8 Reasons Why a Flipped Classroom Works

Many people ask me why Flipped Learning works and so I came up with 8 reasons why it worked for me.

1. Individualized instruction

It is amazingly rewarding when I can sit down with all my students and discuss their work one-on-one. I can invest the time in each student because I now have the time. I’m able to focus more of my attention on every student.

2. Community

In a flipped class students have more time to collaborate with each other. My students are constantly reading and revising each other’s work, brainstorming ideas together, and making the working process communal. They want to work together and help each other. They are all invested in each other’s success. My students became a community!

3. Self-pacing or Guided-pacing

I do have deadlines that must be met, so I call my class “guided-pacing”, as opposed to totally self-paced. However, what students work on when is up to them. If their creativity isn’t sparked that day, they work on something that may require some lower level skills like watching a video or completing some grammar exercises. Others will storm into my room beaming with energy. They are enthusiastic to get working right away because they just can’t wait to get these ideas out. When I see a student with unbridled enthusiasm, I can release the reins and let them run with it. When I see a student with motivation problems, I can discuss and problem solve with that student. The students aren’t bound to wait for me to give any direct instruction and I am not either.

4. Choice in activities/alternate assessment

The ability to individualize instruction also gives the ability to individualize assessments. I can offer my students multiple options in how they show learning. When I teach concepts, students aren’t constrained to one way of showing me understanding. My requirements are objective-based and not assignment-based. The student’s goal then is to show proof of understanding the objective. Many will choose the assignment I’ve set up for them because that is what years of schooling has taught them. But, not all will. Students always surprise me with their creativity.

5. Focus on the “fun stuff”

We may have said it once in our career, “Students, I know this is boring, but we have to get through it.” Let’s hope we’ve only said it once. Put this material on video. Now, I’m not saying your videos having to be boring. For me, the “fun stuff” is the activities we do. The application of the material and watching the students grow and make deep connections to the material. With a flipped class, very day we do the “fun stuff”.

6. More Effective Grading

After flipping, I take significantly fewer papers home to grade at the end of the day. I don’t want to say that I don’t still work hard. I just work harder in different areas. When I assess students’ work, many times I’m able to read it in class with them. I can give them feedback immediately. If I want more time to digest it, I’ll make myself a note to look at it again later. And, since I’m not reading stacks of papers all in one or two sittings just to get them a grade, my feedback is more targeted and richer

7. Efficiently use time

Some skills can be taught in a relatively short time frame. Other advanced skills cannot. While I can teach the basics of MLA formatting in a few classes; teaching proper research skills takes much longer. Now, I shorten the time needed to teach these skills. I’m sitting there with the students as they’re doing research. This contact with each student allows the entire class to move through the content more efficiently with deeper understanding. But, saving that time is not worthwhile if the students aren’t learning. I can confidently say that they are more engaged in the process and learn it much better at a level I didn’t see before flipping.

8. Autonomous learning

A flipped class is student-centered and can create very autonomous learners. With the model,

teaching students how to learn becomes a big part of the instruction. Teachers can now spend the time to talk with their students about choices they make in their own learning process. Students have a larger responsibility to manage their own time and, with necessary support, can learn crucial time-management strategies.

Because of these 8 reasons, the freedom and rewards I now feel as a teacher are because of the environment flipping has helped me create. It constantly evolves and gets better all the time. I can’t express emphatically enough how much this change has revolutionized my teaching.

Image credit: Moise Nicu

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Fun uses for Thinglink in the classroom

Sometimes you hear about a great tool and then end up forgetting about it. That’s what happened with me and Thinglink. I had heard about it at a conference maybe 2 years ago and thought it looked like a good tool to make some multimedia resources, but subsequently forgot to try it out.

Recently, I saw a post on Twitter from Lisa Butler giving some packing advice for ISTE using Thinglink. I thought it was a clever idea and was reminded about how interesting Thinglink can make resources.

Lisa Butler’s ISTE Packing List. Linked to Thinglink.

I had been intending to make a packing inventory for an upcoming month-long trip to Asia I have planned, so inspired by Lisa’s packing image, I made one of my own adding some text and links to websites.

