Monday, October 10, 2011

Flipping Your Classroom Without Making Your Students Dizzy!

AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by JB London
There has been a lot of press both locally and nationally,and punditry pro and con lately around "flipping" instruction. "Flipping" is when you create video of your lecture or a demonstration that you would normally do in class, and then post the video for students to watch as homework at home. Proponents point out that this then allows the teacher to either complete activities that normally would be done as homework in class with the support of the teacher, or it allows for hands on activities to take place in the classroom with facilitation from the teacher. 
Teachers may create their own videos, or rely on prepackaged video from publishing companies or others. Some believe that Sal Khan, creator of the "Khan Academy," is their favorite teacher, and some question the accolades. This past summer, Scott McLeod convened an expert panel to debate the issue. For those thinking of flipping, or flipping well, it is well worth an hour of your time! In this post, I'll review some of the origins of the flip, discuss best practices, and share two examples of how our Edina teachers are incorporating "flipping" into their instruction.

The idea for flipping originated with two Colorado Science teachers, Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann who who created video lectures in multiple formats for their students as homework, allowing for more hands-on activities in class. Originally called "Educational Vodcasting," Sams and Bergmann saw tremendous growth in student achievement and found students were more self-directed in this new pedagogical model. Rather than spending class-time, passively listening to lectures and taking notes, students were able to listen to and view the lectures at home, pause, rewind, and take notes on the important details. They work hard to provide multiple ways for students to view the content, whether it be posted directly online, downloadable as a podcast to view on their portable device, or burned to CD and DVD for students to take home. They now maintain a social network for educators interested in flipping their instruction.

Karl Fisch, who along with Scott McLeod created the "Did You Know...Shift Happens" video, and it's iterations, started flipping his math instruction when he returned to the classroom a few years ago. Daniel Pink, impressed by this pedagogical shift, coined the new technique the "Fisch Flip" in this article in September of 2010.
Fisch has a blog for his classes, and posts the videos along with resources there. Quoting from the Pink article, Fisch says:

“When you do a standard lecture in class, and then the students go home to do the problems, some of them are lost. They spend a whole lot of time being frustrated and, even worse, doing it wrong,” Fisch told me.
“The idea behind the videos was to flip it. The students can watch it outside of class, pause it, replay it, view it several times, even mute me if they want,” says Fisch, who emphasizes that he didn’t come up with the idea, nor is he the only teacher in the country giving it a try. “That allows us to work on what we used to do as homework when I’m they’re to help students and they’re there to help each other.”
Fisch argues that flipping allows for teachers to meet the demands of today's "mile wide" curriculum, that whether we like it or not, students are expected to know. He also notes that there are certain algorithms that are beneficial for students to master, and having the video resource available makes it easier to do so.

Sal Kahn
Sal Kahn is a former "hedge fund analyst" and M.I.T. graduate, who after tutoring his cousin and others in math for a few years, started posting his video explanations online. After 3 years of building up his Youtube channel, his site became so popular that he quit his job to devote all of his energies to developing the "Khan Academy." Khan now has over 2,600 videos and 207 practice excersizes created to assist students with learning everything from Algebra to Organic Chemistry and Finance. With funding from Bill Gates, and popular Ted talks, Khan has positioned himself as a force in educational reform. In the video below, he answers some of his critics and shares his vision.

I see Khan's videos as being a place to get a quick overview of a concept, much like Wikipedia. When preparing students at the knowledge level to learn a process and regurgitate the information, the videos are pretty good. My son's Algebra teacher actually prescribed some of the lessons from Khan Academy over the summer to help him with concepts that didn't come as easily during the school year. Along with the video, several sample problems were included to assure "mastery." I think that if used as an additional resource for students and parents, they can have a place. Who a student learns a concept from should be less important than whether they indeed learned it.
Critics of Khan point out that if the sole purpose of education is to prepare students to succeed on standardized tests, then they work pretty well. It's when we get to the higher level thinking of analysis and creation that we see a problem with Khan's pedagogy. Frank Noschese, a Physics teacher from New York points out on his blog that, "if we shift the purpose of education from consuming knowledge and stating answers to creating knowledge and exploring solutions, the fallacy of Khan Academy “reinventing education” is blatently apparent."
In addition to this, like Wikipedia, Khan's methodology and pedagogy has not been fully vetted. In fact, while viewing a video this summer, my son discovered an error in the presentation. Perhaps Khan IS developing higher level skills! Personally, I see much greater benefit to incorporating some of the ideas espoused by Dan Meyer in math instruction rather than a daily dose of Khan.

