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.


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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

Writing a Book in One Day – How We Did It

The project is near completion.   On May 6, our 5th & 6th graders embarked on a journey to write a book in one day.  Originally, we had 6 other classes that agreed to do it with us.  As the day grew closer, 3 classes had to drop out for various reasons and  one class was MIA on the day of the book.  We set the project up so that we could complete it independently, so, while it was nice to have two other classes still participating, we could have still finished it alone.  Two of the books can be purchased on Amazon: “Tsunami Survivors” & “Shimmer and the Case of Superman’s Missing Dog”.  I’m still waiting for a 3rd class to send me their book for print.  There are also .pdf versions at the bottom of this post free for you to download.

Due to an expected delay in statewide testing, we lost 2 hours in the morning.  While we still finished, that 2 hours would have been nice to have those two hours to breathe a little easier and have more time for editing the final book.  Prior to lunch, the kids were very engaged, asking great questions as they planned their story and collaborated.  We had to conflict manage a bit more than I expected having to solve problems not related to the story so groups could get back to work.

First, we had the class list all the elements (characters, plot, conflict, setting, etc.) they needed in their story.  Then we went element-by-element and had suggestions.   As a group, the students voted on 3-5 choices for each element.

Here is our brainstorming board after we were finished.

Once the elements were all determined, we divided them into groups to begin writing.  Each group was responsible for one chapter.  Students talked with their group about what direction they wanted their chapter to take but quickly realized they needed details from other chapters.  Although their was some conflict during this process, I was pleased to see the students really analyzing their story.  If a group wanted a character in chapter 8, they realized they needed to get an earlier chapter to introduce that character.  One early chapter realized they had too much happening too soon for the story, so they made it into a flashback to use as character development instead.  A lot of great discernment was happening on how to construct a good story.

We then reconvened every group and had them explain to everyone what plot points they were going to write into their chapter.  As a group, we smoothed out some discrepancies between chapters, made group decisions on the final story and then began writing.

Students collaborated with their group in Google Docs to write their chapter.  We had a plan in place for early finishers, but we didn’t have any of those.  Students were typing and revising up until the final minutes.  Since we had lost the 2 hours in the morning, we asked a member from each group to go into their document that night and give their chapter one final edit and clean up.

I then took those chapters and used Amazon’s Createspace to publish the book.  We would have liked to do a Google Hangout with one of the other classes participating, but I realized we wouldn’t have the time to do it.  We did tweet with the other classes and let our students see the others’ tweets to remind them this project was bigger than just their classroom.  The kids are still asking to read the other schools’ books!

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Overall, it was a wonderful experience and we are already in the planning process for next year!

Here are pdf’s of the books:

picture 2015-05-08 at 11.33.28 AM          picture 2015-05-12 at 10.11.53 AMChangeTheWorldVolume1    ChangeTheWorldVolume2

Brief Analysis of Instructional Design theories using EDPuzzle

The following post is a portion of an assignment I did for my graduate class called Foundations of Instructional Technology.  This part of the assignment I am sharing we read :

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-72.

Then we discussed our favorite tool using some of the learning theories we have been discussing the past few weeks.

While I may not be 100% accurate on the learning theories I am using (and please correct me in the comments if you think I wasn’t accurate), I thought sharing some uses for EdPuzzle and 3D GameLab would be helpful to readers of this blog.

I’m going to discuss one of my favorite tools I have found to be beneficial using multiple instructional theories: EDpuzzle.

EDpuzzle allows you to make a lesson using any video you want.  You can place your own video or someone else’s video from multiple sources and remix them in the EDpuzzle interface and then wrap content around that video.


According to Ertmer & Newby, Behaviorism focuses more on the stimulus than the learner.  The goal is to produce observable and measurable outcomes.  The learning that happens in a Behaviorist design usually falls in the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

In EDpuzzle, a Behaviorist would place a video of simple, observable skills or knowledge and then place a multiple choice or fill in type questions throughout the video.  Students that answer the questions correctly would advance the video.  Students that did not answer the question correctly would be required to repeat the section of the video.

Also from a Behaviorist perspective, the teacher dashboard allows the teacher to see which students watched the entire video and how many times they did.  The teacher can even place restrictions on the video so they don’t have a choice but to watch the entire video before advancing.

