Things to Consider Before Flipping Your Classroom (A Guest Blog)
Classroom Tools on September 05 2014
Earlier this week, we introduced a pair of teachers that have been working on a flipped model of the classroom. They’re back to share some key items to keep in mind that they’ve learned over the past year.
Creating Your First Classroom in the Cloud
The back to school time is quickly approaching, which often triggers a wide range of emotions -from the excitement of purchasing new school supplies to the deep anxiety about the summer ending before fully strategizing for the new year. Regardless, the time has come to begin (or continue if you’ve been diligent this summer) planning and organizing your flipped classroom to make this year the best it can be.
Things to Consider Before Flipping
For those of you just starting out with flipping, it can be (and definitely was for us) quite an overwhelming experience, especially when the timing is coupled with the start of a new school year, so here are some things to consider in your journey. The bare essentials of a flipped classroom include: digital content, a screencasting tool, hosting site, and a platform for student access. If you’re ready to get fancy, you can also include some formats for students to interact with the content (beyond just viewing the video) outside of class. We do suggest to start with a manageable goal; you shouldn’t expect to go from zero to 60 immediately. Like most things, it’s a learned process.
In our research on flipped learning, we realized that content should be thoughtful, teacher created, and relatively short. We use the 1 minute per grade level rule, so our sophomore classes never (or rarely) get a video longer than 10 minutes. This will hopefully convince students how simple homework can be – something with which our students struggle. Additionally, we strive to make the content as interesting as possible. Sometimes this is an uphill battle if you’re trying to create a lot of content all at once, but as you watch your videos back, you’ll get more of an understanding of the student perspective and what you need to edit for the future. Hopefully, at this point, you already have your digital content for the first few weeks of class (PowerPoints, Keynotes, etc.) created, so you can focus on how to actually execute this modern day classroom in the cloud.
We record voice on top of all of our digital content with screen casting tools so our students hear us and feel a connection and sense of support outside of school. On the opposite side of the spectrum, some teachers prefer to start flipping with pre-created videos (a la Khan Academy, YouTube, or Vimeo) because it’s less work on the front end. As per our experience, however, we strongly suggest avoiding this as much as possible for a few reasons:
- It doesn’t help connect your students to you in the same way as using your own voice (and possibly face) would
- It gives you the vulnerability to truly be a reflective practitioner and revise your lessons, making them more effective in the future (a look into the students’ experience)
- Students have a greater opportunity and likelihood for providing feedback to you to support their learning since you are still the one “teaching” them.
Gathering Resources to Flip Your Classroom
As any teacher would advise, what works for one may not work for everyone. There are a million different resources available today to flip your classroom, but how do you know which are the best? There’s no silver bullet to answer that, but in our experiences we found that trial and error is your best friend and having the flexibility to do that will work wonders. We had several concerns, such as YouTube being blocked and the cost of some software (Camtasia is a bit pricey if you’re working on a $0 budget) that limited our full potential to try everything. However, some schools might have more money allocated for technology, so it’s always recommended to ask your administration first. In no way do we necessarily think all of the following tools are the best, but they just happened to be the ones we ended up using:
- PowerPoint for our digital content (mostly)
- Screen-cast-o-matic.com (free videos up to 15 minutes each) for creating the videos
- SchoolTube (free) for hosting
- Edmodo (free) for giving students access.
How Is It Done?
Once we created the under 10 minute videos and chose to upload them to SchoolTube, we weren’t initially sure how to have students interact with the videos (beyond just watching). We began posting the content on Edmodo, which is often thought of as the Facebook of the education world. Here, we posed a question and had students (each with their own accounts) respond in a post, so essentially you would see a long chain of responses either directly related to your initial prompt or to another student’s comment. At the beginning this was very exciting for us because it was the first time students had dialogue outside of class about content! Yay! However, there were many students who weren’t participating, who were having difficulty accessing the content, or who were just flat out copying from their peers and superficially doing the assignments. We are still working on making the interactivity stronger and more dynamic, but for the first year of flipping, your goal should predominantly be to generate content, make it accessible, and start using your class time more efficiently and effectively. Then, once that’s mastered, move on to making the virtual lessons more interactive and determine next steps to help students deepen their understanding of the content.
No matter how you choose to flip, what tools you use, or your timeline to do it, remember to accept the bumps as much as the successes because it will be a wild ride. In fact, we often compare it to our first year teaching, as there are unexpected turns with how to manage this new design of your classroom. We will actually be talking more in our next post (late September) about the teacher’s new role and how you use this modified homework as a tool to assess your students and what to do when they don’t seem to be getting it. The best part about flipped instruction to us is the amazing feedback we’ve received from students about our videos and instruction. Students are no longer passive participants but rather have evolved into our collaborators in teaching and learning.