.

#5  There Is a Rapidly Expanding Set of New Possibilities 

The worldwide demand for flipped learning is opening new possibilities for educators.   Educators who have been flipping in isolation are discovering the value of building bridges between the silos of flipped learning around the globe.  Flipped researchers, practitioners, administrators, technologists and policy makers are collaborating, innovating and cross-pollinating ideas across classrooms, disciplines, and borders. This emerging dynamic is creating a growing worldwide need for:

  • Trained and experienced flipped learning teachers
  • Administrators who know how to move schools from traditional to flipped learning
  • Flipped learning trainers
  • Flipped learning tech coaches
  • IT staff who can help schools “tech up” for flipped learning and avoid the big mistakes
  • Researchers
  • Consultants, speakers, workshop leaders, and authors

The evolving research, collaborative classroom innovation, new technologies and global possibilities are the distinguishing features of Flipped Learning 3.0.

In the coming series, we’re going to bring you updates and reports from the worldwide flipped learning community that will zero in on each of the five ways flipped learning is evolving, why they matter, and what you can do to prepare for the future of flipped learning.

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7 Responses

  1. Profile photo of Jeff McManus

    Excited to read this post, but honestly I’m surprised you didn’t know some of these, Jon. Or maybe it was the motivation which drove you and Aaron to develop the flipped model that caused the myopic view. As I recall in your first book, it was attendance issues which you solved with the videos. I could easily see you saying “great, solved that problem.” What drove me to the flipped model had nothing to do with videos or joining a growing movement. For me it was dissatisfaction with the boring lack of engagement in my traditional lecture-driven science class. I needed students doing science, not listening to me talk. So my first iteration was a flipped model, because it was the only thing I found when I looked for ideas, but I knew early on it was not enough. I hadn’t finished a year when I was in iteration #2, and so it continuted. And this all happened before I even read another book or attended FlipCon, or joined the FLN. It was not long before I was asynchronous, non-linear, student driven, assessment focused, etc. I don’t even call my class “flipped” anymore , as it does conjure up ideas of video at home, homework in class. I think changes will happen organically for the teachers who refuse to settle for anything less than total student-centered learning.

    1. Profile photo of Errol St. Clair Smith

      Big smile…. Sounds like you’ve done a lot with flipped learning and continue to iterate. BRAVO! I smile because in some ways you sound like us. There is so much that you already know and are doing with flipped learning yet there is so much more below the surface.

  2. Profile photo of Ximena

    It’s so exciting to hear of the dynamic growth of flipped learning worldwide. I think every teacher comes to flipped learning with a different angle and so develops flipped learning modalities according to what they see as a need hence the great variety of use. I didn’t use flipped learning as much last year and I missed it so much! I was teaching 6-year-olds (after teaching older ones for a while) with 1:6 devices, but this year I’m team teaching in an ILE with 1:2 devices so I am itching to see how I can help develop self-regulation through flipped learning (not that I only flipped using tech before). One of the main reasons why I use flipped learning is because it can shift the locus of control back to the learner. I quickly learned that this does not mean I get to put my feet up, on the contrary, it demands huge awareness of content development and effective systems to track students in-time so I can help craft lessons that maintain the challenge level. I found that flipped learning shifted my focus from being the pilot of the ‘learning airplane’ to being the air-traffic controller, enabling me to hand the controls over to the students while maintaining high outcomes. I’ll be interested to see how I can use this more with younger students this year.

    Flipped learning relies on innovation to stay dynamic and purposeful (probably another reason why it ticks my box). It’s great to see that its flexibility is helping to create a diverse biosphere of varied flipped ecosystems, all helping partnerships in learning grow.

  3. Profile photo of Khalid FETHI

    I have been flipping for four years now and also my teachers are do so. What really impress me after the certification is shift from the question: does it work to how it works better. A great number of educators, all over the globe, are adopting the new methodology mindfully and are touching the change in their classes. One of the worth considering points is: the students’ involvement in the learning process: the students excel at IT, some teachers need their students’ assistance. They can provide the teacher with the material and guidance. Hence, students’ instruction in needed and the teachers can flip their kids’ instruction. By doing so, we motivate, engage them and promote brilliant minds to inspire other students. So flip your students’ instruction.
    Jon, you mentioned the countries that are flipping but I could find Morocco listed. Yes, we are and we are doing it very effectively. Thank you flippers and thank you join for your impressive effort.

  4. Pingback : Flipped Learning 3.0 – EdTech at OWU

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