Voice comments can be added to videos in EDpuzzle, so a Behaviorist could add voice cues as a stimulus to information transferring.


A cognitivist would approach this tool with a video having more meaningful content.  The goal with cognitivism, as Ertmer & Newby discuss, is to focus on the mental nature of the learner leading up to response.  A cognitivist would take this tool and add more open ended questions to their video.  They might even ask for questions from the respondents to be used at a later time (maybe for classroom discussion).  A cognitivist might add audio notes to cue previous knowledge or create links between other content.

A Cognitivist would probably also add a video with a bit less direct instruction than a Behaviorist and have some analysis of the content in the video.


Ertmer & Newby describe the focus of constructivism to be the “active application of ideas to problems.”  EDpuzzle recently added a new function to assign a project to students (or at least I just recently became aware of it. I’m not sure how long it has been an option).  So, instead of them watching a video and answering or interacting with the content, students can create their own content.  Students place their own video into the project, or the teacher can specify which video to place in, then they can place their own questions or audio comments on the video.  I saw a High School English teacher have students analyze a video of a scene from a play using this tool. I recently used this as a reflection tool with a group of 6th graders.  They created a video in groups to answer our driving question, then placed that video in their own individual EDpuzzle and explained their choices using the Audio Comments and text comment features.  I, as the teacher, can give feedback to the student within the same EDpuzzle.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on EdPuzzle and/or my application of learning theories in this instructional design.

A Digital “Pen Pal” Twist

Our 2nd grade teacher came to me to talk about ways she could do a pen pal type project digitally.  She wanted to cover some of her standards relating to communities and also make some contact with another class outside of our school.

We brainstormed some ideas and I shared the idea out to one of my Voxer groups.  Barb Gilman responded not only with a great idea but also a contact to work with.

Here’s the project:

After a lesson on letter writing, 2nd graders from my school hand wrote letters asking questions about community.  Once the teachers reviewed their letters and helped them revise, they were sent to me to record.  I recorded them reading their letters and took a photo of the letter.  Both items were placed together in VoiceThread.  We sent that VoiceThread to a 2nd grade class in another state that will then respond to their questions with audio comments.

Here is how the first part of the project turned out:

The other class sent us Tellagamis that they embedded into a Kidblog post.  Our students will then respond through the blog to those letters.

Here is the other classes blog posts:

By doing it this way, we covered many standards relating to community and letter writing, but we also worked in some speaking skills and formed a collaboration with another school that will hopefully continue on.

Change the World? We’re Writing a Book in One Day!

Notice to classrooms around the world, we are inviting you to join us as we write a book in one day.  That’s right….One Day!

Our 5th and 6th grade English class will spend the day on May 6, 2015 writing, writing, and more writing.  We will give the students the title of the book at 8:15 am EST and they will have to submit a publishable book by 2:45 pm EST.  The students will brainstorm what they want to write about, divide up the tasks, and write, revise, write, revise until the book is complete.

We want other classes to join us on the same day at roughly the same time (we understand if different time zones need to adjust).  Each class will write their own book, but with the same title.  The title of our book will be Change the World? Volume 1.  Each class that joins us in the project would be subsequent volumes.  So, the second class that joins would be Change the World? Volume 2 and the third Change the World? Volume 3 and so forth.  At the end, we plan to use Amazon’s Createspace Self-Publishing to print copies of the book.  We will only sell the book at the cost to print.  We will also provide free .pdf versions of each book to be available for download.  We’ll be writing our book in English, but that doesn’t mean you have to.

This is the first year we are doing this, so we are developing the process as we go.  All classes that join us will need to be able to share their book via Google Drive.  All grade levels are welcome. Throughout the day, we’d love to connect with other classes through Google Hangouts and talk about our progress or share resources.  We hope by the end our students learn skills in writing and editing, collaborating, preserving, but most importantly, how they can change the world.

If you’d like to join us on this project, email me here or comment on this post.  I hope you and your students can join us on May 6th as we Change the World?

Update (2/12): Right now, we have committed: Volume 1: Allison Fisher’s 5th/6th Grade Class from Little Flower Catholic School in Indianapolis, Indiana, Volume 2: Steve Auslander’s 5th Grade Class from Allisonville Elementary in Indianapolis, Indiana, Volume 3: Amie Trahan’s 8th Grade Class from Vanderbilt Catholic High School in Houma, Louisiana, and Volume 4: Nicole Carter’s 8th Grade Class from Neil Armstrong Middle School in Forest Grove, Oregon.