My Asia packing list. Linked to Thinglink.
Linked to Thinglink.

You could use this for class trip or camp packing lists in the classroom.  Another use I thought of was to include resources connected to a map.  So, I made an example using my upcoming trip.

These were really very simple to do and everything I did was available in the free version. There are some upgraded educator versions that give you a bit more versatility in your content.

I could see classes using this as video messages to parents or another classroom around the world linked to the students’ image. You could link flipped videos to visual representation of the content.  You could create virtual fields trips. The possibilities are endless.  What fun uses do you have for Thinglink?

Different Models for Flipping Your Class

Many teachers are surprised to find there a different models emerging of the flipped classroom. This is because flipping isn’t really a model, but more of a guiding principle of how (and when) to deliver direct instruction.  In my book, I identified 5 different frameworks of flipping and have since been introduced to a 6th.  I’ve divided them into First Iteration and Second Iterations because, in practice, teachers tend to transition for their First Iteration to their Second Iteration, with the later being more student-centered.  I used a mixture of all.  Don’t feel constrained to one model. The best part about flipped strategies is that they are flexible.

First Iteration Flips

Traditional Flip

This is the flip you hear hyped in the media. The Traditional Flip is frontloading a video of content followed by problems, activities, or writing in class.  It is the entry point to flipping for most teachers.  It is still a teacher-centered model, which gets it criticism. However, for the teacher that is struggling with innovating their classroom or who want to be more student-centered, this is a good place to start as they develop the skills to move on.

 

Writing Workshop Flip

Another way many teachers, English teachers especially, start in flipping is to modify the Writers Workshop made popular by Lucy Calkins. This is not surprising since many principles of the Writing Workshop are shared by flipped teaching. The Writing Workshop starts with a direct instruction mini-lesson (which is a flip video), followed by writing time in class, and finished with class sharing.  I started with this model because I didn’t have long enough classes for the full Writing Workshop process. Taking mini-lessons to video freed up more class time for students to write and share.

Second Iteration Flips

These are the flips that teachers move into once they’ve decided to move their flip to a different level.

Explore-Flip-Apply

This model is inquiry-based derived from the work of Ramsey Musallam and is a variation of the Explore-Explain-Apply model. The framework consists of the learning cycle beginning with an Exploratory activity. This activity is designed to introduce the topic, evaluate prior knowledge, and instruct through inquiry.  Once the students have reached a point they cannot progress without some direct instruction, a flipped video is made and assigned to help the students.  After sufficient inquiry and practice, the students are moved to an Apply stage which is an assessment.  It could be a project, a writing task, or other forms of skill or content application. If students have the knowledge or are gaining the knowledge on their own, there is no need for the teacher to intervene with flipped instruction. The videos in this model tend to be shorter and more focused on specific content to the needs of each inquiry group.

Flip-Mastery

This model was Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams second iteration of their Flip. The Flip-Mastery model combines flipped videos with mastery instruction. In this model, students can self-pace through the direct instruction content and move on based on mastery standards determined by the teacher. The determination of what qualifies as mastery is the guide for assessment.

Mastery learning is more easily identified in Math and Science classes, because many times there is an explicitly correct answer. When I did Mastery-type units, I used more guided pacing as opposed to full self-pacing, allowing students to work at their own pace but with all the same deadline for assessment completion.

Peer Instruction (PI) Flip

The Peer Instruction model was developed by Eric Mazur at Harvard in the early 1990’s.  He, along with Julie Schell, have advanced the model to also include video instruction.  In the process, students watch a pre-class video or reading.  At the start of the class, the teacher asks a question based on the pre-class video.  The question should be ambiguous enough to spark debate.  Students are then paired with someone that believes a different answer and they are tasked with convincing each other which is correct.  Once the student pairs commit to answers, the teacher reviews the correct answer with the group.  The flip could also come as the explanation piece of the cycle depending on the complexity of the material.

