Time for Learning: Top 10 Reasons Why Flipping the Classroom Can Change Education


Kathleen P. Fulton

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    Praise for Time for Learning

    “This is an interesting text written in a conversational tone by an author who is knowledgeable about technology and enthusiastic about the potential of flipping as a technique to alter teaching and learning. Well-written case studies from various classrooms provide insight into what flipping means as a part of instruction.”

    Dr. Allen D. Glenn,College of Education, University of WashingtonSeattle, WA

    “This great book provides the background, reasons, and advantages of flipping. It is the perfect book for someone trying to decide whether or not to get their feet wet. It also offers resources for further in-depth study and collaboration.”

    Alexis Ludewig,University of Wisconsin OshkoshOshkosh, WI

    “This book addresses some of the basic inadequacies in our traditional educational practice. It provides an innovative and thoughtful alternative to the all too prevalent non-student-centered approach that has dominated education for too long.”

    Robert Barkley, Jr.,Ohio Education AssociationWorthington, OH

    “I highly recommend this book for any educator interested in flipping the classroom to reinvent the learning process. The stories show how flipping is energizing teachers and students—with powerful results!”

    Lisa Schmucki

    “Flipped classrooms empower teachers to engage students in deeper learning. This book gives readers 10 reasons for joining forces to make this possibility a reality.”

    Tom Carroll,National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF)


    For Harry

    Who still makes my heart flip

    And for Joseph and Dominick, Jeffrey and Magnolia

    Our beautiful future


    Why a Book on Flipped Classrooms?

    Over the past 25 years, I’ve written a lot about educational technologies and school change, but I never heard the term “flipping the classroom” until I attended the Intel Schools of Distinction awards dinner in the fall of 2011. I was seated at a table with a group of amazing educators from Byron Independent School District #531 in northeastern Minnesota. Their high school was nominated for an Intel award based on the changes they had made to their math curriculum. The teachers enthusiastically shared with me the story of how, when there was no money to buy new textbooks, they decided to create their own curriculum, delivering math lessons using an interactive whiteboard and posting them on YouTube for students to watch at night, then using their class time to work with students as they tackled the math problems raised in the lessons they had viewed the night before.

    This, I learned, was called “flipping the classroom.” I was captivated by their story and totally charmed by their passion for what they were doing. When the announcement was made that Byron won the high school mathematics award for 2011 Intel School of Distinction, I leapt to my feet and cheered alongside them!

    Following the awards ceremony, I suggested to Wendy Shannon, then superintendent of the district, that I’d be honored to write an article about the Byron story. She loved the idea! Thus began my explorations into the world of flipped classrooms. Since that time I have visited, interviewed, and explored the work of teachers who were flipping in a variety of settings: urban and rural, public and private, elementary, middle, and high school. What strikes me about all of these educators is their creativity, enthusiasm, and willingness to share what they are learning with others. I saw how flipped teaching opens the door of the classroom and lets teachers showcase what they do, explore what is working and question what is not, and learn from one another. These teachers are my inspiration; it was they who motivated me to write this book.

    How This Book Is Different

    This book is not intended as a sales pitch for flipping or the products teachers use to support the practice. It offers a balanced picture of flipping from a variety of perspectives—those of teachers, administrators, and researchers as well as students and their parents. Although my tone is generally positive, I end each chapter with a series of caveats to provide reminders of the potential downsides and unintended consequences, positive and negative, that can accompany educational and technological innovations.

    Nor is this book intended to serve as a “how to” book. There are a number of other excellent books, videos, blogs, websites, and other resources that give detailed guidance in the technical details of flipping classrooms. These are best written by teachers themselves, drawing on their classroom experience and knowledge of emerging technologies and capabilities. I reference some of these in the book chapters, as well as in the Q & A in the appendix.

    Finally, this book is not a series of case studies selected to show “the best of flipping.” Rather, I use teachers’ stories and words as snapshots, selected to illustrate key points and various ways teachers are flipping across the curriculum and at various grade levels.

