Three reasons I like my “hybrid” flipped classroom

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by bledsoe on December 28, 2013

As I was preparing to teach a new course this semester (Common Core Math, Year 2), one of the things I had to figure out was what would be the role of video in my new class. I'd been using a flipped model for the past couple of years in both my Geometry and AFM (pre-calculus) classes, and was overall pretty happy with it, but wasn't sure if I wanted to use that exact model with this new class. For one thing, since I'd never taught it before I didn't have as much of the class content on video and I wasn't sure if I should spend time trying to put everything on video before I'd even taught the class one time. For another thing, our district had provided us with a lot of good teaching resources, and some of them didn't really lend themselves to video (e.g., exploratory activities, group activities, etc.). And, I was also struggling with the "homework completion" issue.

Once I finally got the basic outline of my course together, what I had was a kind of hybrid model. It wasn't exactly a flipped classroom, since I wasn't assigning videos as homework on a consistent basis, but it also wasn't a traditional classroom because I was still using a lot of video lectures, I was just using them in class. (Also, I was giving a lot more assignments in which the students were the ones creating videos.)

I discovered that I really like this hybrid model, and here are three reasons why:

1. I make lesson-planning decisions based on what's best for the students. Sometimes that means presenting new material via a lecture video. But sometimes it means using an exploratory activity, or a group project, or traditional practice problems. It's great to have a variety of activities to choose from.

2. I learned what my students are (and aren't) doing when I assign videos as homework. A couple of weeks into this semester, we were studying geometric transformations. At a basic level, this involves graphing a geometric figure (say a triangle) on an x-y axis grid, changing the figure somehow (e.g., slide it, reflect it, rotate it, etc.), then drawing a graph of the new figure. I already had several lecture videos for this topic, since I had taught it before in my Geometry classes. In fact, the video I had created on rotations was one I particularly liked, since in the video I tell the students to draw the figure on their paper and then physically rotate their paper 90 degrees to see where the coordinates for the new figure will be. In the video, to illustrate how to do this, I draw a triangle on a grid on my small whiteboard and pick up the whiteboard and turn it 90 degrees. (I even write the new coordinates on the whiteboard while it's in the rotated position, so that when I turn it back, the writing is sideways.) I was really pleased with myself for coming up with such a clever way to illustrate rotations! So when it was time to do rotations this time, I passed out the guided notes that went with the video, put the video up on the screen for the class to watch, and hit play. As the students were watching the video, I was watching them, and when it came to the part in the video where I turn my board sideways, several students didn't turn their paper sideways (even though I tell them to do so very clearly in the video). I went up to my laptop, hit the pause button on the video, and explained that yes, I actually wanted them to physically turn their paper sideways. After a few seconds of confusion on the part of some students (and some assistance from me), they turned their papers sideways and we went on with the video.

It never occurred to me that anyone would find that part of the video confusing, but clearly they did. And it turned out that there were parts of other videos that weren't as clear as I thought they were, and I learned this when I played the video in class and was able to see how the students reacted to them. Pretty soon I got really good at knowing when to hit the pause button, either because I wanted to clarify or highlight a particular topic, or because I wanted to do a quick Q&A and make sure everyone was with me.

Now I often prefer to show my lecture videos in class rather than assign them as homework. It allows me to monitor everyone's comprehension of the material, plus it avoids the whole "what if they don't watch the videos for homework" hassle.

3. Video lectures still have a lot of benefits, even if you don't assign them as homework. This was a big revelation for me. At first I was worried that I would lose all the benefits of my flipped classroom if I wasn't assigning the videos as homework, but I discovered that's not the case. I still don't have to repeat myself multiple times when presenting material I've already presented, which means I'm not exhausted at the end of the day; it's still much easier to deal with students who are absent; and I still cover the material much faster in a video than in a live lecture, which means more class time available for other activities.

So if you've been put off by the flipped classroom approach because of concerns over the "videos as homework" issue, consider this your invitation to try making a video that you plan to use in class. You may find you like it as much as I do.

[Update: See, I told you!]

Photo Credit: jfingas via Compfight cc

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