Tips for Flipping the Classroom Part 1: Videos

I was given the opportunity to attend a day of the TCEA conference this year.  Last year I went for multiple days of the conference, but it was just an overwhelming amount of info and I left with lots of disorganized notes and then with the Spring semester and all the craziness that it brings, I didn’t have time to actually make good use of them.  So this year, I went to TCEA with a goal in mind:  I was going to pick up as much good info as I could about trying to flip classes, especially how to troubleshoot 1) lack of devices, 2) how to get kids to do their flipped assignments outside of class, 3) how high schools – and low SES high schools in particular – were able to implement this model (success stories, so to speak).  While a lot of sessions were kind of redundant for me, I did go to one particularly awesome session with @TechNinjaTodd (www.toddnesloney.com) who gave us some great tips for flipping the class and integrating PBL, and another session with @hollyteaches, @patrickreid28, @megmills43, and @ClarkAmyA which gave some great info also.

Instead of writing a novel of a blog post, I’ll break it into sections over the coming week.  This one focuses on the Flipped Videos.

TIPS FOR THE FLIPPED VIDEO

1)  Videos should NEVER be more than 10 minutes, and you should only do videos 1-3 times per week.  

If your video is more than 10 minutes – and really, five or six minutes is ideal – people won’t watch them.  Even adults don’t want to sit through a 10 minute video usually, especially not one of lecture.  And a flipped classroom doesn’t mean creating a video for homework every day of the week.  You should only have a flipped video for when you need new content.  So if you’re covering a new topic, but then you’re going to spend three days in class working on a project over that topic, then you don’t need a new flipped video for three days.  Makes sense, right?

2)  Eliminate Excuses.

“But Miss, I ain’t got internet at home!”
“My computer’s broken.”
“I can’t get to school early or stay after late because [insert long, mostly made up story here].”

Etcetera.  As educators, we hear excuses ALL. THE. TIME.  From students, parents, you name it.  So how do you eliminate excuses?

First, when it comes to flipped videos, you should post them in multiple locations.  Mr. Nesloney puts them in four places:  YouTube, Sophia, iTunesU, and Edmodo.  YouTube is the go-to video portal, but some filters block YouTube, so you can’t stop there.  Sophia is a great option because 1) it’s free, 2) the website automatically redesigns to be compatible with whatever device is accessing it, 3) it has video analytics, 4) you can add stuff like WSQs and quizzes that prevent students from going on to the next lesson until they’ve mastered the current one.  Awesome, right?!  [PS – you can apparently become a Certified Flipped Classroom Teacher pretty easily through their site!]  So YouTube and Sophia are great, why should you post it to iTunesU also?  Well, students without internet access at home (which is commonly the case in low-SES districts) can download the videos while at school and access them without internet connection through iTunesU!  No internet, no problem/excuse!  And lastly, Edmodo is Mr. MNesloney’s central communication hub, so linking to the videos there allows him to communicate the message out to his students and parents. “I didn’t know” becomes obsolete.

But there are other complications.  What if a student doesn’t have the internet but has a computer?  Put the videos on a flashdrive.  No internet and no device, but they have a DVD player/gaming system that plays DVDs?  Burn them on a RWDVD.  For the very few who have no internet, no device, and no DVD player, you can see about checking out devices from the school library.  And the beauty is, these videos are – if you’re following tip #1 – 10 minutes or less.  So students could also come to your class 10 minutes before school or stay 10 minutes after school and watch the video, or even come during the lunch.  They could meet at a friend’s house and watch the video together (social constructivism at its finest!).  NO EXCUSES!

3)  OK, so I’ve got the NO EXCUSES thing covered, but they’re STILL NOT DOING IT.  (I teach 9th graders, ya dig?!)  

This was the biggest problem that we’ve faced as a campus.  We have implemented 1:1 for a few targeted classes, so we know the kids have devices, they have internet access while at school at the very least, and they can download or watch the videos while here, but whadayaknow, they’re still not doing their homework!  So what should we do about that?  Well, I picked up two great ideas.

First, we should tie watching the videos to rewards.  One idea is to tie it to their grades (either giving them bonus points, or having each video and assignment lead up to one cumulative grade for the grading period).  But if you work with students who aren’t necessarily motivated by grades (it’s a different world than I grew up in!), you could tie it to things they do care about.  For example, don’t give out restroom passes – make students earn them.  For every 5 homework assignments that they complete to your satisfaction (<– key point!) they can earn one bathroom pass.  Or they can turn it in for stickers or edible rewards, etc.  Get creative – you know your kids, and you know what you’re willing to keep up with.

Project Based Learning is the other great suggestion, though it requires a lot more effort and front loading than the other.  The idea is this:  Avoid the worksheets.  Do more projects and hands-on, social constructivist learning.  Kids love to socialize, so don’t fight it!  Make your class a place your students can’t wait to get to.  Then here’s the kicker:  if they haven’t done their homework, they have to sit aside and do the less-fun worksheets while everyone else is doing the fun group work project.  But this ONLY WORKS if kids want to be working on those projects in those groups!  Otherwise it’ll backfire!

4)  Make your own videos, and don’t edit out the mistakes.  

These are two small but invaluable tips I learned from the conference.  Even though it seems like a lot of work, making your own videos and using your own voice serves a purpose:  your students are familiar with you.  They understand the way you talk, they relate to your voice, and chances are, the assessments you create use that same voice and vocab.  It helps prepare them even more if you simply keep consistency in the educator’s voice.  And as for the mistakes, leaving them in teaches kids a very valuable lesson:  everyone – even the infallible Mr./Ms. [insert your name here]! – makes mistakes.  And making mistakes is OK – we don’t shut down, we don’t get really upset, we just correct them and learn from them and life goes on.

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