So…If you have read this blog before, you know that I am a flipclass teacher. What you may not know is that I have some confessions to make – enough confessions that my colleague Kristina Stevenson and I created a professional development session. And we had the good fortune to present these ideas at the OTA/Encyclomedia conference in Oklahoma City. How did it go?? Great!! So if you missed it or are curious read on…You can read Part 1 here.
Confessions: These are the trials and tribulations, successes and struggles for two high school math teachers: Scott Haselwood (Twitter: @haselwoodmath) and Kristina Stevenson (Twitter: @kstev320).
Despite all of the excellent things that the flipped classroom model does, all of the perks and bonuses from this switch, there are some real struggles that we have to overcome. As with any student homework assignment, getting the kids to consistently do the “homework” (watch the videos) is tough. If the kids didn’t do the homework before, they could “listen” in class during the lecture. For those kids that are really, really brilliant, this is not a problem. The kids that need to do everything and don’t, struggle. They don’t get the chance to “hear” your voice when they are required to be in your class during the school day. Then when they start working on the problems that have been assigned, they really have a difficult time. The students have nothing to base the lesson on and now they are trying to learn material without any teacher instruction or guidance as a foundation. Kristina and I are always talking about what we can do that will encourage the kids to tune in twice a week. Lets be honest, some kids just don’t do any homework at all.
Parents also have some issues with the flip model, they see it as the computer teaching their son/daughter. The flip model is so different from what they are used to, the tendency is to blame the teacher for not teaching. What I have experienced is that the parents that really have a difficult time with this style, do not get the entire story from their kids. Typically the students are sharing their frustration at not understanding a concept right away, or blaming that teacher for not explaining concepts or answering questions. I can say for a fact – without anything to support this – I answered more questions from the students last year than every before. And not just generic questions, but really specific questions about exactly where the confusion is. I have had the experience that after talking with parents about exactly how class is structured and what the expectations for the students are at home and at school, most parents see the benefit. This does not mean that they like it, this is a difficult model for the students and parents to get used to. If you are going to flip your class, its really important that you encourage your parents to contact you with any questions or concerns that they have. I have offered some of my parents the opportunity to visit my classroom to see exactly what is going on and how all of the interactions work.
For those of you that have spent years studying classroom management and how to get students to listen quietly in rows, writing down everything you say during your lecture, and politely asking questions of clarification – this classroom model is hard to get used to. FOR YEARS, I worked really hard on this. After flipping, my classroom because a cauldron of noise and discussion. The kids are in groups and out of necessity have to discuss what is going on in class. Its not unusual to hear my kids from down the hall and if Kristina has her door open, you can hear hers to. I had to leave me room one time for just a short few minutes to see our principal. On my return, as I turned the corner I heard all of this noise. When I finally figured out it was my kids, I thought what a bunch of non-working rascals! In my mind I was ready to remind the children exactly what they were supposed to be doing in class, give them the old do the right thing when nobody is watching speech! When I turned into my room, textbooks were out, pencils were scratching, kids were helping each other – my words died in my throat. I could not believe the amount of noise coming out of my room, I also could not believe the amount of work being done in my room! As well as working in groups and making noise, kids are also busy flitting from group to group. Students are assigned a group to work with during each unit and these groups change with each unit. But they also know who is really smart in their classes and its not unusual for the kids to go from group to group asking questions. Flip model equals busier classrooms – learning can be messy!