    My goal in Time for Learning: Top 10 Reasons Why Flipping the Classroom Can Change Education is to explore ideas and analyses beyond what current publications have to offer. I portray flipping in the context of school change over time, especially changes driven by technology. I also explore the implications for powerful new approaches to teaching based on research on cognition, pedagogy, and learning theory. This book also offers a nuanced view and analysis of potential impacts on teachers (their roles, deployment, and work in teams rather than as sole artisans), and about implications for policy. The focus is on K–12 schools and schooling, but examples from higher education are included where they offer useful insights.

    Who Can Benefit From This Book?

    This book is aimed at several audiences. For those teachers already flipping the classroom, I hope this book resonates with what you are doing and why. In the midst of a revolution, it can be useful to step back and see how what you are doing fits into the larger picture. I know you are always eager to get your hands on any and all information about the field, one in which you take great interest and justifiable pride as early adopters. You will be the ones to let me know if I got the story right, and I welcome your comments!

    Beyond these trailblazing advocates, however, my primary audience is traditional educators at all levels who have heard the buzz about flipped classrooms and are curious to learn more. Whether you are a classroom teacher, resource teacher, teacher candidate or teacher educator, or a principal or school administrator, this book will provide the overview you need to know about flipped teaching and considerations to keep in mind if you plan to adopt it for your school or classroom.

    • Teachers will read it from the perspective of improving practice and engaging students.
    • Principals will find value in the discussion of remodeling education and using educational resources differently.
    • Superintendents will find this an important reference as they provide leadership that promotes school change, or are asked to support innovation driven from the bottom up by their teachers.

    In addition, education policy makers at all levels can gain from reading this book:

    • School board members seeking to keep abreast of educational innovations
    • Legislators and staffers at the state or national level considering the implications of flipped classrooms and the policies that can support or (impede) their effectiveness

    Others I hope find value in the book include the following:

    • Researchers investigating the impacts of flipping and approaches most conducive to success
    • International educators seeking to learn from innovative practices in U.S. schools
    • And, importantly, parents, the media, and members of the general public who wish to stay informed of important trends impacting today’s students

    I hope this book encourages all readers to consider new possibilities—to flip your mindset—as together we reimagine and refine ways to harness our most powerful assets—great teachers, curious students, and powerful tools—to expand the time for learning for all students.


    This book would not have been possible without the inspiration and guidance of many, many teachers who graciously shared their time, stories, and enthusiasm for flipped classrooms. Not every story made it into this book, but all of your stories were guideposts for me along the way. For those whose classrooms I was able to spotlight, I hope I gave justice to the excitement and creativity of what you do, every day, to inspire your students to take charge of their learning and seek knowledge and beauty in all they do.

    Special thanks go to those who introduced me to flipped classrooms: the amazing educators at Byron High School. Former superintendent Wendy Shannon was the first to encourage me to write about flipping; she started me on this new adventure. Math department chair Troy Faulkner has been my go-to teacher, answering my e-mail questions almost before I could push “send”! Troy was especially helpful in assisting with the Q & A at the end of this book. Rob Warnecke, the Jens—Jennifer Green and Jennifer Hegna, principal Mike Duffy, superintendent Jeff Elstad, and all the educators at Byron are indeed terrific!

    I also want to thank my friends in higher education and industry, who gave me thoughtful assistance in key areas. John Bransford’s unbounded enthusiasm—showering me with papers and ideas—helped me wade through the thickets of cognitive science research. Eric Mazur was equally responsive to my questions regarding peer learning. The educators cited in Chapter 10 thoughtfully responded to my questionnaire, adding wise perspectives that helped frame my thinking about the future of flipping. Bror Saxberg was particularly helpful in offering suggestions related to learning theory. My longtime critical friend Allen Glenn kept me honest and grounded, as always! The team at Corwin: Desirée Bartlett, Melanie Birdsall, Cate Huisman, Ariel Price, and Rose Storey were terrific to work with—responsive, professional, and helpful at every stage. Special thanks go to my wise and wonderful Corwin executive editor Arnis Burvikovs, who invited me to write this book, and kept me moving forward with his unflagging encouragement and enthusiasm for the project.