Gamified Flipped

This is a new flip that has emerged over the past year or so.  Teachers are taking elements of gamification (a badge system) and combining it with Mastery-Flip.  Students progress through flip videos and assessments at their own pace, earning badges and levels.  This is still a developing area as not many teachers are using it.  These teachers are using quest-based LMS (3D GameLab) making it easy to insert videos.

The spirit of a Flipped Classroom is innovation and individualization. With that as your guiding principle, there is no limit to the evolution of your classroom.

Image credit: Chris Devers

Curate or Create Content in a Flipped Classroom

Many teachers make the decision to flip their class, but don’t know where to start. Choosing how to provide content to your students can determine the success of your flipped class.  You certainly can go between curated and created content, but generally it is better for the students if you are consistent with one method.

Curate

The movement for Open Educational Resources (OER) has made a significant amount of content available to learners that haven’t had access to it in the past.  Curating that content to pick the best for your students is a popular way to flip your class.

Advantages

  • There is content that is free and available to all.  Teachers could eliminate expensive textbooks from their syllabus and provide content that is rich and dynamic for their students.  
  • Much of this content is produced in a digital format to allow for easy distribution.  Some tools, like EdPuzzle, not only provide an easy way to curate that content, but also set up simple ways to distribute that content.
  • The content can come from a variety of sources. You can find high-quality content made by professional filmmakers, very specific content made by experts, or even very relatable content made by students.
  • Curated content can save time for the teacher. Flipping can be time consuming and hard-work in the early stages, so finding ways to be efficient with your time can help.

Disadvantages

  • Curated content isn’t always specific to your curriculum or what you want to teach. That can be confusing to your students or leave you with gaps in learning that need to be filled.
  • Sometimes finding just the right content can take more time than anticipated. Sometimes it’s just quicker to make your own.
  • Curated content can seem impersonal to students and even lazy practice. A good practitioner is teaching in the classroom everyday with personalized instruction and valuable activities. Unfortunately, there are some people believe that if students can learn from already created content, there is no use for a content teacher in the classroom.

Sources

  • EdPuzzle is one of my favorite tools that allows you to search a variety of created content and provide a tool to remix and distribute that content.
  • TedEd is a good source for dynamic professionally created content and has some interactivity by adding a quizzing feature.
  • Khan Academy has the goal of “providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” While initially a source for math and science content, they are quickly adding more content for other subject areas and grade levels.
  • Mathtrain is a wonderful resource by teacher Eric Marcos for student-created math content.

Created Content

The past few years has seen an explosion of tools that make it easy for teachers to create their own video content even with limited technical ability.

Advantages

  • Having students hear your voice or see your face in the video helps you build better relationships with students.
  • You can adapt your content to the needs of your students and teach it the way you want.
  • While OERs can often be remixed and reused, creating your content allows you to own and distribute how you want.
  • It can be empowering to create and catalog your expertise.  At the same time, it can model that behavior to your students.
  • Watching your own content can be an excellent reflection tool to improve your teaching.

Disadvantages

  • It can be time consuming.  Until you develop efficient methods to create your videos, you can spend a lot of time making just a few minutes of content.
  • While it is a great reflection tool, it can be very humbling. Many teachers need time to get used to seeing and hearing themselves.
  • Sometimes someone else just says or does it better and trying to recreate that is not worth the time invested.
  • While there are free tools, some of the best tools can also be expensive.

Tools

  • Camtasia Studio is my favorite tool.  It is a robust screencasting tool that allows teachers to create very professionally looking videos.
  • Screencast-O-Matic is a free online tool that allows teachers to screencast.  It has some limitations, but can be great entry point for teachers learning to screencast.
  • Quicktime is a great tool for Mac users.  It is powerful and even allows you to screencast an iPad screen.
  • Explain Everything is my favorite iPad tool. It allows those using an iPad to create some nice videos and has many output options.  This is the tool I use with my students when they are creating videos.

These aren’t the only tools or resources available, but the ones I’m most familiar. I recommend teachers move themselves to using primarily created content supplemented by curated content on some occasions.  However, curated content is a great way to get started in flipping your class.  Whichever methods you choose, if you keep your students best interest in mind, you won’t go wrong.

Image credit: Nick Saltmarsh