The iPad and ‘Flipping’ – Reflections of a concerned teacher

Reflection 1 – This is the most stimulating year I have spent in teaching.

Reflection 2 – I’m concerned and it’s all my fault!

One word sums up this dissonance – opportunity.

The iPad has provided countless learning opportunities for my students through generic and tailored applications. The practice of learning alongside students has promoted a difference in my teaching style. I have searched for techniques that best suit these opportunities and that search has been made easier by new technologies. So, why the concern?

I’m just not sure if it’s right?

I wasn’t prepared for ‘flipping’ a classroom when I trained to be a teacher. ‘Instant on’ devices weren’t available to students with content finding capabilities. Taxonomy was something a biology teacher once mentioned and I definitely didn’t ask questions of thousands of people if I was stuck!!

Lifelong learning is a must but I have be honest with myself. Was I content to deliver very similar lessons each year to students, knowing that grades would be ok? Did I push myself to tweak activities for all learners? The answer to these questions is underpinned by the fact that I was trained to deliver structured content. I know I should have personalised learning for all and embraced the external pressures of grades/reports/observations and school ethos. However, I would be lying if I claimed to have met the needs of all students in all lessons.

The Comfort Zone

Students expect content driven lessons and feel comfortable on the note-taking treadmill. Educators feel they are ‘doing their job’ if they do most of the work in a lesson and all is well with the world. This year, that comfort zone has been challenged. Opportunity has made excitement and resistance unlikely bedfellows. There is great satisfaction in leaving a comfort zone but, for the students’ sake, it has to be right.

Flipped Classroom

Flipping the classroom appeared to be the only way to ‘create’ time in school to utilise the iPad with a safety net. Having read the work of ‘flipped class’ aficionados Jon Bergmann and Crystal Kirch, screencasts were made that students could view at home to learn content. Classroom time was then used for any number of activities that enhanced learning (where the iPad really excelled). I found myself having more contact time with individual students and relaxed, over time, safe in the knowledge I had done my normal ‘work’ with the screencasts. Then things became messy!


My initial twitter concerns have already been chronicled with the conclusion that twitter is an outstanding professional development tool. However, it is important to filter and reflect on any advice as there are so many variables to consider for your own students. Even though I can find many examples of successful ‘flipped’ classrooms, or the use of iPads in schools, it is easy to ride the wave of positivity. It has to be right for your own classes and this is very difficult to measure. Twitter is an incredible resource but for a developing pedagogy it could provide a rose-tinted viewpoint.

Twitter also exposes so many ideas that you could change your lessons daily (which wouldn’t be a bad thing). The problem with all the trial and error is that you can get lost amongst the initiatives alongside your main objectives and school policy. In short, I am indebted to twitter and my PLN for all the great ideas and support. Inevitably, during exam season. I worry if it all benefited the students?

As with everything in education these days, final grades and tables will suggest whether I was right to challenge the way I have taught in the past. I believe the iPad and the ‘flipped’ classroom concept are a natural fit and the pedagogical model will develop.

I have never been so enthused about learning. I just hope it’s right!

About Daniel Edwards
Director of Innovation & Learning at the Stephen Perse Foundation schools, Cambridge, UK ( Interested in global connectivity for all and risk taking in education. Keen to discuss all aspects of learning and digital strategy. Also @syded06 on twitter.

38 Responses to The iPad and ‘Flipping’ – Reflections of a concerned teacher

  1. Pingback: The iPad and ‘Flipping’ – Reflections of a concerned teacher | iPad in Education! |

  2. Pingback: The iPad and ‘Flipping’ – Reflections of a concerned teacher | BYOD iPads |

  3. Hi Daniel, I think this is really interesting. I like your open, reflective approach. Plenty of students thrived in the days of chalk and talk and did OK in their exams – but the approaches you are blazing a trail with run much deeper; they are learning a lot more than the content they’ll be examined on. I’ve been exploring the idea of co-construction (featured somewhere on my own blog) and I feel the same. It is slightly risky and doesn’t always work but the best bits are so good that it makes all the ‘out of comfort zone’ stuff worthwhile. I too worry that the excitement and buzz might not necessarily translate into improved outcomes. But it has to be worth trying and, in the long run, the students will be better learners. I’ve seen one of your screencasts and wonder how long it takes to do? Would it be possible for students to make these instead – or as well? Anyway – long comment; I’ll keep following with interest.

