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Flipped Classrooms and Social Studies

Parker Palmer of Courage to Teach fame once said that

good teaching cannot be reduced to one technique . . .

I like that.

We’re all different and connect with our kids and content in different ways. But I would add to Parker’s comment and suggest that

good teaching is always more than one technique.

and its corollary;

bad teaching is always the same technique.

We shouldn’t be happy with what’s worked in the past, with what we’ve always done. We need to constantly be looking for ways to improve what we do. New research, new ideas, and new strategies can help us do our jobs better.

Which brings me to the idea of the flipped classroom.

The basic idea of a flipped classroom is that a teacher uses technology to provide student access to foundational knowledge outside of class. This allows more time for inquiry, discussion, debate, collaboration, problem-solving, product development, or guided practice during class time. So rather than kids listening to you during class and doing work outside of class, you “flip” that idea – time outside of class is spent on gathering foundational knowledge and time in class is spent working with that content.

I think good teachers have been doing this sort of thing, well . . . forever. The difference now is that there are more tools that make the idea easier to implement. One recent idea is to provide online or mobile videos of lectures or content delivery that students view on a schedule that best suits them.

It’s an interesting concept that has been creating a lot of buzz in the math and science areas but which has been slow to develop in the humanities such as history and social studies.

As you begin rolling the idea around in your head, check out the infographic below as well as a few online resources. Then ask yourself:

What would this look like in my class? What piece of this can I break off and try?

I would be curious to hear from those of you finding success with a social studies flipped classroom. What’s working? What should we be aware of?


The Flipped Class is Here to Stay
Three or four reasons the idea has legs

15 Schools Using the Flipped Classrooms
Some good examples

Flipping a History Classroom
Video clip, discussion and comments

Flipping the US History Class
A MSU discussion board on the topic

A new infographic from Knewton. Be sure to check out the research at the bottom.

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14 Comments Post a comment
  1. LoriAnne #

    What a clear explanation and inspiration for the Flipped Classroom. I have seen this term used, but I have failed to pursue it enough to find out what it actually meant. Delivering the necessary content efficiently to get to idea generation and using class time for discussion, interpretation and analysis has always been an interest of mine. Teaching discussion based classes (i.e. Women’s Studies) forces me to balance in-class reading time and lecture with synthesis and analysis of ideas. Using my wiki allows for students to be responsible for posting current event articles that helps give high school students more real world examples for class discussion. Preparing their answers and connecting to classroom reading allows every student to formulate an idea before class. Podcasts of lectures or pre-reading discussions become the homework and discussion becomes the focus of every day without sacrificing knowledge.

    February 1, 2012
    • glennw #


      Some of the first “flipped” classroom teachers focused on the use of video clips to replace lecture time. I like that idea but I also believe we can use other technology (such as the wiki you’re using) to do similar things. We need to feel free to use a variety of tools to flip the process of learning.

      Thanks for sharing!


      February 1, 2012
  2. Check out for reflections and resources from social studies teachers who are currently flipping…

    June 4, 2012
  3. Do you think this would qualify as a flipped classroom? Have kids read a page or two in their text book the night before and do a follow up activity in class the next day. For example acting out a scene, having a discussion or a debate, creating a map or timeline. I am not ready to make videos, but my kids are capable readers and would be able to read the textbook independently, if not too much was assigned. Even if it’s not technically a flipped classroom, since it lacks the tech component, have any of you tried it? Do you think it would be good practice?

    June 9, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Thoughts on Education – 2/2/2012 « Scott's Thoughts, Ideas, Ramblings, and Other Things
  2. Mobile Devices, ePubs, and Creating Your Own Classroom Materials « MACE 2012
  3. History? I love History! and other fun video tools « History Tech
  4. Pros and Cons of the Flipped Classroom | EdReach
  5. History Geek Week Session Two: Ditching the Textbook: Teaching US History 1:1 | History Tech
  6. My daily readings 12/07/2012 « Strange Kite
  7. Canadian educator cautions about ‘flipped classrooms’ | drwilda
  8. Tip of the Week: Zaption and interactive videos | History Tech
  9. Tip of the Week: Zaption and interactive videos | archaeoINaction
  10. Pros and Cons of the Flipped Classroom

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