Teaching teachers about technology - sounds like a bit of a tongue twister. It felt a little bit like one last Friday when myself, and a few other peers 'attempted' to teach the staff at my school about various technology practices. Over the course of an hour and a half (all the time the school board allowed for technology PD - sad, I know) teachers engaged in a series of workshops related to technology. Their options included the use of Twitter in the classroom, using an online class system called Angel, blogs, wikis, and of course the flipped classroom.
The response to all the workshops was great, and I think a few eyes and minds were opened. The flipped classroom session was no different. Staff really seemed to respond positively to the idea, and even the most trepid amongst the participants seemed to at least begin to think about the possibilities. After the very brief 30 minute session was complete, there were however a number of questions that were left unanswered. Therefore, below I have at least attempted to answer all the questions posed by participants from my own perspective. This does not mean that these responses are correct in any way, just my own thoughts and ideas.
1.What do you do if the students don't watch the videos?
Generally, the response from students has been good so far. Students who I have taught in the past, and who have caused me some grief with their lack of participation and learning, are responding very positively to watching the videos. They are coming to me in advance and informing me that they may not be able to watch the video that night. This would have never happened previously; they would have simply came to class the next day and told me they didn't do their homework. Thus they are demonstrating not only commitment, but also careful planning and time management. However, in dealing with the students who do not watch the videos, I make sure to allow for those students to watch the video at the very beginning of class, while other students who have watched the video engage in group discussions. I entered into this flipped-class model with the idea that I'm not going to fight a losing battle, and will simply try to accommodate. This does not mean I am not keeping track of those who continuously come to class without watching the video, and when I feel like it has gone on for too long, I will make adjustments then.
2. How will the flip-class help language learners?
I am not an ESL nor language teacher, so my knowledge of teaching languages is limited (limited equals none in this case!). However, I will say, that it is my belief that students learn best when they are using multiple senses. Whether you use videos, or any other resource in your flipped classroom, just make sure they are using multiple senses. I think videos really can help language learners because they are able to slow them down, replay, re-watch, take careful notes, and listen to the words as well as read them on the screen. I have to believe this really helps language learners?!
3. What does the class look like now? What do lessons look like?
My class as it stands is still very similar to how it looked previously. There may be a bit more 'organized chaos' at the beginning of class, but I still have students seated in groups and working independently at times. I am not yet at the mastery level of flipping, and so my classroom does not yet look like a drop-in centre; however, I am loosening the reins a bit and beginning to allow organization to fall to the students.
Lessons are still very similar to the traditional class. They are still broken down into 3 parts, however, the 'action' part, or 'do' part, now takes up the majority of class time. I think this is important, and is the reason why I flipped. I still however, want my students to think about, and discuss, the previous night's video, and so that now comprises the beginning of my lesson. As well, I feel it's still important to debrief the 'action' part and ensure the students truly understand the lesson. This part however, I am sure will become more difficult as the students begin to work at their own pace and time-frame. We'll see how it looks then?
4. How can you flip your class easily?
I don't know if there is any 'easy' way to flip? I guess you could simply assign textbook reading material instead of videos or other sources of information; but I don't believe students would really buy into this type of flip. I think video still offers a lot of benefits, and thus makes flipping hard work. However, I believe there are two ways you could flip that might be easier than making daily screen-cast videos:
a) Video tape your lectures for one whole semester. This way you will have all your lessons on video that you can use the next semester when you flip. It wouldn't really add any extra work, and you could still use video as your 'flipping' material.
b) Flip your class once/twice a week, and gradually increase it for each subsequent semester. Therefore over the course of a year or two, you would have all of your videos created for your 'flip-out'
5. How do you ensure students watch the video and really learn the material?
is no difference in ensuring students understand the material in the
flip-class as compared to a traditional classroom. I use regular quizzes
to make sure, and hold discussions to assess. Eventually I would like
to set up online quizzes to assess the students immediately after
watching the video, and feel this would be a fantastic way to keep track
of progress (think Khan Academy). Until then, it's really business as usual.
6. What about access to technology for students?
This is something that I don't have any issues with in my classes. However, I did make sure to send a letter home to their parents to ask them about their access to technology. This will help me ensure all students can watch the videos posted on Youtube. As well, the amount of time students have during their lunch, the time they have before and after school, and the prevalence of mobile technology, there are definitely ways to ensure students have access to watch the videos.
7. What tips do you have for video content?
I think it's important to have lots of visuals to accompany text. Therefore, I also believe text is important so students are able to read if they are not necessarily auditory learners. I try to include a visual to accompany most of my text, and use PowerPoint slides to do this. Eventually, animation, highlighting, and other visual aids will be included so that the information is emphasized. The other part that I feel is important is to make the videos more than just the curriculum material. The students in my class have responded positively when I sing a theme song to begin each of my videos, when I tell personal stories to help emphasize material, and when I joke around on the video, just like I would in class. Making the videos your own and ensuring they convey your personality I think is very important; because I think some students may rather still have you as a teacher at the front of the class teaching like this. Which brings me to...
8. How can a video be more interesting than in-person lectures?
I don't know if there is any way to be more interesting in a video as compared to person. I think you can be close, but I don't know if I ever will be. The one thing I have found though, is that as I have made more and more videos, I have become more and more comfortable, and my personality is definitely showing itself more in the videos. I think that as time goes on, and my video production skills increase, the videos will become more and more interesting. Accompany this with still interesting classes, and I believe students won't really miss a thing (cue Aerosmith).