Flipping The Classroom Or Simply Utilizing Modern Technology?

PhysicsTechnology has been a disruptive force in education for a while now, allowing for educators in all sectors to re-examine how content is delivered to, and consumed by, students of all ages.

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.

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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

Monitoring Outcomes:

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.

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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:

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Conclusion:

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.

 

Videos Help With Assessment: Teacher and Student Perspectives

This article featuring St Andrew’s College teacher Mr Matt Nicoll first appeared online at the New Zealand Science Teacher website and is republished with permission. You can see the original article by clicking here.

Matt Nicoll prepares his students for NCEA assessment using online tools.

ImageScience teacher Matt Nicoll is using innovative ways to prepare his students for upcoming NCEA assessments. Matt, who teaches chemistry and science at St Andrew’s College in Christchurch, uses technology and social media to engage with fellow teachers and his students.

At the end of the first term, Matt’s year 13 chemistry students asked for more help with an assessment task. “They said ‘when we were going over the work in class, we wish we could have videoed your lesson, so we could revise it again during the holidays,’ so I made a plan to create some video resources,” says Matt.

“It does take a bit of confidence to say ‘okay, I’ll have a go at making something,’ and then to actually do it,” he says. He uploaded the video resources in the last week of the school holidays, to make sure he didn’t spend the entire fortnight thinking about chemistry assessment. The chemistry video clips ‘walk’ students through their upcoming assessment. “All I’ve done is put a ‘voice’ to it, and a ‘graphic’ to it, as it were, on my computer, and videoed it. I talk through the marking schedule, along with a commentary, or thought process about how you get there,” he says.

Sharing learning through an online community

Some of Matt’s students instigated a Facebook community for their year group, and links were also posted there, for easy access. Bradley Atkinson, who formed the group, gives a student perspective below.

Matt admits it’s useful to have such resources available for future classes, too. “The best thing about it is, next year I will be able to use it again for my new students, and it’s good to have a resource bank like this in case it’s needed.” Each time a new concept is taught in class, Matt records the lesson. “I actually video everything I teach, and I want to continue to do that because it’s nice for students to have a record of ‘their’ lesson, complete with their own exemplars,” he says. “Obviously, not every class is about teaching concepts, but when I do, I record the lesson and put the link up on the student Facebook page.”

Student viewing patterns can be easily tracked by checking the YouTube ‘views’ of each video clip, says Matt, and he is more than happy for other teachers to make use of his clips. “Because they’re now out in the public domain, I’m happy for other teachers to use the resources, if they want to.”

‘Future-proofing’ after a disaster

The initial motivation to consider the creation of an online resource bank was the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, says Matt. “I don’t know if I’d be doing this work without having had the earthquakes take place here. For example, Saint Andrew’s was shut for a month, which makes up a huge percentage of the academic year. Yet, there was still an expectation that we would provide some sort of tuition. “I remember thinking at the time, ‘if only I had a library of videos of me teaching some stuff or some other online resources I could just send students to, that would make life much easier.’”

Christchurch schools forced to close during this period were given free access to Te Kura – The Correspondence School educational material. “It was brilliant to have that access, but I also had a feeling that it would be great for my students to be able to learn from a familiar voice, and one that tapped in to earlier work we had covered,” he says.

“My students know my style, they relate to my examples and exemplars, they’re the ones that I have been working for. So after the earthquakes, because of the high levels of unpredictability, I had this idea of ‘future-proofing’ my classes. What happens if we are shut again? What happens if the school has to be shut down for strengthening work? Will we cope with our academic work?”

These thoughts led Matt to collaborate with the ICT director at his school. “We were looking at things like Moodle as a learning management system, and so the earthquakes were in a way a catalyst for thinking this way.” His assessment video work is just a continuation of this ‘future-proofing’ theme, he says. “It isn’t really a paradigm shift for me, or a change in my philosophy about preparing for assessments; it is just a response to student needs.”

Visit Matt’s blogs, complete with links to the YouTube videos here.

This is one example video of Matt teaching about Ionisation of Energy:

You can read more about Matt’s approach to using technology in his teaching inhere on New Zealand Science Teacher.

Student perspective: Bradley Atkinson

Hi Bradley. What’s your perspective on using videos like these to prepare for assessments?

I personally find it very helpful and I know a lot of other students do as well. If we ever feel as though we haven’t fully understood a concept in class, these videos are a resource that we can always go back to and spend time reviewing in order to understand the concept better and take notes.

I also find that these videos are helpful for external standards as they can refresh our memory closer to exams and offer an alternate way to review notes rather than simply reading and writing. Continue reading

This Is Us – Student Led Learning

In late 2012, Blake Morgan (2013’s Student Head of Television and Media) dreamed big. Having seen other organisations promoting themselves through lip dup videos, he pondered whether St Andrew’s College could do the same. After some initial planning of a possible route around the campus and identifying some potential songs, the project was shelved until 2013 because of time constraints.

From this initial planning however, some important realisations were made, notably that the size of the campus made it too difficult to complete the whole shoot in a single shot. Consequently, the decision was made to split the filming into three separate sections which would make the process logistically easier. The College had developed a promotional video in 2012 called “Feel the Spirit” and Blake was keen to create a new video that was designed and influenced more by students.

At the outset, Blake had a clear and somewhat ambitious goal: exceed the ~5,000 views of the “Feel the Spirit” video, and the resulting “This is Us” lip dub achieved that within a few months, currently sitting at ~14,000 views at the time of writing:

This amazing project did not just miraculously fall into place and significant planning and communication from Blake and his team contributed to this successful outcome.

Continue reading

Recording the Learning – for now and later

Today’s blog post will explore how science teacher Mr Matt Nicoll has implemented class blogs to record key learning moments that his students can refer back to at anytime.

mniAlready a regular blogger over here, Mr Nicoll started to explore what impact it might have for his students if there was a class blog targeted directly at them, recording their key notes and concepts. His rationale was surprisingly simple:

If students knew they had full access to correct and accurate notes, they would spend less time copying, more time listening to crucial explanations and demonstrations, which would lead into greater focus and accuracy when they conducted their own experiments.

One of the class blogs he is most happy with is the one for his Yr11 Level 1 Science class. When we sat down together to talk about his classroom blogs, Mr Nicoll made the pleasant realisation that the last few entries had been made by his students who were creating collaborative study notes from the lessons. Continue reading