Update (2/16):  We have two more classes!  Volume 5: Beth Moore’s 5th Grade Class from Sacred Heart Elementary School in Fowler, Indiana and Volume 6: Sarah Landis’s Class from Pleasanton Unified School District in Pleasanton, California.

Update (3/8): Volume 7 is Ellen Smith’s 4th graders from Glenbrook Elementary in Streamwood, IL.  And, I think we’re very close to getting our first international participants!

Google Cardboard: Inexpensive VR for the Classroom

When it was introduced at Google I/O, Google Cardboard was originally thought of by most as a joke.  I got a kit off of eBay for about $15.00 as more of a novelty item.  I didn’t have any notions to use it in the classroom.

When I first used it, I was amazed at how it worked.  I did the simple city tour and photo sphere options.  I watched the pre-selected YouTube videos and thought it was good for an afternoon of fun.

However, over the past few months, developers have been creating more and more VR apps that work with Cardboard in the Google Play Store.  There are apps that can fly a student through space or put them on the surface of the moon.  There are apps that can put you into the filming locations for The Hobbit, turn YouTube videos into 3d, and build and ride roller coasters.

Using Google’s Camera app, you can make your own photo spheres (which provide a 360 degree view in all directions including up and down) and take your students on trips with you.  I tried to make one in Magic Kingdom at Disney World, but it didn’t work as well because I couldn’t get all the people to stand still.  But, for a location without much movement, it really works well.

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My attempt at a photo sphere at Disney World

Bringing Virtual Reality into the classroom has been on people’s wish list for years.  While VR still isn’t as robust as how they portray it in movies and dystopian literature, it is getting much closer to common use.  Google Cardboard is bringing an inexpensive headset option to teachers wanting to bring VR into the classroom.

If you want to buy your own Google Cardboard, visit this site, hunt around on eBay,  or there are even some DIY instructions online with a simple Google search.

What do you think are some great uses for VR and Google Cardboard in the classroom?




A simple Augmented Reality Aurasma project

I’m using Aurasma for an Augmented Reality project on the colonies to share with another school’s 5th grade class that is still a work in progress.  Another teacher overheard us discussing the project and wanted to try Aurasma in her 7th grade science class.  Her students were already in the middle of a planet project.  In this project, the students studied a specific planet and then determined the necessary requirements for the planet to support human life.  They would then illustrate a picture visually representing the planet’s new features.



A few of the students were finishing earlier so we decided a good extension project would be for them to write a script explaining their illustration.   We then had them video record their script using the iPad.  This is one simple example:

We then took the video into Aurasma and combined the video with their image and the final product looked like this once it was viewed in the Aurasma app:



While the work wasn’t anything significantly groundbreaking, it was a simple way to introduce the students to Augmented Reality and Aurasma.  This introduction opens to door for us to do more complex and innovative projects later in the year!

13 Tips for Engaging Flipped Classroom Videos

We can’t all be Bill Nye the Science Guy. He has a team of writers, a director, cameramen, and editors to help him create his videos. If you’re like me, you don’t have that. I had to make a lot of videos before I figured out some key elements to help make the videos more engaging and increase the likelihood the students will watch them all the way through. Based on my own trial and error and discussions I’ve had with other flippers, I came up with a list of 13 tips to help you make better videos.

1. High Energy (I Mean Over-the-Top Energy)

Many people don’t realize that your demeanor and personality seem very muted when put on video. Just as an actor will tell you, you need to overact in order to appear normal. I don’t know the science behind this (I mean, I’m an English teacher), buttrust meits true. So, if you just have a normal conversation with the camera, it will come across as dull and possibly even as though you’re bored. When you create the video, you need to ramp up your energy to uncomfortable levels and when played back it will appear closer to normal.

A good way to practice this is to record yourself having a normal conversation where you are explaining something. Maybe talk to your spouse, your friend, or your dog. Play that video back and see how engaging you come across. Next, ramp up your energy as much as possible, use your hands to gesture (even if you aren’t on camera), really play to the camera. Re-watch that and see if you sound and look more engaging. Continue this exercise until you’ve found an energy level that really hooks the audience.

