Considering Flipped Learning for Your Classroom

You’ve probably heard the buzz around Flipped Learning online or around your school.  If you are contemplating implementing this teaching approach, we would encourage you to carefully consider several areas addressed in this article.


The Gist

When teachers flip their classrooms, they flip around their use of classroom time and homework time.  To sum it up quickly:

  • Traditional class structure:  lessons during school → practice during homework.
  • Flipped classroom structure: practice during school → lessons during homework.
AJ Cann
AJ Cann

Click for an Infographic that gives more details on certain aspects of a flipped classroom: Oer Research Hub Flipped Classroom Infographic

The Reasoning

  • Efficiency and relationships: Proponents frequently submit these as two principal benefits of Flipped Learning. With the lectures transformed into much more efficient, shortened videos, teachers can dedicate class time for more personalized interaction with students.  This in turn can also better enable differentiated instruction (see youtube video below)

  • Revolutionizing Homework Time: Homework critics have long asserted their view that student practice at home without any teacher guidance is an ineffective, frustrating use of students’ time.  Flipped Learning has the potential to address this frustration when that practice time is instead brought to the classroom (source)¹.
  • Data Support:  Formal studies examining the effects of flipped learning have yet to come, but many positive experiences have been shared.  For instance, Clintondale High School reported that when their teachers used three 5-7 minute lessons per week to flip their classes, math and English failure rates dropped from 44% to 13%, and 50% to 19%, respectively.  They also had a sharp decrease in discipline cases. (source)².
  • Actually a Time-Tested, Old Idea?  Others bring up the point that Flipped Learning is just a modern strategy to implement a proven, John Dewey-coined pedagogy: centering the learning more around the learner than the teacher (source)³.

Some (free!) Resources

Homework Side of the Flip:

Teacher-made resources
  • Screenr:   Records a video of what you do on your computer screen (ie, a PowerPoint, Prezi, or Word Document), while simultaneously recording your voice as you explain the content.  Easy to share through Youtube or embedding.
  • Educreations: Records your voice as you draw your lesson.  You can also prepare the slides before you start recording your voice to be more efficient through your lesson.
  • Sophia: Allows you to bring in content such as PDF’s and Google Documents.  You can even attach quizzes to your lessons!
  • Youtube: Great if you want a full-blown video with your face.  Make sure the lighting and sound are high quality, though!
Already-made resources: (for details on each of these, see our article on Common Core-aligned resources for teachers)
  • Khan Academy
  • Better Lesson
  • LearnZillion

Classroom Side of the Flip

  • ExitTicket.org: Particularly if you have a 1:1 mobile devices due to a BYOD or other program (see our post on tips for a BYOD Classroom), you can check for understanding at the beginning of each lesson before proceeding to better enable differentiation.  Click here for an article on how one educator uses this!
  • Respond to questions inspired by homework lessons: Start the lesson with exploring student-raised questions that came up during the homework.  To allow you time to consider and prepare for those questions, you can even include in the homework assignment for students to email you at least one question.
  • Require students to take notes: This approach would be especially appropriate for older grades.  Just make sure you model to them effective note-taking while watching a video (see article addressing this practice).

5 Ways to Encourage Student-Centered Learning in the Flip

1. Understand Flipped Learning’s Direct Instruction Design

The official FLN (Flipped Learning Network) definition of flipped learning says, “”Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space…” (source)⁴  In other words, flipped homework videos are intended almost exclusively for direct instruction use.

For this reason, we strongly encourage every educator to be extremely selective in when and how they choose to flip lessons.  If many of your class lessons are already inquiry-based, only use flipped learning on the occasion direct instruction is needed–or perhaps, even after your inquiry lesson to extend and reinforce the big ideas students discovered.  If most of your lessons are currently direct instruction, we feel that flipped learning is just one step in how you can approach your teaching in a way that reaches more learners, and on deeper levels. (see points #2 and 3).

We have seen articles mentioning that one benefit of flipped classrooms is that students who are absent won’t get behind (source)⁵.  However, this perspective suggests that students wouldn’t miss much if they had to skip the classroom inquiry time–that the teacher-centered, direct instructional videos would be sufficient.  However, we maintain that it is critical for teachers to possess the reverse perspective if they are to cultivate a student-centered focus.