    • syded says:

      Thank you. I have always hoped teaching should be about learning, yet every discussion relates to grades or Ofsted. The way I see it, if students receive the same grades and the learning experience has improved then all is well. I really appreciate the comments.

      • I agree with you completely. I have a blog brewing about the extent to which teachers are inhibited, even repressed, by pervasive fear-factors such as OfSTED. If every teacher was as innovative as you are and as prepared to take risks, the whole system would be transformed….

      • syded says:

        I look forward to reading that blog. The screencasts take a couple of hours and are the result of some experimentation. Existing videos made by other professionals aren’t tailored to my students and they are not always available. Student made screencasts are actually very useful but from a creation point of view. Feedback suggests there is a trust element with the content delivery and the teacher presence in the video – still a little embarrassing!

  4. You are right to question technology tools as they fit both your ideal of pedagogy and the style of learning for your students. As an Edtech professional, I also question this as well, for a number of different reasons. First and foremost, will it help kids learn? Second, how prepared are we to implement it and what time will it take to overcome the “learning curve”. Third, can we afford it?

    Technological tools are only effective as the long as the people using them have a solid handle on what is needed for learning.

    • syded says:

      Thank you and I completely agree. It has taken 6 months to be comfortable with the technology integration. That said the learning opportunities are many and varied inside the classroom and it feels like lessons are easier to adjust to the learners mid-flow.

  5. geogteacher says:

    I agree with what you say about twitter and teaching. it is important to find what suits you and your classes and NOT jump on every new idea that you see posted. I have found SOLO via twitter and have adjusted that for myself and my pupils. Now i am beginning to look at iPads and their use. You are at least 12 months in front of me on this and I really appreciate the fact that you have recorded your thoughts for me to learn from.
    Like headguruteacher I worry that everything we do has to be for OFSTED’s benefit. In the last 2 years it seems to me that SLT are more concerned with the next inspection than with pupils’ learning. Teachers need to ensure that this outlook is the one that is ‘flipped’

    Meanwhile I am off to play with some apps!

    also known as @dukkhaboy

  6. Jacky McDouall says:

    Thanks for posting your experiences on the iPad and flipclass. We are at the edge of rolling out a 1:1 for next year and your reflections have been extremely helpful. I have been working up to the flipclass model this year. I have to be careful that it is introduced in the right way for pupils and PARENTS (I am lucky to have the faith of my school) to accept and understand. I found a way to get them used to the idea of accessing content on a screen cast video through using them for revision using Edmodo. I also do videos of PPQ explained answers. Next year I am planning to run selected classes in the flipclass model. I also can’t wait for the 1:1 to start as I am so ready to go to that level. Keep up the posting and trust your expertise as a teacher to know what is going to help YOUR pupils. If you didn’t have that, they wouldn’t have been successful over the last however many years you have already been teaching, would they?

    • syded says:

      Really appreciate your comments Jacky. I would be interested to hear about your own experiences with this model. Are you blogging?

      • Jacky says:

        Not yet. I am just about to start. Sign up yesterday, but didn’t get my first one in the shape I wanted it for my First. I have been asked to keep the enthusiasm of our (most) teachers for the iPad going while the 1:1 rolls out. I will start blogging about that. Any ideas will be gratefully accepted.

      • syded says:

        I look forward to reading it. Let me know if I can be of any help.

  7. geogteacher says:

    i like the look of the screencast you made. is that with the app screencasts HD (£1.49)? thanks

    • syded says:

      No it’s a bit more technical than that. I use screenflow for Mac. Mainly for the editing though. I think popping up in the video as a teacher is important.

  8. geogteacher says:

    Aha. a little more expensive 🙂

    • Clive Gibson says:

      I use Knowmia, it’s a free app on iPad and is really easy to use and it lets you re record a slide if you make a mistake, so you don’t have to start from scratch. It can then be viewed using any web browser.

