I’ve Copyrighted ‘Flipped Classroom’

First, let me say, I have copyrighted the terms Flipped Classroom, Flipped Learning, Flipped Teaching and #flipclass.  No one in the media can write a story using any of the terms without consulting me.  No company can use any of these terms to promote a product without my approval.  No one can blog or tweet on the topic without my endorsement.  What?  I can’t do that?  Oh, well then, I guess we have a problem.

Yes, the problem is the amount of information and misinformation out there regarding Flipped Classroom/Learning/Teaching.  At ISTE this summer, flipped anything seemed to be the biggest buzz topic outside of #edubros and Buzzword Bingo.  There were a lot of packed full presentations on flipping.  Vendors were screaming out, “Flip you class with [insert product here]”.  The problem is that educational terminology such as this can’t be copyrighted and thus anyone can use the terms correctly or incorrectly.  And, maybe the nail in the coffin was when Sal Khan used the phrase “flip your class” in his TED Talk last year.  Now, flipping was being heralded by the media as the savior of education.  For the record, I haven’t ever heard a flipclass proponent say it is the answer to solving our current education woes.  Also for the record, I haven’t heard Sal Khan say that either. It is generally the media that implies it, and even in some cases says it.  From a CBS News piece on Khan:

“This measurement of progress could be a breakthrough, says Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, who tells Gupta that innovation never comes from the institutions themselves, but rather from visionary figures outside those institutions. “Sal is that person in education in my view. He built a platform. If that platform works, that platform could completely change education in America,” says Schmidt.”

I’ll concede, as I believe most flipclass proponents would, that flipping is not the end-all-be-all, silver bullet, magic potion, or panacea to solve all our educational problems.  I just had a meeting today with a local teacher wanting to flip her class.  At the end of the meeting, she said,”I think one of the best things I got from today was that I’m still going to have a lot of the same issues you have in any class…kids not doing homework, kids trying to find shortcuts, whatever, but I also realized I know how to deal with those things and they won’t get in the way of me flipping my class.”

The reason I bring this up is because it is easy to argue with a flipclass opponent that they just don’t understand flipclass and that is why they bash it.  And, sometimes, that is the case.  However, one the questions I ask regularly on my podcast is “What are some valid criticisms of Flipped Learning?”  Because they are out there.  Jon Bergmann, Aaron Sams, Brian Bennett, Ramsey Musallam, and many others regularly revise their teaching methods because of those criticisms.  Many of the criticisms they’ve addressed themselves over the years.  Does that mean they are revising the definition of Flipped Learning in the process? I don’t know.

So, most people would expect me to put the definition of Flipped Learning/Classroom/Teaching here.  The next sentence should read, “Flipped Learning is…..” But, I’m not sure what goes next.  I have a definition of what Flipped Teaching is to me.  But, I’ve had discussions with other flippers that have a slightly different definition.  Flipped Learning is more of a guiding vision.  As Brian Bennett has said, “Flipped Class is an ideology, not a methodology.”  Some people have begun calling it a mindset or mentality.

This got me thinking about how a term becomes defined.  A chair is a chair because we all agree that the word chair refers to a certain object.  But, when the object is not tangible, something we can’t point to or hold, then it becomes more difficult to define.  Constructivism would say that meaning bears little relationship to reality at first, but becomes increasing more complex, differentiated, and realistic as time goes on.  But, how do other education methods, concepts, -isms, etc. come to an accepted definition.  I would say through academic research.  As more academics do independent research on a topic, a definition is narrowed and accepted.

Flipclass proponents will admit there are minimal amounts of academic research using the term “Flipped Learning/Teaching/Classroom”.  From what I’ve seen, Ramsey Musallam has done the most extensive research in the area. He would probably argue that others have, 1) because he’s pretty modest and 2) he has done a lot of research and would know. When Ramsey says, “Eric Mazur from Harvard said…” I just nod my head in amazement. But, the published or unpublished research work I’ve read of his didn’t use the term “flipped” that I recall.  In academic terms, Flipped Learning is still an infant.  We have yet to see what it will grow up to be.  I do know a couple of people entering PhD programs in the next year or two who intend to do research in Flipped Learning.  Whether their intentions will result into fruition remains to be seen.

