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.

 

Television & Film Studio – Published Article in Interface Magazine

This article was published in the July Edition of the Interface Magazine and is reproduced with permission.

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St Andrew’s College has been running the only professional television studio in a New Zealand school for almost 20 years, writes Simon Williams.

Professional? Well yes, in that we use TV industry equipment and systems, it’s run by two people who have a background in the industry, and professional people look after it in a technical and production sense.

Of all the classes who use it, the Year 8 and 9 students are the ones I enjoy most. They’re so full of energy, they learn fast, nothing’s impossible, and they run a show just like the pros.

When a class of Year 9 performing arts students bounce though the door three times a week to make live television shows, they’re using the same sort of gear and systems that the industry uses. The studio has recently updated its cameras, while film classes have almost new Sony NX-Cam cameras, professional sound and lighting gear, with Adobe Premiere CS5 and CS6 to edit with.

The Year 9s spend a term in the TV studio and a term in drama, just as the Year 10 performing arts students do. The younger group makes live shows that will include three or four live musical items, an interview or two, perhaps six recorded items all introduced by hosts or presenters. The shows run live – in other words without stopping. The Year 10s also make short films to run in their studio shows.

Teaching professionalism and performance

3The whole idea is to teach team work, leadership, discipline, problem solving, the safe and effective use of professional gear, and, of course, on-camera performance. To watch a 13-year-old director driving a show, with her or his vision switcher, sound, lighting and videotape operators, floor manager, and four camera operators, plus performers, is one of the reasons I enjoy the role.

We recently had a delightful young director who understood that a performance in a studio is far more than
the performers – that it’s about the whole
team. I watched this young boy speaking

to the camera ops before the how, telling them exactly what he wanted them to do, getting them to show him, before thanking them. This boy had the crew in the palm of his hand. They wanted to do whatever he asked of them.

It’s like watching the Key Competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum in action.

Command and collaboration

2A cover of Colbie Caillat’s song ‘Bubbly’ (fizurl.com/bubbly) shows one of the 11 items in the live unrehearsed show. Just look at the way the cameras are moving, the way the vision switcher is mixing at just the right speed, all under the command of a director who is only 13!

Senior NCEA media classes also use the facility. This year the Year 12 TV class made a children’s show in collaboration with the St Andrew’s Preparatory School, using the studio linked to a second facility set up there, all linked by an outside broadcast truck. Continue reading

Fusion: Collaboration Between Year 12 & Year 6 Students to Celebrate Chinese Culture With A Live TV Show

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Throughout Term 2 there had been whispers around the College of an ambitious media project being planned by Mr Simon Williams (Head of Media) that would involve collaboration between his Year 12 media students and a group of students from the Preparatory School.

The end product was called Fusion, and involved 19 Year 12 students, 42 Year 6 students, 8 TV cameras, 3 recording studios and an Outside Broadcast van to co-ordinate it all. Filmed over the course of a single day, the show incorporated a number of live acts alongside three children’s television items planned, filmed and edited earlier that were to be assessed along with the live show. Together, these formed the major NCEA Level 2 assessment for the Year 12 students of:

  • AS91252 (2.5) Produce a design and plan for a developed media product using a range of conventions
  • AS91253 (2.6) Complete a developed media product from a design and plan using a range of conventions

Background:

For a number of years now the Year 12 Media Studies class had produced a children’s programme for this assessment, but this year Mr Williams decided to see if the Preparatory School wanted to be involved in a collaboration of the actual making of the show, rather than just being the intended audience. After talking with Mrs Di Cumming and Mr Wilj Dekkers, it was quickly decided that the Year 6 students would be willing participants and that the theme of the live show should be based around China, a unit that the Year 6 students had recently been studying.

This theme was met with initial resistance by the Year 12 students, however they quickly came around to the idea as it would provide an authentic context within which their individual programmes could be incorporated through the live broadcast. These individual programmes would reflect the areas of learning of the Preparatory students and included:

  • Chinese paper cutting
  • Calligraphy
  • Dumpling making
  • Kung Fu
  • Fan dancing

To help out, volunteers from the Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury agreed to come along on the day and provide guidance to the students.

The 42 Year 6 students were divided into four groups, three groups working individual programmes as part of the show and the remaining ten students helping out with the recording and broadcasting aspects of the production.

Recording The Show:

Whilst recording live studios is regularly done at St Andrew’s College, it is normally managed from within the one studio in the Secondary School. To make this a truly collaborative project with the Preparatory School, Mr Williams decided to run a second studio from within one of the downstairs open learning spaces in the Preparatory School that you can explore here (the recording was done where the chess pieces are visible):

To co-ordinate this venture, Mr David Jensen (who helped record an early Mystery Skype by Year 3 students) was parked in the Outside Broadcast van giving directions to the various camera operators, floor controllers and presenters of the different studios. To further support the show, a number of Old Collegians with experience in the Media Studio returned to support Mr Williams and the students, further highlighting how collaborative projects like this can truly engage the community and generate very authentic learning opportunities for our students.

Throughout the recording of the show, there were a number of challenges that required the students to think on their feet and try to resolve the problems themselves. When some turned to Mr Williams for advice, he encouraged them to make decisions, reminding them that they had more information as floor managers and presenters of their various programmes than he necessarily did at that point in time. A number of the Year12 students commented afterwards that they did not think they had worked so hard in their lives, yet they thoroughly enjoyed the experience of creating a live production.

Fusion – The Show:

Some short cuts to different sections of the show are below:

As you can see, not all of the transitions between the various components of the show and studios worked seamlessly – however it is precisely this type of live show that allows students to learn and understand the teamwork required to produce a quality live performance.

Reflecting On The Show:

Mrs Cummings provided some reflections from the Preparatory perspective as well, commenting that:

  • [The] children were incredibly excited about just working in the secondary school itself.
  • All children thoroughly enjoyed working with the year 12 students… this [is] beneficial in breaking down any anxieties about these ‘big people’. We often take for granted that because we are all on the same site that this will occur almost through osmosis but it does need to be planned for too.
  • The children were absolutely exhausted afterwards … I cannot recall a time when we have all been so tired. This reflects the intensity of what occurred and how involved the children were.
  • The children had to cope with change due to the nature of the live broadcast.
  • It provided very real purpose to the learning and children knew they were working to a deadline with their inquiries.
  • Many of the positive outcomes were those we could not have planned for – the feelings of urgency, the degree of collaboration, the opportunities for leadership, etc.

Mr Williams also commented that:

Most schools simply study films for their Media Studies classes. A real point of difference at St Andrew’s College is that students can actually be involved in making live shows such as this one – it is realistic, fun and gives them experiences that make them want to continue studying Media and potentially working in it when they leave school.

Behind the Scenes – The Making Of Fusion:

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