Thursday, September 20, 2012

Flipped FAQ's

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?
There 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).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

It's Been One Week...

... since you looked at me." Sorry was a little distracted there with the Barenaked Ladies song in my head. This post is about one week, but not at all what the BNL were singing about. It has been one week since I started flipping my marketing classes, and the results so far? Well a little inconclusive. However, I will say, things look promising.

I started this semester with the idea of 'training' my students. I figured that if they have experienced 10+ years of school one way, than the first couple days in the flipped classroom would be a bit of an adjustment. I proceeded this year with the usual introductions and course outlines, however, instead of taking too much time on that, I used the majority of the first class introducing the students to the flipped class model. I presented to them an informational presentation on the flipped model in the usual way - me standing at the front of the class, and presenting the information to them like a "sage on the stage". I asked them what they thought of learning that way, and received the usual shy responses; "It's okay", "I don't mind", and "We're used to it" were the majority of responses. These responses indicated that my students were fine with the usual model, however, there wasn't any indication that they were enthused by it.
After presenting in the usual sort of way, I then explained that we would run through the new way of doing things in our class. I handed out note taking templates, and explained to them how to take notes while watching videos - key points, details, summary, and then a question that can be used for discussion. I then loaded my introductory video of "How to watch the lecture videos" which explained to them the STORM concept of watching videos (STORM is also our school mascot). You can take a look at the video here. I tried to set the theme, asking them to pretend that school has just ended and they are all sitting at home watching the video. I played the video and walked out of class to listen just outside the door (listening to yourself on video is highly embarrassing!). The students giggled at first, but surprisingly every single one took notes on the video! I came back into class, and reset the theme explaining that they have now all started the next school day, all have come to class and now we would begin the next day's lesson. At this point I explained how we would begin every class.
I arranged the class into 3 groups - Know, Wonder, & Learn. I explained to the students that they would decided which group to join based on their video viewing experience. The 'Know' group would consist of those students who watched the video, felt confident with the material, and completed their notes. In this group, these students would share their summaries, ask each other their discussion questions, participate in a discussion based on those questions, and then answer a question I posed to the whole group. The 'Wonder' group would be those students who watched the video, but did not feel confident in the material. I explained to them that I would be a part of this group, and would be there to answer any questions they might have regarding the material. We would therefore work through their questions to come to an understanding of the concept. The 'Learn' group would therefore be those students who did not watch the video prior to class and therefore needed to. I explained to these students that I was okay with them not watching the video once in a while, but if it became habit, then we would need to have a 'frank' discussion. The whole class seemed to buy into this method of beginning class and seemed to like the idea that they had options.
Once the students were 'trained' on video viewing procedures and the routine to start the class, I then explained that the rest of the period would be all about application. This would be where they would be challenged with a task to complete which had them apply their knowledge of the concept seen on the video. They seemed to also respond positively to this as they liked the idea that class was all about 'doing' now, and not just sitting there listening. I also explained that I would be able to help them much more during class (a real benefit of the model) and act as a tutor during the application if any of them needed it. I then ended the class by providing them the link to watch that night's video.

This procedure was something that I found in my research on others who are 'flipping' their classes. I liked the idea because the routine allows the students to basically run the beginning of class. It also allows me to assess the students learning and keep track of those students who continually struggle with their understanding.

The next day was somewhat positive. Unfortunately the link did not work for one of my classes, and half of the other; however, 99% of my students did try to access the video to watch it. From that standpoint it was very positive. That kind of response is something that I hope continues!

Due to the shortened week that's all the reflection I have. This week will consist of 4 videos that the students will be required to watch. Well see how it goes. Stay tuned!