While 1:1 laptop programs and online classes have been around for a while now – at least in the context of the quick changing landscape of ed tech – the current hotbed of innovation involves something called the “Flipped Classroom.”

In a flipped classroom, an instructor will use technology to provide access to instruction, most often in the form of a short video-based lecture or demonstration, for viewing outside of class. In the classroom, students will then use their time to work in groups or with the instructor on projects or getting questions answered.

The most recent fuss over the flipped classroom focuses on the work of Salman Kahn, a former hedge-fund analysis who first recorded a video to help a relative do a school project. Now, the non-profit Kahn Academy has more than 3,000 lessons and 6 million visitors a month.

While the attention given to the Kahn Academy is justified, the concept of flipped instruction goes back at least a decade with research into how schools and instructors may best differentiate instruction for users, switching the focus of the classroom away from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.”

Research does indicate that students in blended courses – using traditional and technological approaches — outperform their online or face-to-face peers. When done right, flipped classrooms should allow students more time to ask questions and more time to work at their own pace. The ultimate goal of a flipped approach is mastery.

While the Kahn Academy is mostly being used to supplement instruction and provide focused tutoring for students, many schools are trying to capture the instruction of their faculty and provide their own flipped approach. Smartboards already allow for the easy capture of white board notes, and new hardware/software platforms such as Echo 360 and  Camtasia are making it increasingly easy for faculty to make a video of their lectures.

Of course, as any teacher will tell you, it is easy to assign homework and somewhat harder to get students to do it. Therefore, assigning the lecture as homework has its challenges if students then come to class not having seen the material … and with no questions to ask!

Nonetheless, the flipped approach has wonderful potential to offer an avenue for differentiation and individualized instruction. Students who don’t understand the material the first time have an opportunity to view it again. Students who are competent at a particular part of the curriculum can speed through a section and focus their time on more demanding work.