Oct 26, 2016

Adventures in Flipping the Classroom (Part 2)

This is Part Two of our conversation with flipped classroom pioneer and YouTube rock star Nancy Foote. If you missed Part One, read it here

What’s the best way for teachers to get started with flipping the classroom?

You don’t have to dive right into flipping your class—you can somersault first!

By this, I mean start small. You don’t have to start out by making all of your own videos right away. Try flipping first with just one unit or even a single topic, and see how it works for you. If you’re not ready to make your own videos, there are lots of resources online where you can find ready-made videos to try.

How do you get around technology availability issues?

Equity is always a concern, but there are ways around it. For a long time, I burned DVDs of each week’s videos for students who did not have internet access at home. I even bought a DVD player at a thrift store once for a student who did not have one. And students are also able to watch the videos in the lab before or after class or during their lunch or study period. Remember, the video is only a few minutes long.

I find that it is getting easier, too. The videos can be watched on any device. Not every family has a computer, but more and more have smartphones, for parents if not for the kids. I tell parents that I am going to become part of their family. I will be at the dinner table, on the sidelines at soccer practice, in the backseat of the car. Kids can watch the videos wherever they are, on whatever device they have available.

Where do you recommend teachers go to curate videos?

Well, if you’re teaching science, feel free to check out my YouTube channel!

Honestly, if you search on YouTube or Google, you’ll find thousands of videos you can use. For math and science, a lot of my colleagues use Khan Academy or Virtual Nerd. But there are also a lot of teachers like me making their own videos in every subject.

A few tips:

  • Make sure you watch the WHOLE video. A lot of videos are created with adults or college students in mind; a video that seems great up front may have language or images inappropriate for your students lurking towards the end.
  • Think about the videos from your students’ point of view. For example, a lot of teachers really love the Virtual Nerd videos, but my students prefer mine. Look for videos that make the ideas engaging as well as easy to understand.
  • If you want to be able to use videos in class, and your school blocks YouTube, you can download videos and bring them in on a memory stick. This has the added benefit of skipping the advertisements.
  • Update your video library regularly. For example, the way we teach a math concept may change, or there may be new advances in science. Look at your videos every year and make sure they still work for you as standards and teaching methods change.

What recommendations do you have for teachers ready to start making their own videos?

Making your own videos is really the ultimate goal in a flipped classroom. Your students learn best from someone they have a personal relationship with. And you can tailor your videos to exactly what your students need.

I actually did my own action research after reading a study that said students learn best from videos that show their teacher’s face. I first compared a Khan Academy video to one I made myself, and my students did better when they watched my video. Then I compared a video that showed my face while I was talking to one that only showed my hands and PowerPoint slides. They did better with the one where they could see my face. They stay more engaged, and so they remember better. It really does work.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your own videos:

  • Don’t worry about fancy equipment, lighting and editing. Just get started! You can do this with your phone, without any special lighting. I do simple one-take videos and I don’t use editing software.
  • Don’t try to do it all at once. This is going to be a two- to four-year project to build your basic video library. The first year, you may only do a unit or two.
  • Don’t do “death by PowerPoint.” I only use visuals as memory triggers and aids to understanding. I don’t read to them off of the screen.
  • Keep it short and sweet. Each video should be no longer than eight minutes, and five or six is ideal. If you need more time than that, break it up into multiple videos.
  • Make the video for YOUR kids, not for the world at large. Don’t worry about getting 10,000 YouTube views. Talk directly to the students you have in front of you in class every day. If others are able to benefit also, that’s just a bonus.
  • Be kind to yourself. Your kids don’t care if you’re having a bad hair day, or whether your outfit is flattering. They see you in class every day. If a phone rings or a dog barks in the background, so what? Your students don’t care. They just want to learn from you. Trust yourself, and be authentic, and you’ll be fine.

Nancy recommends: