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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Flipping Your Classroom: A Reflective Checklist

Flipping the classroom has been on my mind for a few reasons.  Firstly, I am leading a PD on flipping and blending at East Middle School next week.  Secondly, Heather Bell from Collins High School emailed me today looking for some resources and guidance in flipping her classroom.  As I pondered and put together my response, I realized that sharing some of that information on Edtech Elixirs might be helpful to others.  So thank you Heather for inspiring this entry!

From the perspective of edtech tools, here is a Prezi I made on that very subject.  Along with some general pointers and resources, I discuss how Khan Academy, EDpuzzle, ShowMe, Flipgrid and Youtube can be your technological allies for flipping.

But as I've often said, tools are just that -- tools.  They are only a means to an end.  What you want to be careful about is how and why you are flipping your classroom.  Why change the paradigm?  How will it meet your learning objectives more effectively, especially if following a workshop model?  Additionally, be careful of replicating ineffective teaching practice in new emperor's clothing.  If you lecture in class for 45 minutes in a 102 slide PowerPoint without discussion or interaction or a break, and you decide to flip your classroom by recording and uploading a 45 minute video of yourself just staring into a web camera and talking and talking and talking.....well, it's likely the same students that tune out at school will not stay focused for the experience at home.  (At the very least, go shorter and include visuals!)   The trick as always is to find ways that technology in general and "flipping edtech" specifically can transform your teaching into something different and more impactful on learning.

Tools aside, if you are considering flipping your classroom, here is a reflective checklist for you to use. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • "What's the best use of your face-to-face class time?" The quote comes from Jon Bergmann (see note and links below), a pioneer in flipped classroom instruction.  The heart of this question is the "why" of flipping.  Before you worry about edtech tools or the logistics of recording, make a list of what you would hope to do more of between the bells, so you can determine what you might be able to reschedule for outside the brick and mortar of a school.
  • What will be the learning content you will flip for home?  For many, this will be some kind of video, either one you make or one already made (Khan Academy, TED, etc.).   There are other options, however.  For example, have students watch a Prezi of yours, perhaps with embedded audio made by you that narrates each movement of the “slides.”  Or the students experience an online science simulation game. The key is some kind of content delivery and/or hook to get them interested in the learning to come. Note: as a rule of thumb, don’t make a video/presentation any longer than what you would expect them to handle in one sitting as a lecture in your class.  (In fact, Bergmann and his partner Aaron Sams recommend the length to be 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per grade level; therefore an average 12th grader video would be about 15 minutes long.)   Without you as an in-person guide, having students watch long videos will probably make them stray and lose focus. Obviously, anything flipped for home that can be made interactive will keep them more involved.
  • Be honest to yourself about the time commitment.   When preparing flipped material, it will take longer to plan and prepare instruction -- especially at first.  But there's good news.  Flipped material will be reused in the semesters and school years to come, and you are saving class time delivering content in order to spend more time workshopping with students as they apply and refine their knowledge.
  • Where will you put the flipped material?  If you don't have a site that pairs with your finished product (for example, Prezi and ShowMe), you could put it on your own website or LMS (Learning Management System, like Edmodo or Canvas by Instructure).  Just make it easy to access. I should point out that putting your videos on your own YouTube channel (like this) not only makes it easy for students to find and play them (it's in the same place all year long), but gives you other teaching tools, such as making playlists and Liking videos you might share with students.
  • How will you make them accountable?  Don’t make it overwhelming, but have them commit to some kind of meaningful action before coming to class. Note the "meaningful" part; as in class, if it feels simply like a compliance tool or a lower order thinking worksheet that can be easily Googled and cheated on, consider other options.  It could be a short reflection tool, as 6th grade math teacher Mary Lohr from Oldham County uses (also see links in the Prezi above).   Or it could be to answer higher order embedded questions while they watch the video, which you can do with a tool like EDpuzzle.  Be firm in this as you would any other "legitimate" homework (it is assessed, it is collected, it is required, it gets feedback and returned).  If they have issues with Internet access at home, see below.
  • How will you address tech equity?   Do all students have some kind of device and Internet access at home?  If they do not, see what arrangements they can make to use the library’s computers before or after school, or stop by your classroom during lunch to use a class iPad while eating.   (For some districts, this is a widespread, pressing and valid issue.  Be aware of your community's reality and adjust your flip plan accordingly.)
  • What if they don’t do it?  The whole point of flipping is to save time by doing content delivery for homework and spending classtime DOING and APPLYING.  Have clearly communicated consequences and remedies for those that don’t do your flipped (home)work, while honoring those that did what they were supposed to do.  For example, If you simply end up playing the video for the whole class at the beginning, you will teach students to not waste time doing it at home….and cut into precious workshop time.  Perhaps the handful of students watch the video on personal devices and headphones while the rest of the class workshops; later, you drop a polite note to home, asking if there's anything you can do to help the student successfully complete their important homework.  Point out that by not watching the video, it takes away from one-on-one time in class with you, where you can make the most difference in their learning.

If you have advice on flipping or blending your classroom, or integrate edtech tools that are helpful, please tell us about it in the Comments below.

Note on revisions to entry:
12/17/14: After publishing this article, I found a very enlightening series of flipping/blending articles on Edutopia by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  One of these discusses how to get ALL participants -- teachers, students, parents, administrators -- on board with flipping and blending.  It's a great read and a wonderful start to their related articles.  You should also check out their website here.

4/27/15:  I inserted a recommended length of flipped videos, a link to Sams and Bergmann's website above, and added Bergmann's quote about the best use of classtime as the first bulleted question.

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