    Loving personal friends held my hand through the process of getting this, my first book, off the ground. Steve Tullberg, bless his heart, read the first draft and gave me great suggestions. The gang at Chill Week freed me from kitchen duties so I could write while on vacation at the Doubs’ Bluff Pointe paradise. My techie-pal Susan Jones, channeling our dear Nancy Martin, encouraged me to make this book happen!

    Of course, my wonderful husband, Harry, was there all along, patient and enthusiastic, nudging me along this great adventure. You, Jeff and Magdalena, Rebecca and Jim, and our four grandchildren are my life’s joy.

    Publisher’s Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Robert (Bob) Barkley Jr. Retired Executive Director Ohio Education Association
    • David Callaway Seventh-Grade Social Studies Teacher Rocky Heights Middle School Highlands Ranch, CO
    • Tom Carroll President National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF)
    • Dr. Allen D. Glenn Retired Professor and Dean Emeritus College of Education, University of Washington Seattle, WA
    • Alexis Ludewig Supervisor of Student Teachers University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
    • Lisa Schmucki Founder and CEO of edweb.net
    • Dr. Gary L. Willhite Professor University of Wisconsin La Crosse La Crosse, WI

    About the Author

    Photo by Harry J. Fulton

    Kathleen P. Fulton is a writer and education consultant specializing in teaching quality and technology. She served as director, Reinventing Schools for the 21st Century, at the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) for 10 years. Before joining NCTAF, Ms. Fulton was project director for the Congressional Web-Based Education Commission and lead author of their report, The Power of the Internet for Learning. She spent four years as Associate Director of the Center for Learning and Educational Technology at the University of Maryland, and worked for ten years as a policy analyst for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). At OTA she was the project director responsible for several major education reports, including Education and Technology: Future Visions, and Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection. Since her retirement from NCTAF, Fulton has been consulting with a range of clients, including the State Education Technology Directors Association, the U.S. Department of State, the University of Colorado at Denver, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Byron School District in Minnesota. Her current work focuses on flipped classrooms, and she has written articles on this topic for Phi Delta Kappan, T.H.E. Journal, Learning and Leading with Technology, and School Administrator. She graduated from Smith College with a BA in English and received an MA in Human Development from the University of Maryland. Fulton lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with her husband, Harry Fulton, and has two grown children, Rebecca and Jeffrey, and four amazing grandchildren.

  • Educators’ Q&A on Flipped Classrooms

    Q. What’s the difference, if any, between “blended learning” and “flipping the classroom”?

    A. Blended learning is generally defined as some combination of face-to-face learning and online learning. Flipped teaching falls under the larger umbrella of blended learning, but it is a subset or particular form of blended learning that has its own characteristics.

    Q. What are the key characteristics of flipped classrooms?

    A. When the classroom is flipped, information that would otherwise be presented during group class time (e.g., a teacher’s lecture, video clip, online tutorial, reading, simulation, or demonstration) is made available for the students to access on their individual time as homework. Class time is then used for practice, to build on and apply that information with a variety of hands-on activities (discussion, peer instruction, working on problems, labs, etc.) with the expert (the teacher) there to help the student when questions arise or assistance is needed.

    Q. Do I have to make my own video lessons?

    A. There are a range of resources, many of which are free, where teachers can access video lessons (see below). But most teachers prefer to make their own lessons, so they can use vocabulary that reflects their curriculum and examples relevant to their students, and maintain the teacher/student bond.

