A very popular concept is that of flipping the classroom or flipped teaching – the basic concept being students watch a pre-recorded “lesson” by the teacher in their own time for homework, and then use the class time for discussion / assistance. Usually, some form of Learning Management System such as Moodle is used to deliver this content, however sometimes it is simply a link to a YouTube clip.
This came up in conversation recently with Mr Kevin Barron, a Science and Physics teacher here at St Andrew’s College who commented:
I find it amusing that we give some fancy jargon like “flipping the classroom” to something that is, to me, merely exploiting modern technology driven by a common sense need.
He went to on to identify the quite legitimate factors that are increasingly taking students out of the classroom such as field trips, sporting and cultural activities and international exchanges. Recognising this trend, he went looking for some solutions and came across the relatively obscure Microsoft product called Community Clips.
This tool has allowed him to record narrated explanations of scientific concepts whilst illustrating them in Microsoft PowerPoint, and his library of explanatory videos has now exceeded 200. He then applied this concept to his NCEA Physics classes too:
I further made NCEA examples for Senior Physics and noticed that I could really think through the key points I was trying to highlight without being under any stress.
This process is not dissimilar to what Mr Hilliam does in his maths classes, although one of the key differences is Mr Barron is recording these sessions outside of the classroom, allowing him greater time for thought and clarity, as well as providing learning opportunities for the students before they come into the lesson itself.
In some ways, this is not new for his students: he has always uploaded course content, handouts and links to Moodle beforehand. The difference is now these handouts are enhanced with voiceovers and key information, students can go over these as often as they like or require. From experience, it appears that the optimum length of these videos is around five minutes, as this caters for attention spans and also keeps file sizes manageable for uploading to the College Moodle site and Youtube.
Explaining Electricity to Yr10 Students
Moodle was designed first and foremost as a Learning Management System (LMS) so it has a number of easily accessible reports that help identify levels of student participation and engagement with content in the course site. Mr Barron utilizes these reports to see which of the students are viewing the content in advance of lessons:
One of the issues is tracking use and increasing uptake. One of the mechanisms to achieve this is to write Moodle Quizzes that test the knowledge on the videos, and adds the grades straight into my mark book … a quick quiz at the start of the lesson can accomplish a similar result.
This monitoring and visibility of what students are viewing online and that which they can demonstrate understanding through assessment is critical, and the combination of Moodle and Youtube videos facilitates this. Anecdotally, it appears that those students who watch key videos as “pre-reading” before classes appear to pick up the complex topics quicker and are more familiar with terms prior to the lessons.
Thinking Aloud When Marking Assessment For Students:
In 2013 the St Andrew’s College Pipe Band departed for the World Championships in Scotland, and won the event (see their triumphant return here). This resulted in a number of Mr Barron’s students missing the preliminary exams, and they were required to catch-up exams and internal assessments. To assist the students who had missed the teaching time whilst away in Scotland, Mr Barron “narrated aloud his thinking process” whilst marking their assessments and recorded it for them with Community Clips.
This resulted in a very targeted and condensed teaching moment for these students and was a very effective catchup for them. He was then able to extend the usefulness of this process to others:
With student permission, I asked if I could use these videos as model answers to support a wider audience
Tips For Managing This Style of Teaching:
- Get students to bring headphones to class – they can re-watch some of the videos to reinforce learning in class if they have not grasped the concepts the first time. This allows for differentiated learning as students can be extended or supported as necessary.
- Use playlists within YouTube – it keeps topics of videos together and a simple hyperlink to students gives them access to all relevant videos. This can be further enhanced by using playlists for each year level of work.
- If a student is requesting extra tuition, an expectation can be set that they have viewed the relevant explanatory video before attending the tutorial.
Using Third Party Videos:
When an excellent explanation of a concept is found online, Mr Barron will still consider using this, for example an explanation of Alleles for Level 1 Biology:
Explaining Alleles for Level 1 Biology
As mentioned above, to ensure students have viewed and comprehended the video before a class commences, the use of a simple HotPot test in Moodle can achieve this. Here are a selection of basic questions used based on the above video:
There are some clear next steps to extend this type of teaching, and Mr Barron suggested one he is targeting is filming the practical experiments conducted in class. This would be similar to what his colleague in the science department, Mr Nicoll, is already doing and which I’ve blogged about here and here. This final comment from Mr Barron is telling:
I hope that it becomes a “pull” [by students] rather than a “push” … it is not a silver bullet, but rather just another resource and tactic to use in an effective teaching programme. The more complex and demanding the classroom becomes, the more effective this approach can be … it puts a real emphasis on the student make the best use of the resources provided and it takes away some of the excuses.