Flipping my classroom – more than just videos

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by bledsoe on June 24, 2012

Last semester I flipped all of my Geometry classes, and now I'm in the process of flipping a second set of classes. Having done it before means that a lot of things are easier this time, but it also means that I know there's more to it than just recording video lectures.

The first time I flipped a class, creating the video lectures was pretty straightforward. I took the guided notes that I used for each lesson, I created my whiteboard slides, and I recorded myself giving the lecture pretty much like I would have given it if I was lecturing to my class. And overall this worked pretty well. Some of my video lectures came out longer than I would have liked, but as a first attempt I was pretty pleased.

Having taught an entire semester of classes using the flipped classroom model, however, I now have a better sense of what kinds of things are possible to do in a flipped classroom, and of how the flipped model affects other parts of the class. Specifically:

The videos and the notes and the practice problems go together - For my first set of flipped classes, I didn't really make many changes to the practice worksheets that accompanied each set of notes (i.e., the former "homework" problems that the students now did during class). While making videos for my second class, however, I would often make changes to the notes and the worksheets at the same time. Not only did this allow me to make sure that the content I was covering in the notes (and the video) was content that they would need to complete the worksheet problems, but it also allowed me to move problems from one to the other. Most commonly, I would remove longer example problems from a set of notes and put them in as practice problems in the corresponding worksheet. This proved to be doubly beneficial; it simultaneously shortened the notes (and the video) and gave the students more in-depth problems to explore during their class/group time.

For videos, shorter is better - In my first set of lecture videos for my Geometry classes, most of my videos were around 15 minutes, several were over 20, and I even had one or two that were 25 minutes long! Yikes. For my AFM class (Advanced Functions and Modeling), most of my videos are between 10 and 15 minutes, and only a few are over 20 minutes.

It's been really amazing (and humbling) to learn that having me talk at my students, either in a live lecture or a recorded video, is not nearly as important as I used to think. Sure, there are things they need to know about whatever new topic we're exploring, and often the most effective or efficient way to convey that knowledge is for me to talk at them, but I don't usually need to talk at them for very long. My goal for the videos has become to just give them the basics. Then they know enough so that they're not completely lost and the next day in class they can start to figure out the rest. And the students have multiple resources for "figuring out the rest": they have their notes from the video, they have me, and they have each other.

Group work has become the norm in my class - Learning to use student groups effectively has been one of the most valuable things about flipping my classroom. There are a lot of benefits to having students discuss, argue, and just generally talk about math, but it can be challenging to make this work. Keeping students on task, helping them learn how to ask good questions, giving them the confidence that they are capable of figuring things out themselves; it takes more than just putting students into groups and saying, "Okay, now work with each other" to make these things happen. It also takes a good bit of practice, and in a flipped classroom the students (and the teacher) have more time to practice.

All of these things show how a flipped classroom is about more than just lectures on video. It's about creating space in your classroom for students to engage in more effective learning activities.

Image by Shopping Diva via Flickr.

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