Last school year as I experimented with the flipped classroom for the first time, I was impressed with the way that my students were able to review material at home and follow my pre-recorded process instructions at their own pace.
When I wrote about this experience on MIddleWeb, I said this insertion of moderate flipped classroom methods into my teaching was me “confronting my flipped classroom bias.” That post has been one of the most popular ever here at the Future of History blog.
More than a year has passed since I first tried some flipped classroom techniques. And while I still see some positives, I am a little less starry-eyed and a little more strategic in my implementation. Isn’t that part of the process of teaching? We jump in, try something, revise, re-visit, adjust, try again, reflect, and move forward.
Since my videos on ShowMe and Educreations last year seemed to be so helpful in bringing content to my students, I was eager to continue the experiment in 2014-15. I still maintain that since I don’t lecture all that much, the flipped model of “watch lecture at home and then discuss at school” isn’t a good fit for me and my inquiry oriented classroom.
Like I had the year prior, I intended to use flipped classroom methods for the beginning of the year procedures and review. My first project was annotation videos. Aaron Brock and I retooled (yet again) our plans for annotating expository text (we wrote about annotation here), and I was excited to create videos for my students about these processes.
By the beginning of the year I had videos about all of the processes for history class–from the annotation notes videos to the videos for creating a writing checklist and for setting up notes in a notebook or on a computer or tablet.
When school started, I had a full set of classroom headphones and my videos were uploaded onto our learning management system. I was ready to go.
My students arrived, and we jumped into the usual exciting beginning of the year stuff. Then I got down to the work of having them watch process videos. The first one on note-taking, described in my post last year, was still a big success – the painful day-after-day process of stopping and explaining the intricacies of notes creation was ameliorated by this simple flipped video. I walked around and monitored, answered individual questions, no problem.
Then, for our next class, we were going to read an expository text. I was ready for this! They watched a video. We stopped to discuss. They worked in teams and practiced while watching yet another video. They went home to practice, and there was ANOTHER video available online if they needed support.
Result? They were completely video-ed out. At the beginning of the year, when I want to make the strongest impression about our approach to learning history, I was letting a disembodied version of myself speak more than I was. Even worse, the students weren’t talking enough.
It’s true that I was able to monitor and help more students individually, but it didn’t take away from the weird feeling that I was disconnected.
Then, to top it off, I overheard a couple kids have a conversation about my class: “Well, I don’t know, but maybe she’ll make a video for it!” (laughter).
It was too much video and too soon in the year.
Obviously, flipped classroom still can work for me (as always on a limited scale I am willing to embrace). The process videos (including a writing checklist, and composing a “body bio” of a historical figure) worked great. And those process videos are ALWAYS available on the LMS for the students to check out any time they need additional help at home. But guess what: they almost never go back to the videos. Instead they ask me, or they ask their peers, so that they can talk through the processes.
I remind them of the videos, some nod politely, but most aren’t going to pursue it. Why?
We’ve always known that learning occurs for many people through conversation, through complex processing that involves interaction. The videos are ultimately passive. Even though they tell students to stop and do something, I will tell you, they are so used to watching things passively that some kids end up just staring at the screen and watching a video through without responding to any of the prompts.
What might I do differently next year? For sure, I would limit the number of videos shown at any given time – especially at the beginning of the year. I would also involve the students in making the videos themselves. It would be an interesting project near the end of school to have the current students make instructional videos for next year’s classes – how to submit a paper, how to take notes, how to complete a particular assignment. I suspect videos by last year’s veterans would be more engaging for new students to watch and respond to.
I’m still tentatively positive about the possibilities of flipped classroom techniques. Just because it didn’t work out as well for me this year doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.
In fact, I still recommend it to others sometimes. When I observe the teachers I mentor, I have suggested it as a way to smooth processes, to provide review or extension, and to help differentiate and allow for more one-on-one time.
I am currently teaching a university class that meets once a week, and because it is just once a week, it has occurred to me multiple times that this may be the best place for some flipped classroom action. Wouldn’t it be great if the students could review video showing ways to create enduring understandings, or see examples of different types of performance assessments in social studies? So maybe flipping is all about context and timing. For certain, teaching is all about trying something, reflecting, adjusting, and then revising.
How do you use flipped classroom procedures in your class? Is it working for you?