Monday, January 13, 2014

Flipping the Class

Last Friday was my monthly jaunt to Essdack for a professional day with my techie group.  During our
Todd Nesloney
time together, we had a Google Hangout with Todd Nesloney from Texas regarding the Flipped Classroom (the complete video is available at the end of this post).  Todd is a 5th grade math teacher and is in his second year of the flipped classroom.

You may be asking yourself what the heck is a flipped classroom?  The concept of the flipped classroom has only been around for a few years and hasn't become a huge educational paradigm shift, yet.  The traditional premise behind the flipped classroom is for students to watch the instruction via a video as their homework and the assigned problems or projects are completed in class.  However, after listening to and visiting with Todd, it became apparent to me that the flipped classroom is more.  It is allowing the students time outside class to get the fundamental knowledge and time in class for inquiry, debates, problem-solving, discussion, projects and collaboration.  It's not about watching your teacher lecture at home and then doing worksheets in class.  In fact, Todd told us that his students do no worksheets and no test formatted questions (multiple choice/A,B,C).  Everything in his class is projects and creation while learning from their mistakes.  Todd believes students don't need to know how to take a test, but need to be prepared with content and how to problem-solve.  We asked some pointed questions to gain a better understanding of the issues and process involved in a flipped classroom.

How do you address the issue of students not having internet or technology access at home?
Todd creates and houses his videos several ways.  His videos get posted on YouTube, Sophia and iTunesU.  He also burns the videos to DVDs and flash drives so students can take those home and watch them without internet access.  He does have some students who bring their iPods to class and download the video onto the device so they can watch it at home without internet access.  He does put the links to the various video locations on his class Edmodo page so students and parents can access the videos from a quick link without labored time in searching.

What is your process for creating the videos?
Todd comes to work an hour and half early so he can get things accomplished without interruption.  He records his videos in one take and chooses to leave in all the mistakes and laughter.  His philosophy is it is good for the students to see him as a real person who makes mistakes just like them.  He admits his videos aren't fancy and they are usually under 4 minutes in length.  Many times it is an introduction to the lesson they will be working on in class.  The longest part of the process is uploading his videos to the various locations - it takes him about 10 minutes.  Personally, he said its a better use of his time (uploading to various locations) than dealing with excuses from the students as to why they couldn't watch the lesson.  Todd did state the first year is a lot of work as you are actually creating the videos and activities, but the second year is better because most of the videos are already created.  He also mentioned that these videos are great for students who want to work ahead.

What advice do you have for someone who would like to try the flipped classroom?
There are a lot of models out there to follow, but you need to make it work for you and your students.  Also, start by flipping your favorite lesson first.

Can you give us an example of what a class project or activity looks like?
His most current lesson is on angles.  So the students were instructed to watch the mini-lesson at home and when they got to class they had to take photos of angles in the real world.  Using an app called Skitch, the students uploaded their photos, drew the angle and wrote what type of angle was being depicted.  I'm sure this project could be taken a step further by having the students create a problem based around the photo to practice equations and solving for specific angles.  He also spent some time talking about his favorite project - the math fair - that is done outside of class and individually.

Although the flipped classroom method is not embraced by all of Todd's colleagues, he believes he is building a love for learning within his students and he finds it easier for the students to learn math if they have a desire to learn.  When I think about this statement, I'm reminded of the number of schools and districts who have included the statement, "to create lifelong learners" as part of their mission statement.  People only become lifelong learners if they have a love of learning.  What better goal to set for your classroom.

One final reflection Todd left with the groups was this - "If you are not a connected educator who is learning from people online, I can't express the value enough of that because I view my success as success by surrounding myself with the best people in the world and many of them are thousands of miles away from me."  Like Todd, my online learning network is a great resource to me on a daily basis, but I'll delve into that more in another blog post.

During our discussion following the Hangout with Todd, people threw out various applications one could use for creating the lesson videos.  The idea was also raised again about creating flipped technology videos for those repeat questions that come once or twice a year like how to turn mirroring on and off on my computer.  It was also noted that some good videos have already been created by other teachers, so if you are camera shy or short on time, you might start by finding some of those resources to use for flipping your classroom.

Connect with Todd Nesloney on Twitter @TechNinjaTodd or via his class blog, Ninja Reflections on Education

For more on the flipped classroom, check out the resources below:

How the Flipped Classroom Works - YouTube video
The Flipped Class:  Myths vs. Reality
Flipping Your Classroom - resources, technological tips, pedagogical tips and more
Flipped Classrooms and Social Studies - post by Glenn Wiebe about flipping in Social Studies
Putting Students at the Center - Aaron Sams, Colorado Science teacher, talks about flipping his classroom

What are your thoughts on the Flipped Classroom?  Have questions or ideas to share?  Is it something you would consider trying?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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