  9. jenn says:

    I enjoyed reading your comments and insights in the Flipped Classroom. Often, I wonder if I am heading down the right path using technolgy in the classroom, or am I just using some cool toys?

    • syded says:

      I completely agree. I think that is why I have constantly reflected on the pedagogy and learning. There is always nagging doubt!

  10. Pingback: The iPad and ‘Flipping’ – Reflections of a concerned teacher | Theobald - to read later |

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  12. Pingback: The iPad and ‘Flipping’ – Reflections of a concerned teacher | IPads in Special Education (TDK) |

  13. Pingback: The iPad and 'Flipping' – Reflections of a concerned teacher « syded | The WHS Flip |

  14. Pingback: The iPad and ‘Flipping’ – Reflections of a concerned teacher | iCt, iPads en hoe word ik een ie-leraar? |

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  16. Pingback: The iPad and ‘Flipping’ – Reflections of a concerned teacher | Technology Advances |

  17. Neil Emery says:

    First and foremost I loved reading your post. Secondly you are helping to ready students for a modern digital world, with skills that go far beyond the education tread mill of exam passes. Well done – I salute you !

  18. A wonderfully reflective and thought provoking blog post Syded. I too celebrate the leaps and bounds we are taking in education, though am at times concerned by the ways I see it introduced to schools and classrooms.
    Buying 100 ipads and distributing them throughout the school without a plan (particularly a 1:1 plan) will most often result in technology apathy (a free time activity). I am even more concerned by the lack of a clear plan for professional development, for training in how to get the most from the iPad, and how to value add to your pedagogy.

    Despite our concerns I am thrilled to be able to participate in the current education revolution and to be a part of what is a very exciting time for students.

  19. Pingback: The iPad and ‘Flipping’ – Reflections of a concerned teacher | Improving Your Teaching Practice |

  20. Jane Kilpatrick says:

    This is a really interesting read Daniel – thank you for it. I’ve been following colleagues write of their use of iPads and the “flipped” classroom with interest.

    I teach in a pretty “bog-standard” comp. I have an iPad. The kids don’t and there is no sign of that changing. The flipped classroom idea leaves me wondering about those kids (and in my school it’d be a majority) who just don’t bother to look at the content. I see it working effectively in a context where my students ALL value learning, ALL want to progress etc. In my context I would worry that it would be the most motivated/able/supported who would make progress. What of those who don’t have a home which encourages learning; those where, even with access to the net, won’t be thinking of it as a way to develop their own learning?

    I worry that the flipped classroom idea reinforces divides and pushes forward those who will already succeed while diminishing the others.

    I’m looking at using my iPad as a tool to help me track my students and as an extra tool that students can use in the classroom (part of my differentiation – with the least able using it as appropriate). I’m also thinking of how I. An use apps like Explain Everything to blog a course as I go – creating a revision tool.

    I guess, in a classroom where all have access to an iPad, I might think differently. I think I’d still have reservations (while being excited at the things we could do to learn together).

    Your comments make me feel better and a bit less of a party pooper – its good to see someone else pause and reflect as you have 🙂

    My question for anyone who is reading – how can the flipped classroom be used in order to enable those students with the least motivation and the least parental support to succeed. They are at the top of my target list – how do we hit that target???

    • syded says:

      I completely agree – the model does work well for engaged learners. As ever, trying to stimulate the disaffected is a major concern. Thanks for commenting.

  21. Pingback: The iPad and ‘Flipping’ – Reflections of a concerned teacher | Pédagogie inversée (Flipped classroom) |

  22. Pingback: OTR Links 02/18/2013 « doug – off the record

  23. debraway says:

    I love the fact that you are being reflective. I also believe that there is enough evidence to suggest that we really must be experimenting, differentiating and at the forefront of all of this is meeting our learners at their level. I recently attended a conference where Alan November spoke of flipping, and loved the focus he had on persevering with a technique – he presented some very convincing “dare I say” evidence of sorts to encourage me further. I don’t know about you, but I am certainly getting more involvement in the learning process by the entire range of my students, and if that is the key benefit, then I believe we are on a winner. 21st century skills are much more than an A, B or C on a test. Great piece. Thanks

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