After you’ve found the energy level, you need to find a way to tap into it consistently and sustain it. Admittedly, there are times when I’ll turn to caffeine to boost my energy. You’ll need to find a way to give yourself a boost on those days when you’re tired or distracted, but need to get a video recorded. For me to sustain that energy, I would make four or five videos in one sitting. I would prepare my visuals in advance and then sit down at one time and knock out several videos. With this process, I could produce four or five videos in an hour and I could also sustain my energy level throughout the process.

2. Student Reflection

Many people forget this key piece of the process. You should add pieces of reflection to the videos that will make the students think about what it is that they’ve just watched. If we expect the students to just view the video and nothing else, you won’t find much value in the videos. There needs to be a reflection piece. I use a combination of note taking and Google Forms. I’m not a big fan of asking students to pause the video, do an exercise, then unpause to continue watching. The reason I don’t like that method is that you are asking the students to delay gratification (finishing the video) and asking them to do an exercise that won’t get immediate feedback for them. Which is going to have more pull? My guess would be finishing the video.

I ask students to take notes during the video answering certain questions along the way. I do a notetaking lesson early in the year to teach the students effective note taking. When I do a note check in class, I ask deeper questions to see if they can process the information and use it in a different context. This helps me assess understanding. If a student’s notes are incomplete (or in some cases too complete), poorly organized, or not effective, I can give him or her individualized instruction on how to improve the notes.

Like a lot of other flippers, I also use Google Forms. I create a Google Form asking key questions I want them to answer after the video to show their thinking process. I’ll embed the video and Google Form together on a Google site or blog so students have them in one place. After watching the video, they fill in their answers and click submit. I then get a spreadsheet of all the students’ answers and can review and assess them. Many teachers use this process to determine what topics to focus on in class. It also gives me an easy way to see who is watching the video.

If a paper form or guided notes is more your preference, Crystal Kirch has an excellent form she uses for her flipped math classes that she calls WSQ (pronounced “wisk”). WSQ is an acronym for Watch-Summarize-Question. She uses the WSQ forms in much the same way others use a Google Form. Even though Kirch is a math teacher, the WSQ form concept can be modified to fit your class.

Whatever you find works best for your class, it is important to make sure to add a reflection piece to your videos.

3. Script or No Script? That Is the Question.

Some people have a dynamic speaking ability and can turn on the camera and the words just seem to flow. I don’t. I even do improv comedy as a hobby where the point is to think on your feet and entertain and I can’t do it with my videos. Most people, I believe, don’t have that ability. In that case, a script or outline is best. I recommend starting with a script. It does take a little longer to prep for a video if you write out a script, but it will help you get a sense of timing and make sure you don’t forget anything. Once you start to get a feel for the flow needed from scripting, you can move to working from outlines. I have a habit of saying “um” when I’m thinking. Therefore, I need to leave myself little time to think while I am recording a video. Obviously, you know your personality and presentation style better than I do, but I think it is critical for the overwhelming majority of teachers to work from an outline at a minimum. We teach our students the importance of prewriting. We should practice that too.

4. Keep It Short

When some people first hear about Flipped Learning, they envision students watching videos more than 20 minutes long. I don’t think it is any surprise that students won’t watch videos this long. A good rule of thumb is one minute per grade level as a maximum time. So an 11th grader’s videos should only be 11 minutes long as a maximum. Now, I can’t always keep my videos to the maximum amount of time for my classes (which would be seven or eight minutes), but because the majority of my videos fall in the four to seven minute range, my students know I do respect their time and try to keep the videos short.

Students attention span is limited even with the most engaging content. Find ways to keep your content concise and efficient. If your video is getting significantly longer than it should be and you feel you can’t cut anything, make it a two-part video and have the students watch it over two or three days.

You also have to consider that the time on the video isn’t always the viewing time. It can take your average student about twice as long to watch a video with pauses as the actual run time. So a five-minute video will take most of your students 10 minutes or more to watch. Early in the year, I ask my students to keep track of how much time they are spending watching the videos. If I find a student is spending an hour on a seven-minute video, I need to fix that. Either the student is too meticulous with trying to process every detail of the video, or the information is too complex for him or her to understand. In either case, that is an opportunity for me to individualize my instruction for that student. I’ve told the toometiculous student to cut watching the videos off at 20 minutes. I’ve told the struggling student to try and gain smaller concepts or I give him or her tips of what to watch for in the videos. Sometimes it requires me to sit and watch a video with students individually and walk them through the thought process involved. But the flexibility of a Flipped Classroom allows me to do that.

