Flipping out of control

Firstly, what is “reverse teaching” (or the “flipped classroom” to its friends)?

I hear all this nonsense now about how it is the new way of teaching.  Wrong.  Last week we had Steve Barkley presenting at our school and he described Flipped classrooms as teaching with videos at home.  While not wrong, he did not exactly say what it is.  The traditional classroom is where the teacher is the provider of information.  Students get this in class, and then go home and practice using it, perhaps as exercises, questions to answer or tasks…  The idea behind the flipped classroom is where this is reversed.  The teacher gets the students to gain the content at home, and then gets the students to use it in various ways in the class.  As the teacher is not delivering information to the whole class, they are free to teach to need, helping those kids who need it, truly being able to differentiate their assistance.

Some clown

Too many clowns. Some rights reserved by cogdogblog

Too many clowns are trying to say that they now have a new teaching technique.  They create videos for their classes at home.  Actually, from what I have seen for Biology at least, they generally use the Bozeman videos (mostly created by Paul Anderson), rather than to create their own.  Fair enough, as often I use them too.  This is a technique that too many websites, are proclaiming as new.  Yes, the technology of using videos that the students watch at home is fairly new, but I had a teacher in 1986 that had us read material, watch specific TV shows and come to class with the content, so we could then discuss and use it.  I am fairly sure he was not the first one, and this is equally the “flipped class” model.  I salute every teacher who has time to innovate, work to specifically improve their teaching and to try new things, create their own videos etc, but is the “flipped class” really a new thing?

Secondly, does reverse teaching have a place in my classroom?

(1)    The short answer is absolutely yes. 

(2)    The longer answer is that at times, it is extremely effective, but at times, it may not be the best way. 

(3)    The even longer answer is that we, as teaching professionals need to choose when it is the best way, and when other methods of delivery may be better.  For example, having Middle School kids learn through doing (i.e. play with chemicals, ramps, trolleys, etc) and then coming up with theories to explain, is also a very valuable exercise, but it does not suit every unit.  Enzymes and lock & key model can be learned at home, freeing up the class to investigations into enzyme activity (classic flipped classroom).

Thirdly, how does reverse teaching apply to my classroom?

As I say above, I teach some topics / units via reverse teaching.  Sometimes we use videos at home, sometimes we just read sections of the textbook or websites.  Sometimes I give nothing, and get groups of students to build websites, such as this.  The students then peer review and improve each other’s websites.  At other times I deem the topic more suitable for direct teacher lead discussion / delivery.  I feel I cannot anticipate every student’s issues with the new topic (I have kids from around 50 different countries and cultures) and feel live real time delivery is more appropriate, to cater to their individual needs and questions.  However, two weeks ago, I made a deal with my kids that I would no longer use the class whiteboard.  Some kids were shattered, really finding these explanations useful, and asked why.  I told them than from that point on I would use my tablet, the pen tool, and record all explanations.  These are now being uploaded to my YouTube channel, and these are then linked back to the online lesson outline.  After my first, with a couple of significant stutters in the middle, my Grade 12 Biology class stood and clapped.  I have not had that before!  Already, after a couple of weeks, I am already more confident with this, and feel I am doing a better job of creating these explanations.  My Camtasia Studio processing time (per video) has gone down from 80 minutes to 15 minutes (to edit out the errors, stutters and laughing when my class and I lose the plot together).  It is so hard to talk to the class, try to focus on them, but need to be focussing on the screen you are writing on.  Given more time, I hope…

Already I see I can find most information, in depth on the internet, but the initial overviews, to set the scene are more difficult to find.  This is what I have started to focus on, as you can see in my YouTube Video below.  {Note:  Since then, I have learned how to ensure my videos take up the whole window.  LOL}.

I am not sure exactly how I stand with these videos. Eventually, I might have enough material to totally flip some of these topics, so is this a time efficient way of creating material for a future class flip, or is it an alternative to the flipped classroom?  I don’t know yet.

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3 Responses to Flipping out of control

  1. Avatar of jbass jbass says:

    Very thought provoking last question. My guess is time will tell. In the meantime it looks like what you’re doing is a great flip and well received by your grade 12 biology classroom. I’m impressed at the risk involved and your perseverance.

  2. Excellent points Wayne! Thinking of taking all of the course material and flipping the entire classroom can be overwhelming. It is much more manageable to make videos as we get more comfortable and even have students author content when possible. It is true that we, as teachers, need to know what is best for our individual classrooms. Some may not be as conducive to the flipped approach. The important thing is that we change and adapt to effectually educate our students.

  3. Avatar of Geoff Odell Geoff Odell says:

    Ah, yes… a call to reason. You are touching on something that drives me crazy about teaching. We seem to be a vocation of bandwagon jumpers. Some of us never seem to ask, what happened that all the old “new” research has now been replaced by the new “new” research? And so many things are just the old things with new labels and a twist of lemon. It gets frustrating to me. Aren’t we educated people? Haven’t we learned yet that it’s all about balance? When I first started teaching, the hot topic was whole language -vs- phonics. Many teachers went way overboard and stopped teaching phonics altogether while the reasonable put their phonic books in the drawer so they wouldn’t get fired, but kept on teaching it because they knew it worked. And along the way, they found some good things about whole language that they incorporated.

    I feel the exact same way about the flipped classroom. I’ve experimented with it and I plan to keep doing it. But it has its limitations and it isn’t the solution in all situations. I appreciate your call for moderation.

    We need to check more bath water for babies.

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