Wow – the amount of work that goes into this model is unbelievable. When I convinced Kristina to flip with me last year, I had no idea the time investment that would be involved (also was creating content for three different preps). This is where its a
good, make that a great idea to work with someone else. By our nature, Kristina and I work really hard to be perfect. If you teach math, you know mistakes are going to happen, you just correct them and move on. Now when we create our videos, we can edit out those mistakes. But creating the videos can take a little while to do depending on what software/app you are using. We have smartboards in our school, so lecturing for me was writing problems out on the board. I did not spend much time preparing my slides, unless it was some sort of application problem. Kristina was better prepared in this category – she had most of her lessons in the notebook software or in powerpoint. But now we had to work all of these problems out ahead of time – and when there was about an hour’s worth of problems that were worked out everyday – this means a lot of recording. Kristina and I worked hard to get everything together digitally at first so we could record lessons. Last year we would alternate who would do what sections for PreAP Precalculus. After recording your lesson (I will share with you what we used in the next post) there is the whole editing and uploading process. All of this takes time and if you coach a sport or sponsor a group, you know about extra time commitment.
There is also the issue about student access to technology. Kristina and I teach in a school district where this is not typically a problem, for the most part. But this is a huge issue! There are lots of kids that do not have access to any technology outside of the school day. When you flip your class, you expect the kids to get the information for class from a connected device outside of your classroom. One way to work through this is by figuring out a way that works best for you – and have the technology available in class. Our school has an ipad cart, and I use this whenever I get the chance. I do like to give the kids the opportunity to decide when they want to view their notes. I am giving strong consideration to writing a grant to get some iPod touches. Using our wifi in the school, kids can check one out from me and get their notes during class. Is this the ideal set up for me? No, its not what I prefer, but I want the kids to learn! And while we are at it, lets just fess up – most kids are creatures of habit, they hate change. I have had many discussions with kids, some of them very animated, about the flip model. They want to have the homework from the textbook, they want the ability to ask the teacher a question the second they have it, they want a lecture. Its hard for them to make this switch. When I talk with the kids about why they do not watch a video the conversation typically goes like this:
Student: I am stuck on #1, can you help?
Haselwood: Did you watch your notes last night?
Student: I don’t have time to watch the notes.
Haselwood: What?! So when would you plan on doing your hourlong bookwork assignment if you can’t find time to watch a 20 minute video?
Haselwood: Here is the first step…
About the teacher side of things, some of the editing software can be expensive. Kristina and I use Camtasia ($200 for Windows and $99 for Macs) and we really like it, its also the only editing software we have ever used. There are several different screencasting programs out there at all different price points. A fellow teacher recommended Camtasia and that was all we knew at the time we ordered it. There are some great apps for the Mac operating system, there are some great programs for Windows machines, and both have their pros and cons. This is one of those find something that works for you type of things and go with it. I love some of the features of Camtasia – for example, create an interactive quiz with just a couple of clicks. There are also some great low cost (free to $1.99) apps for the iPad that are really good. Once you pick your screencaster, you have to learn how to use it. Any of the programs that you choose will have a learning curve. Some of them are pretty steep, some are smaller, all of them take time to learn. What about a microphone?? Well most laptop computers have microphones built in. You will need to record a test lesson with them to see if they are going to work as clearly as you would like. I have both a MacBook Pro and an iMac, I need a microphone with the iMac, not with the MacBook Pro. I also record things at school and my school computer does not have a microphone at all, so I went to Wal-Mart and bought a little $20 headset/microphone system. One of my colleagues has also purchased a blu-tooth headset and records her lesson while standing and writing on the smartboard. I also bought a blu-tooth hands free microphone that connects to my phone as well. I have discovered that the audio quality on this is something like an online conversation and not quite as clear as I would like and it sounds even more horrible when I use it at school. You could also buy a Swivl Cameraman ($100) and use your iPhone/iPad Mini to record yourself. But you would need to have an Apple device…Bottom line with this one, pick a couple of different things that you like and just stick with them. By the time you are an expert at ten different apps/programs we could have a permanent colony on Mars. We use the Teach App by Knowmia (more on this later), Explain Everything ($2.99), and Camtasia. We have used these three programs almost exclusively and we still find things that we have not discovered (the whole expert part). But we have tried out lots of things in the process of finding things that we think that we could fit into our personality. This is one of the most important and difficult parts of flipping your class.