2. Don’t Depend on Flipped Learning Alone to Inspire!

To illustrate this point, we would like to reference a few educators that have discussed the topic of Flipped Learning in the context of inquiry-based instruction:

  • In his April 2013 Ted Talk, “3 Rules to Spark Learning,” educator Ramsey Musallam said the following:
    • “Questions and curiosity…are magnets that draw us towards our teachers, and they transcend all technology or buzzwords in education. But if we place these technologies before student inquiry, we can be robbing ourselves of our greatest tool as teachers: our students’ questions. For example, flipping a boring lecture from the classroom to the screen of a mobile device might save instructional time, but if it is the focus of our students’ experience, it’s the same dehumanizing chatter–just wrapped up in fancy clothing. But if instead we have the guts to confuse our students, perplex them, and evoke real questions, through those questions, we as teachers have information that we can use to tailor robust and informed methods of blended instruction.” (source)⁶
  • Edna Sackson, author of blog WhatEdSaid, shared her perspective:
    • “It’s not so much about flipping as about rethinking altogether. [emphasis added]. Learning isn’t linear. It’s not a step by step, one size fits all process. It doesn’t go in a sequence from remembering to understanding to analysing… and finish with creating. And it doesn’t necessarily have to go in the reverse order either. It depends on the learner and on the situation.” (source)⁷
  • Many individuals discussing flipped learning promote the idea of moving lower-level Bloom’s Taxonomy skills (remembering, understanding) to the homework lessons, and higher-level skills (creating, evaluating) to the classroom (source)⁸.  However, educator Shelley Wright suggests flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy as well!  She writes, “Here’s what I propose. In the 21st century, we flip Bloom’s taxonomy. Rather than starting with knowledge, we start with creating, and eventually discern the knowledge that we need from it.”  (source)⁹

3. Start With the Why

Gavin Llewellyn
Gavin Llewellyn

Author Simon Sinek gave a TED Talk a few years ago about what motivates people, stemming from his “Golden Circle” model.  He explains that what has always set apart innovative and inspiring leaders, such as the Wright Brothers, is that they they focused on their beliefs or their Why, rather than the How or What.

This concept absolutely applies to how we approach learning.  Think about your Why as a teacher:  is your end goal for students to just pass your class and move on in the system, memorizing your content just long enough to pass your tests?  Or do you hope for their sights to be raised in wonder and possibility, taking their learning further by building upon it throughout their lives?  If we focus only on results, then all of our most carefully-constructed worksheets, projects, and activities will stem from the How and What, and will likely lead to very little.  However, if we focus on the Why first, we will find increased levels of student ownership and engagement as they set their own visions higher.  (check out Edna Sackson’s post on Differentiating Learning for additional ideas for raising our own sights in this approach!)

4. Design Homework Videos to be Accessible & Useful to Students

Particularly in higher education levels, we have seen examples of teachers and professors approaching the homework side of the flip in ways that can be overburdensome and/or ineffective for students.  For example, creating videos that are especially lengthy may work in isolation for your class; however, if a student has multiple instructors who have flipped their classrooms, it may be prove overwhelming for students. Additionally, one benefit of flipped classrooms is students’ ability to pause, rewind, and replay the videos as needed to better absorb the information.  Therefore, if your 1-hour video is one among several assigned in an evening, students will be less likely to thoroughly engage, regardless of their age  Jonathan Bergmann, a pioneer in flipped learning, recommends no more than 1 ½ minutes per grade level (source)⁸.  On the other hand, instructors should also take care that the content of their video adequately covers the concepts to be practiced in class.  Finding the balance between these two ideas will come with trial and error, so be sure to seek student feedback as you do so!

As you consider how to make your videos as practical and engaging as possible, don’t forget about accessibility, either!  Many students prefer to access flipped homework videos via smartphones, so make sure the platform you’re using is available on both desktops and mobile devices!

