Flattening the classroom by flipping the teaching engagement model

Continuing on from: The world is getting flatter – Why isn’t our educational system?

With this approach, teaching resources will not be spent on redundant or duplicative efforts such as preparing and delivering the lesson.

The video lesson and supporting services will do that.  A simple rough order magnitude business case estimates we can shift an enormous set of resources from preparation and delivery to creativity, facilitation and assessment.  Here is how significant a shift it is:

$63,033,390,000 = (180 days/year X 3.5 hours / days X $30/hr.) X 3,335,100 teachers


These tools will work for the vast majority of subjects and lessons. This cursory analysis assumes 2/3 of the lessons can be affected and that teachers deliver 5 classes /day with an average teacher salary of $30 dollars an hour sans benefits.  This obviously does not include the cost of developing the alternative content which should be offset by the cost avoidance benefit of not buying text books, improvement in teacher productivity, remedial education etc…

This approach is certainly not arguing for a reduction in teaching resources or in their level of subject matter expertise.  This approach is arguing for:

  • A reallocation of the resources away from redundant lesson preparation and delivery towards ensuring the lesson is understood.
  • A role change that would place greater responsibility on the student and introduce the opportunity to customize educational delivery.
  • teachers to become facilitators of learning and apply their creativity, knowledge and inter-personal skills but at a different phase of the learning cycle.
  • students to be able to work with parents and other students to comprehend the lesson.
  • for student centric education.


The combination of the Khan Academy and flipped classrooms allow us to do that.  The target state value chain now adopts the “create and facilitate” functions in lieu of prepare and deliver. (See Figure 2)  Ideally, if this is implemented and it provides the opportunity to save human resources by increasing the number of student to teacher ratio, the resulting resources savings should be reallocated to Early Childhood Education (ECE). Either way, as any rationale individual would conclude, ECE should be a high priority target investment opportunity due to its Return on Investment (ROI) and social benefits (3)

With this synthesized approach, we can achieve a form of scalability that allows us to focus on the application and assessment of the student’s progress.  It allows for creativity and the development of best of breed approaches for lesson preparation and delivery.  Students can progress at personalized rates using tools that conform to their learning styles.

Now, how do now get the best “quality” lesson preparation and delivery?

We take our “best” or most impactful teachers and they become the lesson producers who create and deliver the content for this new model.  We allow the best of breed lessons to develop at a grass roots level and let the market demand for quality establish what is effective.  If we empower the educators, we will find hidden stars and performers and discover teachers who are even more creative in enhancing this new model of education.  We will have tapped into a rare commodity that will enhance other teacher’s approaches and engage the students with a personalized approach. Motivating and positioning teachers to out create one another will only ensure the students are getting the quality they deserve.

Another fundamental deficiency within the current educational system is the limited role parents have.



They are effectively shielded from the most critical part of the process – delivery. The communication model is woefully inadequate and in essence is single point of failure network with the child as the weakest link. (See Figure 3)


This new model allows us to “flatten” communication increase shared access to information between parents, teachers and students. It offers a number of additional possibilities.  A student will be more empowered and vested in their educational journey and will now be more responsible and motivated to set and reach greater educational goals.  The student’s goals and progress will be easily tracked and monitored by parent and teacher.  The approach aligns well with the rapidly developing technology trends on how our whole society is researching, discovering and learning new information – self-paced, personalized and content rich.  Each lesson can be the launch point for self-exploration and research on related subjects or a deeper dive into the content.  A student’s time and motivation, home support or peer group will now be the constraining factors.  The student is no longer the weak link between parent and teacher.  Parents will have the option take a more proactive role. If they do, wonderful, if not, the student has options to pursue with peers or go solo.  Inevitably, as the amount of information and content flow increases between the parents, students and teachers, the awareness of educational system performance and accountability will organically improve. (See Figure 4)


We will accelerate the transformation from the teacher-centered pedantic model to a student-centered responsibility model.