    Q. Do I need special equipment to create lessons for the flipped classroom?

    A. Teachers can create flipped lessons using hardware they are likely to have in the classroom (i.e., computers, tablets, smartphones, interactive whiteboards, document cameras), and they can download software and applications, many of which are available for free on the Internet. These tools and applications enable them to capture themselves teaching and their lesson materials through screencasts, audiopodcasts, and voicethreads, and then post the lessons online or capture them on a flash drive or CD/DVD. Many commercial products are also available, and more are coming onto the market rapidly to meet the growing demand. For example, an external microphone is highly recommended for recording from a desktop or laptop computer, as clear audio is critical for effective teaching videos.

    Q. Where do I store my videos so students have access to them 24/7?

    A. Many teachers use YouTube, TeacherTube, or similar online storage sites. Some schools have a learning management system (LMS) where videos can be loaded for students to access. Some school websites allow teachers to upload videos to the teacher’s website.

    Q. How long should my video lessons be?

    A. Teachers advise keeping the videos short, generally dealing with one or two key concepts per video. One guideline suggests approximately one minute for each grade level—that is, 5-minute videos lessons for fifth-grade students, 10-minute lessons for tenth-grade students, etc.

    Q. Should I flip my whole course at once?

    A. Start small, creating one or two lessons, and build from there. Pay attention to student feedback on the lessons and technique. Even the most ardent flipping teachers don’t flip all lessons, every day. However, some recommend flipping at least one full unit, since there will be a learning curve for students (and teachers!) to adjust to the flipped environment.

    Q. What if my students do not have access to computers or the Internet at home?

    A. Survey students and/or parents prior to flipping to see what technology the family can make available to the student. Lessons can be placed on a flash drive, CD, or DVD if good Internet access is not available. Students can be provided mobile devices to take home (laptops or tablets) or be encouraged to use equipment in school computer labs, libraries, or classrooms before or after class. Personal smartphones are often the technology of choice for students.

    Q. How do I know my students have watched the flipped lessons?

    A. Teachers often require students to take notes and bring the notes to class or submit them online. Others embed questions that students must answer before moving forward in the video, or at the end to test their knowledge of the material. Some require students to respond to questions like, “What did you learn in this lesson? How does it relate to what you already knew? What questions do you still have?” and submit these before class begins. Some learning management systems allow teachers to track when students watched a video, how many times they watched it, and for how long.

    Q. Where can I go for help?

    A. There are many sources from which you can get help online. The Flipped Learning Network hosts webinars, podcasts, open houses, and an annual conference. Their website (flippedlearning.org) provides links to resources and blogs, including the NING (http://flippedclassroom.org/, an online platform for a social network), which has over 16,000 members. The Flipped Learning Institute (http://flippedinstitute.org) is another popular website set up as a self-help guide for educators. New sites are popping up rapidly on the web. EdWeb.net, an online community of educators, has a flipped learning community (www.edweb.net/flipped) with resources, discussion groups, and free webinars. There is a Twitter group of educators that meets every Monday evening. Many individual teachers have blog pages that provide guidance, reflections, and links to resources that have worked for them.

    Q. How can I find out about good (and free or low-cost) resources for flipping the classroom?

    A. Educator blogs are a great way to learn out about free resources, as teachers typically review how well these resources work in their settings. For example, “Educational Technology and Mobile Learning” has descriptions of mobile apps and web tools that can be used for a variety of educational purposes. The section on flipping the classroom (www.educatorstechnology.com/search/label/flipped%20classroom) is especially comprehensive. Their list of free and simple video tools (www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/06/8-free-and-simple-tools-to-create-video.html) is particularly helpful for guidance on making videos.

    Q. What should administrators do to prepare for and support flipped classrooms?

    A. Think “TGIF” (“Thank Goodness It’s Flipped!”):

    • Trust your teachers and give them the opportunity to innovate.
    • Grant them the support they need (time to learn and collaborate, and resources needed).
    • Inform yourself as school instructional leader/lead learner, and keep the parent community informed of what changes to expect.
    • Facilitate the changes needed to succeed (e.g., extend the hours of the media center or computer labs; allow students to take school equipment home or use personal devices in the classroom; increase the school wireless network and bandwidth).


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