What the Most Innovative Flipped Learning Practitioners Do Differently

Editors Features May / Out of The Box May / May 9, 2018

– by Jon Bergmann and Errol St.Clair Smith –


What does the education world look like when you view it through the lens of the most innovative Flipped Learning innovators? It’s like slipping on a virtual reality headset and transporting to an exciting new place. A place where people are speaking about Flipped Learning in ways we haven’t heard before. Where teachers are doing things far beyond sending videos home with students. How Far? Far enough that it takes a special lens, an open mind,  and an eye for nuance to fully see what these people are developing.
In the last 30 days, we’ve talked with  Flipped Learning innovators in Istanbul, Spain, Australia, Argentina, Taiwan, Oman, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico and the USA.  There’s no way to convey their energy and creativity using mere fonts and pixels.  Suffice it to say there are groups of Flipped Learning practitioners, who are living in a parallel universe very different from what we typically hear, see, and read about Flipped Learning. How different? Different enough that even a brief visit to their world inspired us to think bigger about Flipped Learning and what we are doing with it.

Turning Everything Upside Down

One of the first things we noticed is that these innovators will try to flip anything, even tragedy.  During a call with a school in Texas,  the PD coordinator made a jaw-dropping comment.  Ironically, her tone was so matter-of-fact, that we could easily have raced by the significance of her story.  Her school is doing something very different. Flipping something that as far as we know has never been flipped before.
The tragedy and trauma of school shootings have placed preparing schools for the unthinkable on the top of every school leader’s list. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 90% of US public schools are training staff and students how to respond to an active shooter in the building But we know of only one school who is flipping that training — Houston Christian High School.   It ’s a no-brainer…  Passively listening to boring security briefings can’t possibly trump spending more time actively practicing what to do and how to do it.
The school administrators took the basic flipped training they received, embraced it, and extended it.  But of course, that’s what innovators do.

Flipping What They’ve Already Flipped

Two thousand miles north of Texas we heard tales of innovators flipping the individual space  When we interviewed  Dr. Eric Mazur at Harvard last month, he challenged what many believe is the heart of Flipped Learning.

“I would almost argue that video might not necessarily be one of the best activities to do for students on their own because it doesn’t have any social component, it basically moves a flawed approach to teaching and moves it outside. Anything that engages the students outside of the classroom would be preferable over just watching videos,” said Mazur.

Instead of just sending videos home with students, Flipped Learning innovators are sending the social relational elements of the group space home with students as well

Text-Based Tools

Dr. Mazur’s tool, Perusall is text-based and allows students to comment on text and comment on each other’s comments. Teachers can then get a view into student comments which helps them to prepare for the group space. Additionally, teachers can view a “confusion report” which summarizes what students are struggling with. The tool also automatically scores the quality of student comments using a sophisticated algorithm.

Video-Based Tools

There are also some video-based tools that are starting to scratch the surface of how to make flipped videos social. Two tools on the cutting edge in this space are  Flipgrid and Voicethread. Both tools allow students the ability to add comments or video to a flipped video.

Learning Management Systems

Perhaps the simplest way to make the individual space social is to use the forums features in your learning management system.


All of the tools mentioned above have some limitations. With Perusall, we would like to see the ability for teachers to ask some pointed questions inside the text to get very directed responses. The tools AcitvelyLearn and InsertLearning have these features but lacks the social aspect of Perusall.

The video tools would be better if a teacher could specify questions inside the video and get feedback.  Two tools that track and allow for questioning are EdPuzzle and Playposit. But neither of them bring in the social aspects.

Creative Videos Versus  Group Space Creativity

The most innovative Flipped Learning practitioners we encounter think beyond the videos. They are aware that the group space is where the promise of Flipped Learning really happens.  Our surveys reveal that Flipped Learning innovators use a  variety of instructional tactics and strategies to replace direct instruction. They also display a more advanced level of group space mastery.

Beyond the Silos

The most innovative Flipped Learning practitioners see insularity as a threat to their competence,  value, and careers. Where many strive to build a mote around their classrooms, schools, or school systems, innovators are anxious about not doing what the best flippers know and do.  They look outside of traditional silos to engage with other Flipped Learning practitioners. Where many recoil at the burden of ongoing professional development,  these innovators are eager to learn new ways to use Flipped Learning more effectively. They value being on the leading edge and being among the first movers.  They may have been the first in their schools to flip their class, introduce a light board or start a project with a teacher in another country.  The global insights they bring to their schools and institutions often lead to new career opportunities.  Their inclination to exchange ideas and instructional strategies with others often result in “next practices” for Flipped Learning.

The Next Frontier

It’s almost impossible to talk to 100 Flipped Learning innovators and not have a few “aha” moments. As we prepared for the May issue of FLR, educators like Dan Jones, Terra Graves, and Tom Mennella provided a glimpse of what the most advanced Flipped Learning innovators are doing differently.  But they also helped us to see what we should do differently as well.  Their insights revealed the outline of the next frontier and made a strong case for socializing the individual space and focusing more attention on group space mastery.   That’s our big take away from this issue, and this month we’ll be rolling out a couple of new programs to do both.

So if you are an innovative educator stay tuned, these next practices in Flipped learning will be coming soon to a classroom near you.





Jon Bergmann & Errol St.Clair Smith
Jon Bergmann & Errol St.Clair Smith
Jon Bergmann is one of the pioneers of the Flipped Class Movement. Jon is leading the worldwide adoption of flipped learning by working with governments, schools, corporations, and education non-profits around the globe. Jon is the author of seven books including the bestselling book: Flip Your Classroom which has been translated into 13 languages. He is the founder of the global FlipCon conferences which are dynamic engaging events which inspire educators to transform their practice through flipped learning. _______________________________________________________________________________ ______Errol St. Clair Smith is the architect of the Flipped Learning Global Initiative and Director of Global Development. Errol leads the initiative's programs to build relationships and partnerships between all stakeholders across the flipped learning community worldwide. Errol is an experienced community organizer who has served as executive director of the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. In 2005 Errol organized and developed media channels for the nation's leading education associations to form the BAM Education Radio Network. The all-education talk radio network produces Flipped Learning Worldwide Radio and programming for the Association of Curriculum Developers (ASCD), the American Association of School Administrator (AASA), and the National Association of Secondary School Principals among others.

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