Flipping It Inside-out


I admit I am a novice when it comes to the idea of Flipped Classrooms. Though, seeing some examples of teachers’ flipped classroom videos has put the idea in my mind firmly enough to start creating my own recordings and experiment a bit.  Initially, a couple of students and parents needed help with privacy settings on platforms we used for a project.  After typing out a long and convoluted email, I hit “delete,” went back to my NCSS conference notes, and found Screencast-O-matic was recommended for making on-screen recordings.  Of course it’s easier to see where to click than to try and describe it without a visual.  I posted my “how to” and was able to simply send the link out to anyone else that needed help.   

Tomorrow I am headed to Learning and the Brain’s Web-Connected Minds conference in Washington, DC.  I had planned to go over a number of things related to end of the year assignments and tried to type it out (so, essentially, my substitute could read a list of “to dos”) but that did not seem reasonable or effective for anyone.  So, I decided to do another screencast, but this time I would add a video of myself speaking.

This morning, I planned for my first period class to get the “live” version of the lesson.  However, I was curious how they would respond to the video and at what points I might observe it was going too fast or that students needed to pause and process.  So, I decided to turn the video on during class, while I was there.  After getting past the discomfort of watching and listening to myself, I observed some very interesting things. 

First, the students sustained attention for a longer period of time.  I usually get through about two minutes of explanation before hands start to go up for questions.  Though I typically plan to answer all their questions, it’s just difficult for sixth graders to hang in there and attend to information that isn’t answering the question on their mind right now.  However, when listening to the video they appeared to be more patient.  Of course, perhaps this was because the videos cannot respond to raised hands; maybe their questions were just going unanswered.  However, given my additional observations, I do not think that was the case. 

Second, I had the opportunity to observe my own teaching.  While there are the obvious and more subtle benefits to “live” teaching, from a distance I was able to more closely observe how students listen and take notes.  As I was teaching on screen, I was also in the back of the room watching the tenor of the group and the responses of individual students.  When, in my screencast, I prompted students to look at their answer key, many of them didn’t.  I stopped the video and prompted them again, reminding them of the importance of active attentiveness and self-motivation. From that point forward, everyone followed my on-screen prompts.  Usually, in Grade 6, it takes more than one reminder.

Finally, after about 10 minutes (of a 30 minute screencast) I offered to turn it off and do the live version.  They, almost unanimously, preferred to watch the video.  I thought this was really funny, because part of me was offended that they didn’t want to listen to me… yet, they were opting to listen to me instead.  I guess it’s a win-win.  When I asked them why they preferred the screencast, they said, “because we can go back and listen to it again.”  I asked for a show of hands and the majority of students planned to watch it again at home.  I can only speculate, but I think that the reason they were listening more carefully was because they wanted to know what specific sections to go back to later. 

There is a lot of information out there about the benefits of flipped lessons.  However, showing the same video in class may be another way to use digital resources.  While I have no intention of recording all my lessons so I can sit in the back of the room and observe, there are certainly benefits to doing this occasionally.  I see how it could be a great way to teach note taking skills and it would be much easier to differentiate for struggling students. Teaching students how to effectively watch videos is a valuable skill that can be more discretely taught when they are shown these videos in class.  And then, at the end of the day, the benefits of watching it again at home is icing on the cake.