This years big buzz word in education is the “flipped classroom”. Edudemic posted the article What is a Flipped Classroom, where Katie Lepi outlined what a flipped classroom is and the advantages and successes teachers are seeing that are using them. As Katie explained, most edtech phenoms last about 10 minutes before the next trend hits, however, it seems that a flipped classroom is going to take more than the usual 15 minutes of fame.
Last year, I had a class of grade 7 and 8 students that I knew I could try out this new phenomenon with. I researched a lot of different ways teachers did their own flipping and found that the majority used YouTube. Now, I was not partial to using YouTube for a couple of reasons. The first being that I hate seeing myself on camera. But the second was somewhat more valid in terms of education. I had a SmartBoard in my room and a lack of text books. So I would often piece lessons together by scanning bits and pieces of textbooks to form a lesson on my SmartBoard. However, if I were to then upload a lesson onto YouTube using said textbooks, I would be in violation of copyrights because they would then be able to be accessed publicly. I’m not saying that I wasn’t already in violation, but when you have a handful of textbooks for a herd of students, we make due with what we can do.
This started a conversation I had to have with my students. I explained what a flipped classroom was and that I wanted to try it with them in our next Science unit. But because I didn’t want to use YouTube, we had to come up with another common platform on which we could learn the lessons. They suggested PowerPoint because they all had access to it. So I began creating my lessons using PowerPoint. With it, I could record my voice so my French Immersion students could hear the vocabulary and for those who were auditory learners, they could “hear” the lessons. I would then upload the presentations to our class Dropbox and then they would access it at home or on their mobile devices. But because the lesson was in Dropbox, it could not be “found” on the internet where I would have had problems with textbooks and infringements.
So what was included in my presentations to ensure students actually participated in them?
Each presentation came with 2-4 discussion questions. These were questions that needed to be discussed the next day in small groups. They required some further thinking beyond the lesson and maybe even a bit of research on the student’s part. In class the next day, I broke the students into groups. Each group had 1 leader (which rotated for every lesson) who would monitor and then give a mark on 4 for participation and French language. I would display the discussion question and the groups would then discuss it. Once they finished, we came back together as a large group to further the discussion. It was really remarkable how well this worked and the insight students had.
Once the discussions were completed, the groups worked on the questions that went with the lesson. They had the time in class, the ability to ask me for help and the companionship of their fellow classmates to work through some tough questions instead of staring at a text at home alone with no one to help them. This was by far my most favourite way to have taught a unit.
But really, what did the kids think?
At first they felt a little reluctant to try it. They were worried that they wouldn’t understand the lessons and wouldn’t be able to ask for clarification. I too realize now that I needed to allow some chance for them to ask questions, comment and share more of what they are learning at home. For this unit, it was done the next day in class, which wasn’t really optimal. Here is where I would incorporate the use of Twiducate. If I opened Twiducate for 30 minutes a night where I am online with the students that need help, they could direct message me their questions and also communicate with any other students who also happened to be online.
After the unit, the students also commented on how much they liked the ability to learn on the go. Dropbox allowed them watch the presentation at the dance studio or on the way to the hockey rink. Watching the presentation and not having to worry too much about questions and having a dictionary, calculator or textbook allowed them to feel more relaxed. Each student had the Dropbox app on their smartphone or iPod giving them full access anytime and anywhere.
They also loved the fact that they then had more one-on-one question time with me. I didn’t have to plan my lesson around how long I had to talk and how much time for how many questions. If I had done this unit the old fashioned way, it would have taken me at least 5 weeks. But having flipped it, I was able to complete it in just under 4 weeks.
As much as I loved the flipped classroom approach, I fully understand how this would not work with everyone. You really have to know your demographics. In certain circumstances, not all students have access to devices or internet, so they are automatically excluded from this form of learning. So if this doesn’t cater to the entire class, I’m not sure how a flipped classroom could be successful.
I am very lucky that the school I am in and the community in my school can support this sort of teaching and I look forward to getting more teachers in on flipping their own classes.
Another great trend that I am loving and playing with is infographics. Here is a great one on the hows and whys of flipping a classroom from Knewton.