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The flipping librarian

One of the things I am getting ready to do in September is to help a growing number of interested teachers flip.

Just in case you’ve missed it, many educators are thinking about flipping.

What is flipping?

Flipping the classroom changes the place in which content is delivered. If the teacher assigns lecture-type instruction–in the form of video, simulations, slidecasts, readings, podcasts–as homework, then class time can be used interactively. The class becomes conversation space, creation space, space where teachers actively facilitate learning.  The home becomes the lecture space. The hundred+ year-old frontal teaching model flips.

Flipping frees face-to-face classroom time for interactive and applied learning, activities that inspire critical thinking, exploration, inquiry, discussion, collaboration, problem solving.  So, the classroom and the library become more learner-centered.

According to teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, considered by many the co-founders of the movement, the Flipped Classroom begins with one question: What’s the best use of your face-to-face class time?

In this short video, Sams explains the rationale behind his shift in classroom practice:

For much more information and a conceptual model, read the work of Jackie Gerstein and follow her Flipped Classroom

Does flipping work?

It’s a bit early for research, but TechLearning recently shared the preliminary results of an ongoing survey initiated by the Flipped Learning Network.

Of 453 flipped educators surveyed:

  • 88% said flipping improved their own job satisfaction
  • 67% reported improved student test scores
  • 80% reported improved student attitude
  • 99% said they would do it again next year

Flipping for differences

The Flipped Classroom Manifest explains describes how a flipped strategy allows teachers to meet the different needs of learners:

You could take valuable class time and have everyone get their calculator and follow you step-by-step, with some students bored and ahead, and some students behind.  You need to stop class and get students caught up if they missed a step. Then a day, week, or month later, you will need to go through the steps again to remind kids of the process.  Or you could create a simple five-minute video showing the steps to enter data and run a linear regression. This is a permanent archived tutorial. Advanced students may never need to watch the video again. All students can re-watch the video as needed. Now, there is more class time for data collection, collaboration, and application.

Flipping is not outsourcing

Successful flipped classroom teachers often publish and archive their own instructional content. Though a wonderful array of out-sourced video instruction is available, much of it the form of OER (open educational resources), it may not meet local needs and it may not be as personally relevant as home grown instruction.  Teacher Katie Gimbar makes a compelling argument for why teachers need to create their own customized content for their classes:

But what about the librarian?

I’ve done a bit of reading, but I haven’t seen any of the flipped educators discuss the role of their librarian in their practice.

But I see flipping as a serious sweet spot for the talents of librarians.

1. Who better to introduce the concept of flipping to the school?  We are already (hopefully) trusted tech scouts in our schools. We know our teachers and their teaching styles. We can predict which teachers will best blossom with a flipped approach and help those who are flipping-curious begin with a hybrid approach.

2. Who better to help educators select and curate the best possible bounty of educational content available? Flipping takes advantage of the new wealth of shared educational content and open education resources.  Finding and evaluating resources to support content area learning is already our business.  Knowing the curriculum and the needs of our teachers, we can scan the content of  TED-ed with its new archive of beautifully animation-enhanced and personally flippable TED talks as well the wealth of content on sites like the OER Commons, Curriki, Khan Academy, SolveforX and MIT Open Courseware. There’s so much more. Check out our guides to open educational resources and documentary and nonfiction film.

In our excitement about OER, it may be easy to forget that flipping can also exploit more traditional library content. Flipped teachers should take full advantage of the fabulous content we have in subscription databases containing content in all media flavors–video, print, newsfeeds, ebooks, journals, and more.

3. Who better to provide the professional development for the large number of teachers who need support before they are up to full flipping capability themselves? Who better to help educators discover and use the best tools and copyright-friendly media for creating or remixing customized instructional content?  We’ve already taken the lead in introducing digital storytelling, presentation, poster-making, digital publishing, curating, organizational and documentation tools to students and teachers.  This is the year to provide instruction in creating learning artifacts using screencasting, slidecasting, video lectures, digital stories, instructional posters and simulations.

It is only logical that we introduce the tools that can enhance teachers’ abilities to engagingly create and publish original, personalized instruction. In fact, I think it goes way further than introducing the tools.  What I’d like to do is to work closely with our teachers in producing instruction.

Here’s a list of just a few of the slidecasting/screensharing tools available, and my wiki for our teachers and our guide to copyright-friendly media.

4. And speaking of instruction and collaborating with classroom teachers, who better to guide and work with students to create content to contribute to the instructional archive? Take a look at the work of Mr. Marcos and his students on  Take a look at the grammar lessons produced by our library and our video classes and archived alongside available professional material.  Real learning is evident when students are able to teach the content. Archiving their efforts validates student work. Sharing and publishing the work of students models for them the importance of participation in a community of practice.

5. And finally, what better to flip than the library?  Library instruction is ripe for flipping too. In fact, many of us already maintain a comprehensive virtual library.  And many of those virtual libraries curate learning material from our own video channels, poster archives, slide archives, guides to projects and lessons and tools. We share our professional development, our lessons, tutorials in effective questioning, searching, documentation, thesis building, research strategies and more.

Perhaps, as a profession, we could be sharing this instruction more effectively. Frankly, I’d like to see an archive like the Cooperative Library Instruction Project (CLIP) for the k12 practitioners.  (Hmmm . . .  I think I see a new crowdsourcing platform on the horizon.)

And physically, if more student research happens at home, should the library function even more heavily as making space?  I’ve said many times, that our libraries are now more kitchen than grocery store–more transformational than transactional. When they are in the library, I want to make sure that learners exploit their opportunities to collaborate and create, not merely access our resources.

I know from our stats that students use the resources of our virtual library heavily when they are not in the library–when they are in classes or at home or on the bench at sports.  I want to make sure that our virtual platform solidly supports instruction, learning and creativity. And that includes its mobile version.

Many librarians and libraries are already flipped.

So I thought I’d flip this post a bit. Here’s a learning playlist on flipping.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. I love this how idea of flipping. It’s something that really seems to be catching on now and for good reason. Technology these days allows teachers to communicate basic ideas and concepts outside of the classroom and dedicate class time to more interactive, critical thinking and discussions. Love it!


  1. […] slidecasts, readings, and podcasts—as homework, then class time can become interactive. Flipping frees the class for face-to-face critical thinking, exploration, inquiry, discussion, […]

  2. […] slidecasts, readings, and podcasts—as homework, then class time can become interactive. Flipping frees the class for face-to-face critical thinking, exploration, inquiry, discussion, […]

  3. […] The flipping librarian | NeverEnding Search By Joyce Valenza […]

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