In this age of social media and the internet, we do have a definitive resource on what is the true meaning of everything.  Yes, I’m talking about Wikipedia.  (On a side note, if you haven’t read “Drive” by Daniel Pink, do so.  His comparison of Wikipedia and Encarta is brilliant.  Remember Encarta?)

Wikipedia defines Flip Teaching as:

a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of Internet technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is most commonly being done using teacher created videos that students view outside of class time. It is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction and reverse teaching.
The traditional pattern of secondary education has been to have classroom lectures, in which the teacher explains a topic, followed by homework, in which the student does exercises. In flip teaching, the student first studies the topic by himself, typically using video lessons created by the instructor or shared by another educator, such as those provided by the Khan Academy. In the classroom, the pupil then tries to apply the knowledge by solving problems and doing practical work. The role of the classroom teacher is then to tutor the student when they become stuck, rather than to impart the initial lesson. This allows time inside the class to be used for additional learning-based activities, including use of differentiated instruction and project-based learning.
Flip teaching allows more hands-on time with the instructor guiding the students, allowing them to assist the students when they are assimilating information and creating new ideas (upper end of Bloom’s Taxonomy).

I’m OK with that definition.  They did cite me as one of their sources, so I guess I should be.

I had a discussion with a very well respected EdTech guru recently.  I won’t mention his name because our conversation was “off the record” so to speak, a discussion between two friends.  I hope to get him “on the record” in an upcoming podcast, but I won’t use his name until then.  However, he told me that he doesn’t like the Flipped Class.  Not because he doesn’t agree that some teachers are using it well, but because the misconceptions cause bad teachers to still be bad teachers but think they’ve improved their pedagogy.  His argument is since so many people have been using the term to mean so many different things, good teachers should distance themselves from the term and let it die a slow death.  That seems like a good solution for some.  Others believe that is a defeatist attitude and would rather keep speaking out until the misconceptions of what good flipped teaching is becomes more widespread.  And, quite frankly, some have said, “I don’t care what you call it.  Argue all you want naysayers. I know what works for my class and that’s ultimately where my responsibilities lie.”  I’ve been in all three camps at various times in my personal journey.

Where do you think the term “Flipped Classroom” is going?

Image Credits: Flipped Classroom by Tm_Hobbs on Flickr


Troy Cockrum is the host of EdReach’s show Flipped Learning, a show for educators interested in flipping. Flipped Learning interviews educators using flipped learning and highlights best practices and innovative uses for flipped learning. You can follow him on Twitter @tcockrum.

What do you think?

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  1. I would agree with much of the definition outlined here, but I’m one of the ones who uses the term Flipped Mindset. And I would argue that video doesn’t have to play a role in FC either, although I do personally use it. I wrote about it here: http://www.morrisflipsenglish.com/1/post/2012/07/so-you-want-to-flip-your-class.html

    I really wish people would look into it before criticising though. I’ve had countless discussions on Twitter with educators who vehemently oppose FC but their understanding is based solely on misconception and media hype. Some of the best educators I know are in the FC movement. As educators, we should be skeptical of new ideas, but open to listening and changing our mind if the benefit for students is clear. My experience with FC proves that without a doubt for me. I hope anyone who is skeptical will find me on Twitter (@guster4lovers) or talk to any of the amazing teachers who follow #flipclass. We would love to share our experience.

  2. Thanks for copywriting that for us.

    I think bad teachers are going to avoid using this model because that would mean all their work (& teaching style) is out there for the world to see. As time goes on, though, I fear you might be right.

    I see professional development as a better fit for this model. It would significantly reduce the amount of time teachers spend passively absorbing (or ignoring) information. Rather, they could spend that time working together collaboratively.

  3. Bill, please don’t categorize a etcher as “bad” because he is not making and publishing videos for all the world to have. In my classroom, students create the videos; publishing publicly is student/parent preference.