What we've done here in Edina:

Valley View Middle School 9th Grade math teacher, Mark Carlson, has been flipping his instruction for the last 3 years. Carlson, and his teaching partner,  Kim Griffiths, began using Jing to record explanations of a given unit, and upload the video to They then embedded the video into their Moodle Courses for Advanced Algebra and Geometry. They have since switched to using Camtasia for recording the videos and uploading them to Youtube, as it has improved the production value, and helped avoid questionable content on Blip! This past year, they have taken it one step further, by embedding the video in formative assessments within their Moodle course! Students are able to refer to the video while attempting to answer the questions in the Moodle Quiz. Carlson and Griffiths then get feedback on student understanding so that they can a) see who watched the videos and b) inform their instruction for the next class.
Below is a sample:

Valley View 8th grade Math Teacher, Christopher Hoffman uses a slightly different approach. He to records his video lessons, but using also includes a view of him going through the activity with his Webcam. He feels it gives the student a feeling of "sitting in the front row of class" and provides a more personal touch. Hoffman doesn't flip all of his lessons, but does include the videos of each section for students to refer to at home. Parents appreciate having a resource to view the new methodologies and terminology for how to complete the math problems since they were in school.

Final Thoughts
I agree with Karl Fisch that there IS a place for flipping instruction in today's educational landscape. One thing that Carlson, Griffiths and Hoffman all have in common is that they've put in a tremendous amount of work and effort to produce the videos in a high quality, and blend them into their instruction effectively. As a parent, I like having access to what my children see in class so that my outdated terminology doesn't confuse the issue if I'm trying to help with homework or study for a test. Here are a few tips to help keep your students from getting frustrated, or "dizzy!"
  1. As with any "blended instruction," it is important to make sure that all students have access to the resource. This is an advantage to being able to post to Youtube, embed on a Website, and even post to an iTunes podcast. Even then, some students may need the videos burned to a DVD in order to view it. We have also increased the before and after school hours of our Media Centers so that students can access online work. By providing multiple methods of access, students should be able to view the content, no matter what device they have access to.
  2. Time to complete the out of class work. Even in an affluent community like Edina, some families may only have 1 family computer for 2 or 3 children to access for homework. If all of those children are in the secondary schools, that may mean all needing access to video, Moodle discussions, and the creation of content. When assigning videos as homework, be sure to give the students a couple of days to complete the assignment.
  3. Model good note-taking methods. Rather than say, "watch this video and take notes on it," it is important to specify the expectation. Our district encourages the Cornell note-taking method for students.
  4. Vary Instructional methods and materials. Not every student will be an auditory or visual learner. By varying in-class activities, as well as outside of class activities, you can help keep your students actively engaged.
  5. Limit the length of the videos. Remember when Youtube used to limit uploads to less than 10 minutes? Part of the reason was that attention spans are limited! Screencastomatic has a 15 minute limit, which I think is the maximum length you should need.
These are a few of the tips I have for those interested in adding flipped instruction to your pedagogical repertoire. What other thoughts or ideas do you have?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Guest Post:: Web Rant from an Old Geek

Today's offering is a guest post, by South View Middle School Art teacher, John Kraus. John and I have participated on a couple of Communities of Practice over the years, and today, when he sent out this as an e-mail to staff, I asked if he wouldn't mind if I shared it with a wider audience. John graciously agreed! You can learn more about his Web presence here, and/or view his blog here or follow him on Twitter.