Teachers will fulfill the challenging role of content creation, facilitation and assessment. If it takes the student 10 viewings to understand the lesson, they can now do that without system or peer pressure.  The student may do the lesson by themselves, with their family or with their peers. They can and should discuss it on social networks or in their friend’s basement.  Encourage educational topics to be discussed – anywhere and everywhere. Encourage the growth of educational communities.  Let’s destroy this anti-intellectual notion that we only learn in school and that it is best to learn by oneself.

Extending lesson delivery beyond the classroom, frees the student to collaborate and explore the best means to meet the lessons ends with a less restrictive timeframe.  Students could even share a computer and learn lessons together.  Why not?  Learning with peers has proven to one of the more effective means for intellectual, social and emotional growth.  Students should be encouraged and trained to learn collaboratively.  Why would we want to constrain lessons and learning to a teacher-centric classroom?  This is certainly not what will be expected of them in the workplace or in their personnel lives.  The world is flattening, why not the educational system and the classrooms?

Parents will no longer be “blind” to how good or bad a lesson has been delivered.

They can be active participants in educating their children using a medium that is much more natural and intuitive than a text book.  They will be able to learn for the first time or relearn, as we often have to, along with their child. They will be able to take an earlier and more pivotal role in the learning process. This is potentially the most valuable and challenging departure from the traditional model. Why is it so important?  Parents will now have the option to model education and learning in addition to all other forms of social norms. Today, we have positioned parents in the background and we wonder why we do not get more school to home communication.  The achievement gap will also improve as we can shift the roles of parent and student to be integral to personalizing the educational experience.

We all know this has to change but we have never given the parents the tools to participate nor have we positioned them effectively in the learning process.

We ask parents to help with homework but only after the child has had the lesson.  They have no insight into how effectively it has been delivered. We ask the parent to help the frustrated child when the parent has no idea how the lesson is structured or if they are contradicting what has been stated.  Let’s face it. We have outsourced education from the family. If we believe our own rhetoric and the underlying research, we all know that bridging the learning process between educators and family is transformational and the best means to ensure lifelong learners and an educated society.

Teachers should be empowered to create a “marketplace” for lessons and to be permitted to promote and sell them to schools.

Teachers should be financially compensated for these creative outputs but more importantly honored for creating a better way to educate a student. Education is one of the few work pursuits, other than entrepreneurship, where one can readily create or influence the value of the core product or service.  We can improve educational performance with consistent content that is bundled with a customized delivery that addresses our inherent learning differences. Students should be able to choose from these alternative designs and personalize their educational approach based on what works for them.  We can develop a core lessons taxonomy and semantic model that will provide a means to catalog or organize the marketplace.  Teachers, administrators, students and parents will be able to search and discover based on content and delivery style what is needed for the individual.  Imagine a parent and child researching or shopping for a lesson to understand the Pythagorean Theorem and having choices.  No more running out to shop for just pens, notebooks, rulers and backpacks.  The family can now research and construct personalized curriculum for the school year!

This marketplace would allow teachers to develop a stronger and more creative voice, to be the principal producers of lessons and content that speaks directly to the primary stakeholders – the students.

Teachers are the ones who get to see and assess what is working every day.  Allow them to build it, evolve it and ensure its impact.  Restore educators to a position of honor and respect.  Give a voice to students who undoubtedly will let the system know when it is not working.  Build a smart system that feeds and learns from itself and in the process let the model flatten.

If we do this with a national commitment, we will quickly rediscover the fact that children are not “robots”.

They are much more capable of learning and taking initiative than we have come to expect from them.  What is needed is for them to know they are the principal stakeholders in their educational pursuit.  Given the chance they will take an active role in the structuring their educational destiny from the outset in collaboration with parents, teachers, friends and peers. Our future is at stake.

(1)      National Center on Educational Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84

(2)      ASCD September 2009, Volume 15, Number 3, Highly Effective Teachers: Defining Rewarding, Supporting and Expanding their Roles. Laura Varlas

(3)      The Economics of Inequality – The Value of Early Childhood Education  James Heckman, American Educator Spring 2011http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/spring2011/Heckman.pdf