Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Flipped Classrooms: A Primer

I sent this information to my staff about flipped classrooms in my weekly Tuesday Teacher Tips email.  I would love to get to collaborate with teachers in my building using this as a basis.  Have you had any success with the flipped classroom concept?  What are the pros/cons that you can think of?
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What is a Flipped Classroom?

A “Flipped” classroom is one of the newest trends in the push for student-centered classrooms.  In this approach, teachers video record those “sit and get” lectures, or gather a selection of video clips that would cover the content, ask students to watch the videos for homework, then come to class prepared to ask questions about the content, practice the concept or work on projects. 
Essentially, the goal would be to make class time a time of total engagement, where students have access to their teachers for feedback during the critical time when they are struggling to understand and apply the material.
According to the article “Flip Your Students Learning” by Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, flipping the classroom allows for greater in class time to be dedicated towards achieving the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy where students will be working with the teacher to apply, analyze, evaluate and create.  It will also, according to the article, allow for “Self-Paced Learning” where students have lectures at their disposal to view when they are at their best or review when they need to brush up on content.
Check out Aaron Sams & Jonathan Bergmann in this 2 minute YouTube video about flipped classrooms

Should you Flip your Classroom?

When trying to decide whether or not you want to flip your classroom—or even just flip lessons—you need to consider the possible drawbacks and the benefits of doing it.
There are some obvious questions to consider before you choose to flip your classroom. 
First you need to consider the technology needs and if your students will have equitable access to the technology required to view videos.
Additionally, you need to consider whether or not the content lends itself to “flipping”.  Bergmann and Sams point out that “Not all classrooms lend themselves to flipping.  Courses that are more Socratic or inquiry-based, or those that don’t have reams of factual content for students to learn, aren’t particularly suited to flipping”.  They point out that courses “that consist of large quantities of content on the low end of Bloom’s taxonomy—in the categories of remembering or understanding—will likely undergo a greater transformation”. 
You should also consider whether or not you feel like you have the technical savvy—or whether or not you can partner with someone with the technical skills to help you flip content.  While you can use many different methods to create videos of your lectures, transferring the videos to the computer and to appropriate sites can sometimes be time consuming and frustrating.
Despite some of these questions and extra technology considerations, the actual benefits of flipping your classroom could be astounding.  Consider the elementary school teacher who needs to communicate to students and parents the finer details of the next big project; if that was presented in video format, it could be shared on a class website and all members of the learning community would have access to the same information and directions.  Think about the benefit it would have for the student who struggles with learning math concepts.  Creating a screencast of solving a problem or directions for how to do a particular problem could be shared and viewed over and over as a method of review.  Or what about giving that science lecture for homework so that you would have more time to conduct experiments in class?  You might also track down other examples of flipped lectures on the same topic and offer students a variety of explanations on the same topic.
If all of this seems like it would just take way too much time, consider what Lodge McCammon, project director of the Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State points out “I would give the same 70-minute lecture three times a day to my students—210 minutes of lecture on the same topic...if you film that same lecture, it ends up being between 8 and 10 minutes” (Springen 24).  I would agree with that statement.  When I have something to demonstrate in the library that requires going online, I often create a screen cast of the demonstration because I have found that in the long run, showing screen cast is actually faster than waiting on what could possibly be a slow internet connection, and it saves time because I take away the chance of spelling a URL wrong or showing something I didn’t intend to show.
How can I get started?
So maybe you want to give this concept a try, but don’t know exactly where to start.  My suggestion is that you start small.   Pick only the most important concepts and create a 2-3 minute video to share on your classroom website.
As Karen Springen points out in this month’s School Library Journal “Stephen Spielberg-quality videos are not the goal” - check out the link to the online article below (25) .  If you have any knowledge of  how to use Smart recorder, begin with that and create a screencast.  A screencast is recording of the actions on the desktop and includes narration—you record your voice and not your image. 
Don’t have time to do create the video ahead of time?  Don’t sweat it—record your screencast as you present the concept, directions or lecture to your class, then post it on your class website so students can go back and view it later if they missed something.  This way it’s also recorded for the next time you might need the same content.  Or search YouTube, Teacher Tube and iTunes U for videos on the same topic you would present about.  Maybe someone has already created a lecture over the same material.
How can you use the content you created, especially if you aren’t sure students will watch it? You’ll need to get your students used to the idea of watching videos for homework or using them to get directions.  You might start with showing the video lectures, directions etc in class and model where to find them and how to use them.  If you have iPads or computers in your classroom, consider creating videos for center time or individual research time that students can view.  Tie that to some sort of formative assessment, and you have a learning activity and evidence of the whether or not it works for your students.
Hosting sites to consider
If you’re not sure where to put your videos to share them, you could upload them directly to your class website, you could create a school account on YouTube Education and make your videos “Unlisted”, which means that only people with a direct link can access them, or you might consider sharing the videos through a service like Edmodo.
Recording your first  screencast
I highly recommend starting small and using Smart Notebook Recorder.  I shared this YouTube video from Radford University awhile back, and it’s a good one to review if you’re not sure how to use the recorder.
Resources to Check Out
The 10 Best Web Tools for the Flipped Classroom” - Edudemic (these are good resources)
“Flip Your Students Learning” by Aaron Sams & Jonathan Bergmann—ASCD
“Flipped Classroom Webinar Series” by Aaron Sams & Jonathan Bergmann—ASCD


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