It has been a couple of weeks since I have wasted your time and filled school server space with an email rant.  

What is the purpose of having a website for every class and teacher?
Why do it, how does it work, who cares?
Do I need to learn to do it myself – shouldn’t I be trained?

I think if you are a professional in our society you need a good Web presence.

To create an effective Web presence you must know your target audience for all the different Web tools – I think Webpages are not really just for students – we have Moodle for them.  And parents can always access Moodle with their child.  So the target audience may not really be Parents or students at all since they have access to inside information via SchoolView and Moodle.  If all you have is a link to your Moodle page you are not really putting your best foot forward online.  Especially if once the person goes to the Moodle page they can’t see it without a key.  

A Website is partly for visitors to the Edina District site on-line.  Families who move into the district and wonder about our staff and course offerings.  Other schools and teachers who would like to know what is going on in the Edina Schools.  Former students who look in on their old school.  Etc.

You may say it is not your job to educate people who go to the site if they are not connected to a current student.  But as a professional it is best that you control some of the flow of information about you online.  For some of you the only place you are online is at places like (the school Internet will not allow you to go there – we do not want our students all getting easy access to site like this… right?) As an individual I think the district is offering, and expecting, me to use Google Sites as a place for me to present myself to the public in a professional way.

At the opening workshop this year Will Richardson spoke how every teacher should be “searchable”, or was it “Googlable”, in a positive way.  Go ahead search for John C Kraus see what you came up with.  Below is the link:

Let me know if you have any ideas how I can improve on my Web presence.

I know many of you are thinking that you can’t do “one more thing”.  I get that – I have better things to do too.  But If you plan on being in the profession for a few more years (and even I will stick around for a few years or so) - and want to be seen in a positive way - it can’t hurt to spend some time controlling the main source that most people use to get their information about things – including you.  You want to be viewed as being someone who is on top of things.  Having a positive online profile is part of doing just that these days.

Search for yourself – if you can not easily find something you want people to see – then chances are your web presence could use some updating.

And remember - Edina Public Schools is a brand.  I think the district would like people to go to our website and gain a little insight in what is going on at our school/classes.  No one can do a better job of putting information about you online – it really is something that would be better if you did it yourself.  I know some of you will say you are not trained to do this.  But considering how much we expect students to do online I would suggest you seek out the help you need.  Lets face it if we expect our students to work online we should be proficient at it as well.

If any of you would like help with a webpage there are people who are on staff that can work with you.  I know our Webmaster is swamped, If you want just some simple things you can even come to me – I am far from being an expert but I may be able to help.  I know all of you know some geek you can go to for help.

Before coming to Edina I did some training sessions for staff on how to use an old program called “Hypercard” (this was over 20 years ago).  At one of my workshops a veteran staff member was having trouble because they kept trying to put the disc in backwards “I thought the silver part was the handle” was her response.  But she got the hang of it eventually.  We all have things we needed to learn over the years to keep up with the kids.  And for most of these things we needed to learn it on our own.  And there are some things I spent hours learning only to see it quickly became obsolete as a new, better, way took over.  No one uses Hypercard anymore – too bad since I was really good with that program.

For me, some of the new technology I have had to figure out over the years, with very little training, has been not just computers but: VCRs, DVDs, Copy Machines, Digital Cameras, Phone Systems, Webtools.  How I long for the days when I used 16mm film, large posters and mimeographs.  I did not need to use all this tech stuff back then.  If I wanted to contact a parent I could mail them a letter (wait a week or so for a reply) or keep calling them till they answered (there was no leaving messages since few homes had that technology back then).  And I could not call from my room since it did not have a phone.

This week I have been trying to figure out SchoolView.  It is perhaps the tenth grading program I have used over the years – I hope it will be my last, but I am not counting on it.  At home I got my first HDTV this week.  Now if I can only figure out how to use it effectively.  Why can’t I just plug in my new TV and adjust the “rabbit ears” doing that worked fine in the old days.  

Have a great weekend.