At first, your videos will be longer than needed. That’s another reason an outline is good. But it is imperative for the long-term success of a Flipped Classroom to keep the videos short. The length of your videos can adversely affect the quality of your instruction. My goal is always a video under five minutes. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t. But my students appreciate and have more buy-in knowing that I try.

5. Personalize

Flipped Learning is all about developing better relationships with your students. Personalizing your videos is a big step in developing those relationships. I recommend teachers make the majority of their own videos. It is alright to supplement on occasion with other teachers’ videos, but shouldn’t be the norm for your class. Students want to see their teacher even if your video is not as good as someone else’s. They want to hear your voice and feel like you are talking directly to them. I also put on screen shots of me in nearly every video I make. Not the entire time, but at least the intro and outro. Some free screencasting programs won’t allow you to put your webcam image into the video. If possible, find a way to make that happen. It seems small, but it really makes a huge difference for the students.

6. Tell Stories

Going along with personalizing and building relationships, it is important to tell personal stories that relate to the content. I hope we all know what is too personal to share, but recounting some life lessons really draws in your students. Sharing some of your interests, just as you would in the classroom, makes the students see you as human. A great storyteller can weave a lesson throughout a story but keep students on their seats until the end. It may not be a good idea to start with sharing stories in your videos if that isn’t something you’ve done in the past, but experiment with it. Tell some non-embarrassing stories to introduce a topic and set up an expectation or to conclude a topic to really hit home an idea.

7. Create with Another Teacher

When I began flipping, I searched for another English teacher willing to make videos with me and was unsuccessful. I forged on anyway and made all my videos solo. And you can do that. But, in their book, Flip Your Classroom, Bergmann and Sams say, “There is something powerful about watching two people have a conversation instead of watching one teacher talk at the viewer” (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). I absolutely agree. The dynamic of having someone to play off of in your videos makes them infinitely more interesting. Additionally, having someone to share the workload can reduce the amount of stress and anxiety new flippers may feel. If you cannot find someone in your own district or town, reach out to others online. I can’t think of a better way to model collaboration for your students than for them to see you collaborating with another teacher in your videos.

8. Make It Multimodal

Have you ever been in a class where the teacher instructs the same way every day? Did you like that class? If that teaching style worked for you, then you may have. However, most prefer some variety. The same is true for videos. You should add more to your videos when possible. In other words, make the videos multimodal.

Images can elicit an emotion response, either positive or negative. Add images to your visuals to create connections. Haiku Deck is an excellent resource for Creative Common stunning presentation-ready images. Add clips of video from others or movies to hit home a message you’re trying to convey. I have former students make videos as a “guest speaker” and I package my own content sparingly around their videos. This variety in style, voice, and presentation really adds punch to your videos. However, don’t forget to keep your videos copyright friendly. Once your videos are out in the public realm, you never know who might stumble across them.

9. Go on Location

It is always great to see how excited students can be on field trips. There is just something special about seeing an occurrence happen that makes it more real. Therefore, I suggest you go “on location” for as many videos as you can. It is easier for science teachers to get video of observable scientific phenomenon for their videos. But ELA teachers can get creative. I saw a artistic bench at the Indianapolis Museum of Art that reminded me of the Freytag Pyramid of plot structure. So I went back with my video camera and recorded footage of me on the bench. When I visited Monroeville, Alabama on vacation, I recorded me saying a few words outside the To Kill a Mockingbird museum. English and reading does happen in the real world. Get creative in finding ways to link an image, a background, a setting to the content and it becomes more tangible for the students. You don’t have to record the whole video on location. Sometimes I’ll observe something that I think would be great. Rather than write my whole video right then, I’ll record some video with my smartphone or video camera to use as an introduction. If you see a humorous sign with a grammar error, take a picture to show your students. Some of you may teach in schools where your students rarely get to travel outside of your town. With technology today, it is now easier than ever to bring that world to them. I can assure you, my students cannot go to the Indianapolis Museum of Art now without thinking of plot structure.

