Saturday, June 21, 2014

Four Things To Consider Before You Flip Your Classroom

This post first appeared on Edudemic in July 2013

The Flipped Classroom model is gaining momentum in classrooms around the world. 
Much has been said and written about the benefits and advantages of the Flipped Classroom throughout the year, so during the last three weeks of school I decided to experiment with this model of instruction and I flipped my math classroom.  Using Explain Everything on my iPad, I created a series of videos that my students watched prior to coming to school.  In the classroom I had the opportunity to take advantage of the extra instructional time, as well as their excitement about sharing the knowledge they gained by watching the videos I created, and tried to engage my students in high order mathematical tasks.  Although the results were highly encouraging and made me a fervent proponent of the Flipped Classroom, there are four things that I think every classroom teacher should know before they start using the Flipped Classroom model.

Some Students Might Need Time to Adapt
Teachers should keep in mind that many students will need a week or two to adjust to the new “homework reality” that the Flipped Classroom is based on.  In fact, during the first couple of weeks many of the most responsible and hard working students who typically never miss a homework assignment will manage to “forget” to do their homework.  Although I suspect in my case, classroom fatigue is partially to be blamed for this phenomenon, after all, the end of a very long school year was close, I believe there is a deeper reason for this unwanted occurrence.  Some students might not do their homework because they are used to a more concrete and traditional paper-and-pencil homework assignment, and therefore they might perceive this “new homework” as abstract, irrelevant, and perhaps not as important.  Providing access to a laptop and privileges to watch the videos before the beginning of the school day may alleviate some of the problems, but eventually the students will have to understand that in a flipped classroom, completion of the homework assignment is a key component to successful learning.

Teacher-Made Videos Must Be Engaging
Watching teacher-made videos before class is one of the most commonly used components of the Flipped Classroom model.  It is widely accepted that the most effective videos are the ones that manage to keep students accountable for their learning.  This can be achieved by using a number of clever techniques to attract the students’ attention and captivate their interest in the lesson.  For example, at key parts of the lesson/video the teacher might instruct the students to pause the video and answer a question, or take notes, or make a prediction, or work on a short problem that requires students to apply recently learned knowledge.  Such techniques make students active participants and empower them to take control of their own learning.  In my short Flipped Classroom trial, I found that the video lessons in which I instructed the students to pause the video and answer specific questions about the nature of the math concept the lesson explored, led to some unexpectedly rich discussions in the classroom, transforming my students into self-motivated and dedicated learners.

Recording Time Might be Longer That you Anticipate
Teachers should know in advance that the time they will be spending to record lectures will be longer than anticipated, at least in the beginning.  A ten-minute video will take much more than ten minutes to complete.  First, the teacher will have to collect all of the resources and previously prepared material he/she intends to use in the lesson, such as background pictures, maps, or math problems to name a few.  In addition, unless you are proficient in screencasting, chances are that you will need to repeat recording the same lesson several times in order to create the highly effective video you originally had in mind.  This can be frustrating and even a deal breaker for some teachers.  Most people who flipped their classroom agree that in the beginning, teachers should expect to spend an average of 30 minutes of recording time to create a 10-minute lesson.  However, after the first four-five lessons, most people become more comfortable with screencasting and recording times reduced significantly. 

Video Formats Should be Chosen Carefully
Teachers need to make sure in advance that their students will be able to access the videos, and that these videos will be in formats that are playable by most video players.  I ran into this problem myself.  Using Explain Everything, I saved my videos in .mp4 format.  It turns out that some of my students have computers at home that are really old and not equipped with up-to-date video players.  Consequently, they were not able to watch the videos I made.  Teachers should keep in mind that many students will not have access to the latest and greatest of technology, and therefore they might not be able to access videos created on iPads or lessons recorded using modern software.  Saving each lesson in multiple formats might be a solution to this problem.  Also, creating a Youtube channel and posting videos on Youtube will make videos more accessible to all students.

What about you?  Have you flipped your classroom yet?  If yes, what are some obstacles you ran into? Do you have any advice/insight to share?

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