Flipped Classroom and Remember Madeline Hunter

With every turn, it seems this notion of the Flipped Classroom is a topic of discussion but I can’t help thinking about Madeline Hunter. Oh yes, Madeline Hunter and all the negativity that often follows her name.

But, I can recall the excitement, the energy, the “we got to do this” tone that soon led to “what are we doing here”. While not a Hunter defender, her ideas were quickly workshopped with rules, guidelines, approaches, and checklists that lost the heart of what she was saying (whether what she was saying is good or bad is beyond the point).

Sadly, I’m sitting here today thinking about this notion of the Flipped Classroom and how I keep seeing this rigid, workshop packaged approach instead of a philosophy shift.

My Long Thought Pattern

In 2009, I found myself speaking on a Beyond the Web 2.0 Hype panel at TechForum where I explored the need to
rethink content as outcome” and  “reallocate classroom time for collaboration, inquiry, and production”. It was a philosophy shift rooted in Dewey and Papert but also grown out of understanding the social media social phenomenon and the need to extract from it salient points that can help transform education to exciting, engaging, and inspirational hubs of learning.

In 2010, I continued this talk with pragmatic questions around rethinking how we are delivering content: how are you rethinking the delivery of content? How are we leveraging the physical classroom to become more collaborative, engaging, and human-centered leaving work outside of class for items that are more 1-way? How are we rethinking what happens in the physical given what is possible in the digital?

In 2011, I grew concerned that we were seeing a checklist shift not a pedagogical shift. The notion that we “just” give all kids the same video to watch at home and then we omit that time-consuming 1-way piece from the physical classroom.

Pedagogical Shift

I continue to worry about this focus on this checklist approach to the Flipped Classroom instead of a significant pedagogical shift. This shift would see…

  1. a greater emphasis on production time not consumption time.
  2. a greater emphasis on learning as a process not an object
  3. a greater emphasis on a culture of learning not schooling

This is flipping the notion of learning as object to learning as process. This process of knowing (content), doing (skills), thinking (habits of mind), and being (experiences & dispositions) – what I call cSHED. When this process is amplified by a culture rooted in learning, unlearning, and relearning, we have the type of culture I think is needed in education.

This pedagogical shift leads to shifts in practices:

  1. Content-Centered Goes Mobile & Public: Created, curated, repurposed, and remixed content with asynchronous and synchronous connections.
  2. Learner-Centered Goes Blended:  Digital, Analog, Challenged-Based Learning, Project-Based Learning, and Design Thinking
  3. Teacher-Centered Goes Community-Centered:  Peer to Peer, Peer 2 Teacher, and Peer 2 Stranger Mentoring
  4. Learning Goes Connected: interest-driven, networked-minded, and production focused
  5. Assessment Goes Dynamic: formative assessment, dynamic & flexible learning objects, and proposal-based assessments
  6. Homework Goes Individual: choice, self-paced, multiple modalities, customized, and prep focused

Simple versus Messy

I get that this is really messy and hard to workshop. It is much easier to put together a checklist approach broken down into easy parts: a. put your lectures into a video (or find a lecture online) b. assign that for work at home c.  leverage your classroom time for learner-centered work.

If I show teachers how to create/find these lectures/screencasts and where to place them for student access, we can smile and proclaim “we’re flipping the classroom”. We can all smile at all the media and journal coverage of this approach in the classroom saying “our teachers are doing that…”.

But I wonder if we will look back in a few years and groan when we hear “Flipped Classroom”* like we did after Hunter was bastardized.

I’d prefer to look at the messy process of learning and the learning as object mindset that we need to shift. It takes more time to root and requires more challenging discussion. In the end, I’m thinking it is more worth it.


Please note this isn’t attacking the Flip Classroom based upon the educator that first implemented this process. The flipped classroom as he discusses it is a great step towards flipped learning. My point is that education likes to bastardize and overly simplify things. I hope that isn’t the case here.


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