10. Consider Interactivity

“One of the criticisms of this teaching tool [the Flipped Classroom] is that students receive knowledge in a passive state—by watching video,” says Jac de Haan. We’ve addressed that criticism in one way by adding a student reflection piece. It can also be addressed by adding interactivity. Admittedly, this takes some technical skills and may not be for everyone. But having students interact with the video by clicking answers or actively directing parts of the video can be very powerful in engaging students in the content. Camtasia Studios has a robust array of interactive features for quizzing, tables of contents, and more to add to your videos. YouTube has annotation features that can be added simply. Once you get down an efficient videomaking process, I encourage you to experiment with different methods of interactivity to take your videos to the next level.

11. Done Is Better Than Perfect

Jon Bergmann often says when he presents, when determining the right time to finish a video, a good rule of thumb is, “Do you need it perfect or do you need it Tuesday?” Many flippers early on in their videomaking process spend way too much time trying to make the videos perfect. Kevin Brookhouser turned me on to this concept of “done is better than perfect” that he got from Facebook. The idea is that trying to be perfect prevents you from getting other things done. There are times when perfection doesn’t matter and it only prevents you from being finished. As long as there are no major issues with the content of the video, don’t worry so much about making mistakes. If you’re like me, you make mistakes in your classroom. Why shouldn’t you allow yourself to make them on video? Put in some sloppy transitions every now and again, stumble over your words, briefly forget you’re recording and talk to someone else in the room. All experienced flippers have made these mistakes and more. Adopt the philosophy that “done is better than perfect” and move on. Besides, you need that video by Tuesday!

12. Use Self-Reflection

Many teachers have a fear of being on camera. They are nervous about putting their videos out there where others might see them. That is a natural fear, but one you must get over. A good exercise to do is to make a handful of videos first. Then show them to a small audience of trusted friends and family. Get their honest feedback. Then reach out to experienced flippers and see if they have the time to critique one of your videos. Get their honest feedback. If you have the time, get a few trusted children (maybe your own kids or the neighbor’s kids) of similar age to your students and ask them to watch a video or two. Get their honest feedback. Once you’ve gone through this process, you should have a good deal of information on what could be better in your videos. Self-reflecting on this feedback will not only improve your videos, it will improve your teaching.

If you are afraid when recording the videos, you will come across as timid and unsure. Find someone to give you a pep talk or do it yourself. If you show confidence and bravery, think of the example you are showing your students. I once heard someone say after viewing some bad teacher videos, “Whether you like these videos or not, you have to admit it takes courage to put your work out there for everyone to critique.” Most of my videos are in public spaces, like YouTube. Many get thousands of views from people I have no idea who they are. It could be a student from another school trying to learn the topic. It could be a teacher from another school looking to flip. It could be a parent wanting to see what his or her child is learning. All of them probably have some opinion about my methods and ability as a teacher based solely on the video. I can’t worry about that. My priority is the students in my classroom. My videos are made for them. Others are free to privately enjoy, critique, or gain material from my videos. So possibly my biggest advice is to put those doubts and fears out of your mind and just do it. You’ll be glad you did.

13. Have Fun

I can’t stress this one enough. Maybe I should have put it first instead of last. Have fun! You’re embarking on a journey that is going to transform the way you teach. Enjoy the process. Let students see you having fun making your videos. Tell jokes. Laugh at yourself. If you’re having fun, and showing it, it’s more likely your students will have fun. I remember one video I did on different types of verbs. Every time I said “intensive verbs” I did my best Hulk Hogan impression. (For those under 30, Hulk Hogan was a popular professional wrestler in the 80s. Google him.) “That is an INTENSIVE verb!” I would proclaim. I was having fun and my students had fun right along with me when they watched the video. Those moments still happen in the classroom even if they were started on video. It’s that relationship thing again. Are you sensing a theme? Flipped Classrooms are about creating better relationships with your students. Why wouldn’t you have fun doing that?

Let’s Change Genuis Hour to Fight the Resistance Hour

I’m currently reading “Linchpin” by Seth Godin which is about being indispensable to an organization and I’m having many thoughts about Genius Hour or 20 Time.  I’m wondering if we should change the name of Genius Hour, because we aren’t really focused on being a Genius or finding our Genius, but rather fighting the powers that cause us to squelch our creativity and produce.