5. Have a Realistic Troubleshooting Gameplan

  • No internet, computers, or mobile devices at home?  This is becoming a less frequent problem all the time, but it still exists!  While we have come across several potential solutions to this problem, (including burning videos to DVD’s or flashdrives, using the public library, using the school computer lab after school, or watching with a friend or borrowed device), not every idea will be practical at your school.  To guide your search, seek your students’ input to find out not only what they would prefer, but for how many of them this is an issue.  Consider factors such as your own time constraints for burning DVD’s or how many computers are even available for students at your school.  You may need to take an alternative route altogether and watch the videos during class.  See the video below to see how this works:

  • Some students don’t watch the homework videos?  Establish a formative assessment each day to check for understanding, whether it’s ExitTickets.org, emailed questions, or note-taking.  If you have computers in your classroom, you may decide that students who missed it can watch the video in class, but make sure you still have measures in place to encourage accountability (ie, the students would then have an extra assignment based on the practice they missed).

Photo Credit:

Dan Spencer (featured image)

AJ Cann

Gavin Llewellyn

 Sources:

1. Goodwin, Bryan & Miller, Kirsten. (March 2013). Evidence on Flipped Classrooms Is Still Coming In.

2. Knewton. Flipped Classroom Infographic.

3. Hertz, Mary Beth. (July 2012). The Flipped Classroom: Pro & Con.

4. Flipped Learning Network (FLN). (2014) The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™

5. Bergmann, J, Overmyer, J., & Willie, B. (2013). The Flipped Class: What it Is & What it Is Not.

6. Musallam, R. (2013). 3 Rules to Spark Learning.

7. Sackson, E. (2012). Learning Isn’t Linear.

8. Raths, D. (2013). 9 Video Tips for a Better Flipped Classroom.

9. Wright. S. (2012). Flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Practical Student Blogging

If you’re like most teachers, you have 47 other tabs open besides this one: your grade-book, email, lesson plan resources, and a couple articles on stress management.  So how can you implement student blogging without tipping the scale?


Blogging Benefits

The countless benefits of student blogging are likely what led you to this article today!  Some that we at the Honors Grad U family have witnessed through experience include:

  • Authentic audience: Parents, teachers, peers, and even fellow students across the globe can view, comment, and contribute to the learning!

  • Developing practical tech skills: Besides the obvious benefit of typing practice, blogging is a perfect tool for introducing and practicing skills from copying and pasting to simple HTML editing to maintaining various digital accounts.

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  • Multimedia Literacy:  Growing up, we all made dioramas from shoe boxes, wrote 5-paragraph essays, and crafted posters.  However, 21st century students can and need to also become fluent in an ever-expanding pool of digital resources.  Blogging gives them practice in creating and sharing pictures, Youtube videos, Educreations, Thinglinks, Infographics, Prezi’s, and much more!

  • Engaging Assignments/Projects Through Student Choice & Variety: It can be difficult to keep the passion burning when you introduce a persuasive writing unit.  However, when you also introduce the idea of also including persuasive imagery, as well as actually sharing their work with their intended audience, suddenly things get much more intriguing and personal for each student!

  • Simpler Teacher/Student Collaboration: You’ve experienced the dredge of writing comments on dozens to hundreds of assignments–and that’s only after deciphering questionable handwriting!  Once students have posted various artifacts to their blogs, you can easily type feedback–and depending on your platform, that can even be made private!

  • Easily Accessible Digital Learning Portfolio: Say goodbye to clunky binders with half-ripped-out pages from September by the time you get to March!  If you just consider the use of a few tags, you can already imagine how much easier it would be to navigate the archives of a digital portfolio.

Simple Steps for Success

  1. Pick a Platform:  Spend time exploring your options, privacy needs, and budget.  Most platforms are free on a basic level, but if you want more storage, you’ll want to consider budgeting for your account.  You can even try talking to your administration for some budgetary help, especially if they want to purchase a group package for your school!  Kidblog, WordPress, and Edublogs are all common options that allow you to add users with you as the administrator and moderator!

  2. Permission: Make sure you discuss your school’s privacy policies with your administration before you get started, especially if you’re the first teacher at your school to start student blogging!  You may just need to make a permission slip from parents for each student, or you may find that media permission slips have already been submitted to the school!

