There has been much on flipping classrooms in the edusphere recently, and it is gaining steam. While I had made a few attempts with mixed results, I felt it was time to jump in with both feet. Here’s the why and how, and some initial impressions…
Over the last few years, but this year more than ever, I have noticed a growing disconnect between students and school. I get the sense that students feel lessons are something to be tolerated, and work simply an obstacle that has to be surpassed before they can get on with their lives. Not all, but enough that it sets a tone. I have also noticed that when they have things to do in class they are much more engaged, as long as the doing starts at the beginning of class. If I begin with even a 15 minute mini-lesson before giving them things to do the assigned work/activity/questions automatically becomes “homework”, and therefore not immediately important. I realized that by flipping the class I could assign lessons for at-home consumption, and the start class right off with doing. I also realized I needed to get students doing more questions more frequently – written, verbal, or whatever – so that they could get a better handle on what they do or do not understand.
So the plan was to start with the final unit in grade 9 Science, which is Astronomy. My colleague and I would record lesson videos and post them in BlackBoard for the students, along with copies of the notes, additional links and resources, and the expectations/objectives/standards of the lesson. In class we would start off with a few questions on the content of the video lessons, and move into an activity applying the concepts.
The lessons themselves consist mostly of my Colleague, Ross, and I narrating and explaining a the points of a lesson on Powerpoint. The screen is recorded using Camtasia 5 (which we bought a license to years ago and no one else in the school uses it) , while Ross and I appear onscreen thanks to the keep in front feature of AMCap. We can switch to other simulations, images, videos, or web pages as necessary. I did a few on my own, but I find it MUCH easier when I can talk with someone. It just flows more naturally.
So far, my impressions are that it improves the efficiency of delivery, allows the students who miss class for sports or other reasons to catch up more easily. Despite my hopes that each lesson could be kept to under 15 minutes, that is not always the case – my longest single vid is 20 minutes, and some of the lessons are three vids of 7-10 minutes each. With feedback from the students, I now post two separate modules for each lesson, one called “at-home part” and the other “in-class part”. They are numbered (eg 4A and 4B), and colour coded the same to help identify they are together.
It is hard work. Though I have the Powerpoint lessons from previous years that can be modified fairly easily, filming them in advance, editing and posting them along with notes and resources, and putting together activities and questions for class is hugely time consuming – the first time.
It is enlightening – while editing the videos I realize just how often I say “Okay, so, um…” in 10 minutes. This will make me be more conscious of how I present, and will help me improve my skills for any type of presentation in future.
Not all the students have fully bought in – some show up to class without having viewed the lessons, and need to waste time playing catch-up. But then, these are also students who typically tune out during an in-class lesson, so they are no further behind, and can in fact catch up more easily.
My next steps are to tighten up the sequence, to get better flow between the videos, the question sets and the activities, and to get the students involved with the videos.