According to Godin, Steven Pressfield, in his book “The War of Art” coined the term “Resistance” for that entity which inhibits our ability to free our creativity, our great ideas, our insights, our generosity, and our connections.  Over the years I’ve done the Genius Hour/20 Time project, I’ve found my biggest contribution (and also hurdle) was teaching students to fight the resistance, many times showing up as fear and anxiety, and producing.

Schools teach us to follow the rules.  Society tells us that if we go to our job every day, follow the rules, and do what we’re told, we won’t be fired.  And, not being fired seems to be the American dream these days.  Words like “being mature” or “being responsible” seem to be synonymous with cowering in fear.  In fear of the Resistance.

But, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about “doing your job” in a different way in her Ted Talk on creativity.

She asserts that many masterful artists, poets, and writers see creativity as outside of themselves.  We should all learn to see creativity not as something we have, but as something we accept. Something that we can all attain and develop a collaborative relationship with.  However, we must show up and do our part of the collaboration.  We must continue to write, or dance, or create art.  If we do our part, creativity will do it’s part.

In his book, Godin stated, “Fear of living without a map is the main reason people are so insistent that we tell them what to do.”  Truer words have never been spoken.  And, the reason is obvious as he goes on to say, “If it’s someone else’s map, it’s not your fault if it doesn’t work out.”  I see this in so many students during Genius Hour.  That fear of not being successful, that fear of someone may laugh at them, that fear of being uncomfortable.  All those fears prevent students from finding that collaborative relationship with creativity and genius.

So, let’s rename Genius Hour to Fight the Resistance Hour.  Because that is truly what we need to be teaching our students.

Our first foray into 3d Printing: The Design Project

Like many schools, we got 2 3d Printers this school year.  So, after a couple weeks of testing them, we turned the students loose on them.  I worked with our 7th grade Science teacher to develop the first project we wanted to do.

The Design Project

We decided to have the student design their own 3d models and go through the problem-solving process for printing these models.  But first we had to have them understand how the 3d printer worked and what was possible, probable, and unlikely.

Thingiverse Templates

The first part of the project, we had them go to and work in groups to find templates that tested different types of printing.  One group was tasked with finding hollow spheres while another had to find a solid cube and so forth.  Each group chose a template model and then sent it to me to be printed.

After these were printed, the class analyzed their printed products and we had a discussion on what worked and what didn’t work.  We also talked about why some shapes worked better than others.  Thinking in 3d is a skill not many kids have had to do.  They discovered concepts like printing top heavy items need filler for stability, or that printing items that are “suspended” in space needed supports to be printed.

Once the students typed their reflection and turned it in, they were ready to move to the design process.

Identifying a Need

The students were tasked with identifying a need in their life and designing a product that fills that need.  We held a group brainstorm session and work students through the process of finding a problem and then concepting ideas to solve the problem.   Once students had time to do this on their own, they had to submit a paragraph write up of their idea and the need it would meet.


We introduced Tinkercad to the students and let them run wild with it.  Many were surprised at first that they were designing from scratch.  No templates could be used at this point.  Once the students got familiar with the tools, they began building their models to be printed.

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Tinkercad interface for student project

The students needed to make sure the measurements were correct.  The default setting is in millimeters so students quickly realized if they designed it just by eyeballing it on screen, it would turn out much smaller than they expected.  All part of problem solving!

Once they thought they were ready to print, the science teacher or I would discuss with them potential pitfalls they might consider.  Considering the amount of time it takes to print, we only gave them one chance to print their final product.  We made sure they understood, they weren’t graded on the final product they printed, but rather the process they went though to get there.

We use Repetier-Host for final slicing and printing

We’re in the final stages of the process, so I’ll be seeing more of their products soon.  I’ve printed a phone charging stand (pictured below).  Students are creating hair tie holders, pencil holders, a spork for camping, a multi-page bookmark, and more.  I plan to post more pictures as they become available.

The first student-created project on our 3d Printer

Once this project is finished, I need to come up with some scaled down projects for the younger grades, but we’d like them to practice similar skills.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the project or answer your questions about 3d printing in comments below.

My Observations on Flipping and Google Glass

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