  3. Carve out class blogging time: This is probably the hardest step of all!  However, if you are an elementary school teacher, just a weekly 30-45 minute time slot should be enough to get them started!  For secondary levels, you may be able to do more at-home blogging assignments, but you’ll still want to establish at least a little class time for modeling how to use the resources (see below).

  4. Internet Safety & Respect:  Before students enter their blogs for the first time, make sure they are all familiar with basic safety rules, including sharing their personal information (this website is full of teaching ideas).  Also, practice proper etiquette in commenting on paper (see lesson ideas here), before launching into the real deal!  Creating and signing a class blogging contract for future reference is always a plus, too!

  5. Establish clear expectations:  Decide what’s most important to you for their blogs.  If you expect capitalized titles, tags for every post, and a reflection, make sure it’s clear from the beginning.  Let students know you won’t publish any posts missing basic expectations (but make sure they are reasonable for your students’ level as well)!

  6. Choose a few resources: While you’ll definitely want to introduce them one at a time (see below), spend some time beforehand identifying and familiarizing yourself with the main resources you want to teach your students to use.  We recommend choosing one resource for each subject you want your students to be able to exhibit.

    1. Math: Educreations is fantastic resource that allows students to explain their thinking as they draw while also recording their voice!

    2. Reading: You can use Audioboo to have students record their reading skills throughout the year!  Particularly for younger students, it would be powerful for them to literally listen to their progress from September to May.  For a free option (Audioboo maxes out after 3 minutes), you could also use Youtube, even covering up the camera so it just records their voices.

    3. Writing: Obviously, the simple text of a blog post is a great way to share student writing throughout the year. However, you can easily liven things up by introducing a word cloud maker like Wordle.  Not only would it add some beauty to their published piece, but it can also help students visualize their most common word usage in essays!

    4. Art: Older students will likely already be familiar with Photobooth to simply take pictures of their art pieces, but you may need to spend time teaching younger students how to take and upload photos to their blogs.

    5. Science/Social Studies: Thinglink allows students to collect several online articles, videos, and photos into one beautiful interactive presentation!

  7. Introduce one at a time:  Even if it takes several months, it is worth teaching and  practicing just one resource at a time!  Before moving to the next resource, thoroughly familiarize them by allowing them to explore several examples, create a few of their own on their blogs, and collaborate with one another’s work through commenting.  We’ve also found it effective to print and display a board of step-by-step guides for each resource for students to reference in the future.

  8. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL!!  Every chance you get, model how you would like them to use each resource.  Using your own blog account, create multiple examples of each resource for them to reference.  Remember to also model quality comments on their own blogs throughout the year!

  9. Make sure it’s accessible to parents: One of the most rewarding aspects of student blogging is to watch parents connect authentically with their child’s work!  Make sure links to student blogs are available on your classroom blog, and/or email reminders to parents after students have finished blogging projects!

Additional Ideas

Once you get into a groove with blogging, here are a few other ideas to consider to keep things exciting for your class:

  • Student Blogging Challenges: Websites like this one offer wonderful challenges for students to tackle in their blogs!  You can always get creative and craft a few of your own!  For high schoolers, this can even be in the form of working on scholarships, such as our very own Honors Grad U Scholarship, as students share their progress on their blogs!

  • Quadblogging:  This is one of the best ways to connect globally with classrooms just like yours!  Four classrooms form a quad, with each class taking turns being the  highlight classroom, while the other three visit their blogs and leave comments!  One member of our Honors Grad U family has experienced connecting with classes from the U.K. & China!

  • Consider social media: Another way to break down your four classroom walls is social media, including Twitter (Click here for our post on Twitter for teachers)!  Educational hashtags can allow your students to quickly find feedback from around the world.  For example, #comments4kids is specifically intended to post links to student work for others to leave comments!

  • Badges: www.classbadges.com is a fun way to motivate students to work to visually earn various achievements!  You could also use them in conjunction with your student blogging challenges!

Hopefully, these steps allow you to tackle student blogging in a manageable, practical way!  Leave a comment if you have any questions or additional ideas as you get started!


photo credits: DeathToTheStockPhoto (featured image)

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