Hands are over a laptop's keyboard, typing.

Flipping education and blended learning

Alex MacCreadie

There is something different about the students who turn up to classrooms these days. They have never known the world without the internet. They have spent more time learning online than they have in a classroom. They are social online and have a distinctly different attitude to digital technology. To them, digital is an expectation.

Most teachers are not of this generation. They are not Luddites, but they are starting to realise they need to do something different to reach this new breed. They might have read about a couple of approaches; flipped and blended – sounds like a cooking show, so a quick description might help.

Flipping education

This approach has a division between class time (face-to-face learning) and technology (own time). The basic premise is that if students could prepare for a class by learning content in their own time, they would have more control of their learning. For example, a student could watch a video demonstration or explanation in their own time. They could watch it several times; pause it to reflect and explore their understanding.

Class time is devoted to applying this learning and maximises the teacher’s face-to-face time with students, letting them be the ‘guide on the side’ rather than the ‘sage on the stage’.

Blended learning

Blended learning brings the technology into the classroom. A teacher might set up online resources for students to review before joining a discussion with them. Students might use technology to collaborate with others, gather information or present ideas. The technology complements the face-to-face teaching, and the learning is blended to create a richer learning experience.

There are multiple ways to achieve this:

  • Class rotation – A teacher sets up three or four activities, some of which might be online, and the whole class moves from one activity to the next.
  • Station rotation – Students are in groups rotating through stations.
  • Individual rotation – Students have the learning goal for the day, and several stations are available for students to complete one or more activity until they are satisfied they have the understanding they need to complete the task to demonstrate their knowledge.

Note the common theme? Shared control of learning which heads towards a more personalised learning experience.

If you were to change your approach to using technology in the classroom, what would you need to think about, change, include and dismiss? How would you kick this off?

Given the title, let’s make a recipe of it.


A tablespoon of Devices – tablets, laptops…etc.

Digital learning needs devices to make it work.

  • Does your school have BYOD sorted out?
  • Are your students savvy at keeping their equipment charged and ready to go?
  • How will you deal with students who forget their device?

This may not be an issue in your school, but I suspect if you are pioneering this, none of this has been sorted. The organisation of your room may solve many of these problems. Do you need one-to-one devices? If you set up stations, you may not. Similarly, is your wireless network stable? Will it work?

A healthy pinch of determination and self-reflection.

Change isn’t easy; it will take effort. Write down what you want to achieve with your class. What’s bugging you?

1 cup of student feedback and feed forward.

Tell the students what you are doing and why. Get their reflections and adapt, adapt, adapt. I’ve never got anything perfect off the bat. You also need them to buy in, either at home on their devices, or the simple ‘Please bring your device for the next lesson. You will be using it.’


Define learning goals

The students must know what the point of the lesson is. Sharing control is about ‘how this is learned?’ not ‘what was learned’. You (or more correctly the curriculum) must let students know what is to be learned.

Knowing how you want students to demonstrate their knowledge is vital. Don’t keep it a secret. Use success criteria to give students something to work towards.

Offer supplemental resources – The one toe in approach

Give students a choice of online material, physical material, video, etc. Shift the responsibility for the learning back to them by letting them know what you want them to learn and how they can show you that they have achieved this. ‘You are responsible for the learning… how can I help?’

Evolve and Expand

Got the feedback? Now use it. Adapt one thing from week to week. Tell the students why you are doing it, and they will buy in more. You could get an online discussion going. They are powerful, as they allow learners who might not usually contribute to come forward. They increase the cognitive level from the doing to the thinking (synthesizing, evaluating, analysing). To achieve this, you must:

  • Get online with the students.
  • Ask the high-level questions.
  • Stay online with them.
  • Students aren’t going to do it on their own. You are still the important person in the room, albeit even a digital one!


The imperfect cake, the soggy muffin, the dry biscuit……the difference? The students are eating this one!

Happy cooking!

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