If I had to say there was one huge change in my teaching this year, it would be the concept of the Flipped Class.

I started flipping my IB Standard Level class out of a desperate attempt to cover more content in less time.  In this process of flipping, I learned:

  • Flipping is not all about the videos (but it is the most common tool).
  • Flipping will not solve all your problems.
  • You do not have to make your own videos.
  • Flipping takes a lot of time.
  • I actually miss lecturing (but not enough to start doing it again!)

I’d like to elaborate on the first point:  Flipping is so often associated with YouTube that it leads many skeptics to say things like, “So you just tell your kids to watch videos instead of teaching them?”.

No.  Not even close.

Flip your instruction so that students watch and listen to your lectures… for homework, and then use your precious class-time for what previously, often, was done in homework: tackling difficult problems, working in groups, researching, collaborating, crafting and creating. — Jonathan Martin

The process of teaching is so much more than standing and delivering material.  Surely if you are reading this, you know that.  I would argue that the most important part of teaching actually occurs after the material has been delivered:  You need to be there when your kids get stuck as they try to apply what they’ve learned.  And by stuck, I don’t mean ‘working’–I
mean stuck, and/or headed down the wrong path.  When your students are at home, and they get stuck, the ultra-determined ones may, but most of them call it quits.  Your homework doesn’t get done, and the knock-on effect is obvious.Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 7.15.08 PM

Flipping is all about shifting the type of activity which happens in the class. Students can’t perform experiments at home, but they can in class.  Students can’t discuss tough problems with their peers (or teacher) at home, but they can in class.  Students can be introduced to new information at home, so they shouldn’t be in class!

One of the most satisfying parts of this whole experience has been talking to my students about it.  Asking them what flipping is, why we do it, how they like it, etc.  I put together a quick video to show my co-workers, and here’s the take-home message:  THEY GET IT!

Accountability and Interactivity

Interaction is required! Red bars indicate places where the video will pause and ask a question.

Interaction is required! Red bars indicate places where the video will pause and ask a question.

As the flipped class gurus, Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams point out, you must hold students accountable for doing the work.  Flipping the class actually relies even more heavily on students doing their ‘homework’ than the traditional classroom does.  If a student walks in to a learning environment where it is assumed that they have background knowledge, and they don’t, they are at a major disadvantage.  Fortunately, the solution to this is is fairly simple: Do the flipped-activity in class.  Of course, that means they miss out on the critical application phase–but it isn’t a fatal error.

Since holding students accountable is one of the most important aspects of the flipped class, we need a way to make sure students actually watch the videos.  It is time to introeduce the most powerful tool I have found (other than YouTube!) in flipping the class:   EduCanon.

EduCanon enables the flipped-class teacher to do a few key things:

  • Make interaction mandatory
  • Monitor participation
  • Consolidate and organize videos

When students are watching EduCanon videos (“bulbs”), they are required to answer questions before moving on.  The teacher designs the questions, and they can be anything from simple multiple choice (which an be automatically graded!) to fill in the blank, or even free-response.   If they get the question wrong, they are notified (and so are you).  As as the teacher, you’ll very quickly figure out which kids are just clicking through the videos, and which are actually watching and paying attention.

In my experience, 95% of my students genuinely watch every video.  I know this because I check!  I check in multiple ways.  First and foremost, I use

EduCanon's monitoring tab helps you keep students accountable

EduCanon’s monitoring tab helps you keep students accountable

EduCanon’s monitoring tab.  I usually do this about 30 minutes before class starts (though I am now finding it it to be less necessary–my kids are trained!).  Also, I very frequently will have a super-short formative quiz when the kids first come in.  Those who have participated in the video generally ace the quiz.

I had only 1 student (out of 25) that needed “help” understanding the importance of doing the work.  It was not a problem.

I’m convinced the concepts of flipping the classroom are here to stay, and I am embracing it completely (even though I haven’t started making my own videos).  My students love it.  My future-chemical-engineers like how they don’t have to sit around while my future-artists ask questions that are totally obvious to them.  My student’s parents love it–they are rarely put in the position of trying to help their teenager with their chemistry homework!  Win, win, win. It feels great to have taken a chance with this teaching method and I fully plan on implementing it in my other classes.