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Teaching in the 21st Century

As part of my job role, I’ve been doing a lot of research on technology in teaching. Two concepts that I really feel are important are SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environment, from Sugata Mitra) and the Flipped Classroom. After suffering a broken leg I have been recovering with 6 months off work.  Upon my return these key concepts seem to have exploded into the college as something staff should be engaging with.

This feels like an exciting time in teaching, the key concept about teaching that really struck me was in Sugata Mitra’s winning Ted 2013 key note speech: Teaching is the same as it has been for decades, but the workplace has changed dramatically, we are teaching students for jobs that are obsolete.

We need to change the way we teach for a generation that can find any information at any time at the touch of a button, but at the same time do not have the skills to filter, evaluate or analyse what they have found. I was pondering this. How easy is this going to be? Just how engrained is the traditional classroom teaching in our culture?

I’m a bit of a geek and love science fiction. I used to love watching Star Trek and was a real Trekker in my younger years. The show has been hailed as predicting/inspiring technological advances with communicators (mobile phones), automatic doors to name just two. So how did Start Trek universe predict teaching would look like in the 24th century?


Looks a bit familiar! Teacher standing at the front whilst the students sit at individual desks listening. They may have technology on the desks, but they are still learning from listening to a teacher. With a classroom like this there is no easy to for the students to collaborate or work in groups. This episode was probably recorded around 1993 so the classroom layout looks dated by today’s standards. But I feel it shows just how engrained teaching is, that despite all the technical advances writers think up about the future, teaching is still the same.

The Flipped Classroom

I really like this concept, and think it helps give students skills they need in an engaging way. This video describes this concept well.

I’ve been doing lots of reading and there are some really great YouTube videos of practitioners sharing what they have done, how successful it was and the problems they have faced. The one thing that has struck me is that:

  • Most are American
  • All are based in schools

The Flipped Classroom in FE

As a learning technologist at a F.E./H.E. college I am looking at how the concepts can be applied in this setting. In school most of the assessment is exam based, and with Government changes this is only going to increase. Watching a video of the content and applying this in class is a great way to move up Bloom’s taxonomy to the higher learning which will be beneficial when assessment is exams. In college’s and sixth forms, A levels are also mostly exam based.

However, in FE a large amount of assessment is course work, particular vocational courses such as BTEC. Teaching a vocational course can vary depending on the subject.

The question I was asking myself was: Can the flipped classroom approach be applied in FE or does it need to be modified?

As I’m writing this, I feel like I’m answering my own question. Some practical courses would definitely benefit for this approach, for example in catering: Watching a video about preparing meat and then coming to college and applying those skills in a workshop would be beneficial for both teacher and student. Courses where there is little writing and more practical and observational assessment, the flipped classroom would make class time more efficient and more engaging.

As an I.T. teacher myself previously, I was thinking of other subjects, such as business and IT, where the majority of the assessment is written (writing reports, posters, leaflets etc) and done mostly in class time. I think in this case you would have a mix.

  1. There is still all the content to deliver, having this as videos gives students flexibility, as they don’t always write the best notes, and the videos can be re-visted at any time to recap.
  2. For each video, class time can be used with practical activities to reinforce the content.
  3. Once the content has been delivered, the students would be writing their assignments, so most of their time is spent on this, both in class and out.

Once the students reach 3, the videos are still available to help them if they forget key concepts, but the lesson is not as engaging, particular towards the end of the unit, as it’s important for them to get their assignments done.

One approach would be for students to work in groups, collaborating as you would in the workplace, but at the end of the day, it is an assessment. It has to be the students’ own work.

The Flipped Classroom in the UK

There is a perception that the flipped classroom is happening in schools now. In a few years time, we will receive students how have been taught in this way, and will not be prepared to learn at college in a traditional setting. However, as most of the information I have found has been American, is this true in the UK?

As I work in a college, I have no answer. It could be that this information is not being shared or it’s just early days for the concept here. I was also wondering if teachers are under so much pressure from Government targets and Ofsted that it doesn’t leave much room for experimentation with their teaching.

I am also interested to know if colleges have tried changing the way they teach using this approach and if it works. I can feel a project brewing but as I am no longer a practitioner myself I have no classes to try this.

Starter for 10

I do deliver staff development training and have decided to use an e-learning session I deliver new staff to try this out. I’ve set up a mini flipped classroom lesson as part of this session.

The training is two days long, so on day one I’m going to give them all this:

10 minute task

The link is to a TedEd lesson I created using a video on Flipped Classroom.

On day two, they will have my session. It will be interesting to see if the staff members actually watch the video or even do the quiz or discussion. Either way, it is a good illustration of what a flipped classroom is.

So watch this space.

Comments and Questions

I would love to hear from other schools and colleges about my thoughts and what they are doing. To repeat myself, it feels like an exciting time in education, but it could just be my perception rather than actual practice.


About moodleberry

Living the e-dream as a Learning Technologist who loves e-learning and education

2 responses »

  1. Depends how “human” you’d like the lesson to be 🙂

    Great post though, thanks for sharing! I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in this area but what you’ve put forward looks good to me. I will mention your post to a colleague who might be interested.

    Some thoughts running through my head: flipped learning is just one tool amongst many; are the students ready for this type of learning (Worcestershire have taken a blended approach which is timetabled); flipped learning is a tool in itself but then there is further thought regarding tools to create learning artefacts e.g. Xerte; whatever approach (flipped; blended; online) is taken can it be scaled up (senior management buy-in, training, staff-support).

    In the broader scheme I wonder if this falls under the wider topics of digital capabilities ( and online learning (

    The following competitions might be of interest too, especially the learner ideas in FE:

    Some interesting links:

    • Thanks for the feedback and the links.

      Love the video – not much scope for collaborative teaching and learning though!

      I like the idea of using class time more practically in a session, giving students more hands on experience rather than having a lecture. As a learning technologist, I’m not a practitioner so I wondered if it is being used in FE, and how successful it is.


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