Monday, 19 November 2012

Flipping Learning: Some useful tools

In my last effort to enthral the blogosphere with my own low-level version of "expertise"(and from your kind comments back I seem to have succeeded in managing everyone's expectations downwards remarkably well!), I talked about my journey into the idea of "flipping the classroom". It was all very abstract and you missed nothing much, although in fairness you should really read it again before this post, if only to give my stats a boost: Zero is a lonely little readership figure.

Today I thought I'd get concrete on your asses, and give you some idea of the sorts of things I do in class to flip the learning. These could be regarded as fairly subject-specific, but I think the principles are applicable in a range of areas, or so I'm informed by reliable colleagues. More reliable than me at any rate.

A few examples:


In my subject, I have to teach students how to use a great many pieces of software for design, editing, and now with the growing use of iPads in my lessons, apps. I've found the biggest waste of my time has consistently been the teaching of how to use said software to all students together. Software is something people learn very differently, especially in gender terms. There are the academics who need the theory, the kinaesthetics who need to fiddling with software or hardware as they go along, the visual learners who can't get it from verbal instructions: You name them, they're in my classroom, all together. And when I used to teach them to use software, half of them switched off immediately because they just wanted to get on with it, the other half switched off because they needed more time and / or a different method of learning. 

Enter the flipped learning scenario: A video tutorial, often accompanied by a written document, which students have to lear for homework. I tell them I don't mind how long it takes to learn, how they learn it (indeed many of them will come in after school to watch the videos while using the app / software / camera), they just need to know how to use it before they start on a given task. The students know I won't answer questions about how to use equipment or software, they have to get on with it themselves. In the end, they learn it, or they collaborate with others to get it as they go along. Either way is fine by me, as they can always go back to the videos any time they like to check. This range of resources allows them to learn in their own time, at their own pace, without the embarrassment of knowing they're holding others back: More importantly, it frees me up to talk about what they're creating, designing, writing, explaining etc. 

This example of flipping has freed up so much time for me that the resulting quality of the practical work produced has increased dramatically in the last few years, and allowed students a far greater sense of independence and achievement. All of which I take credit for, naturally. The tutorial videos don't take that long, and I've created them a variety of ways using screen capture software such as Adobe Captivate, Camstudio and the like, or even Explain Everything on the iPad. Having created them, I upload them to the department's own Finham Media Youtube channel, and I tweet or email the links to specific videos to students. For more complexes pieces of software, such as video editing software, I can create a number of different videos for each stage of the editing process, and then once uploaded, make them into a sequential playlist, allowing students to move from stage to stage at their own pace. Example below...

Extended Learning using TED-Ed: 

I love TED. For those of you who've never heard of TED, I could wax lyrical(ish) for ages on this brilliant website. I won't. You've endured me long enough. But its mantra of "Ideas Worth Spreading" should be justification enough for you to toddle on over there right now and check it out. No, wait, finish this first...

When they brought out the ability to flip TED talks using TED-Ed, I thought it was genius. Here's one I Blue Peter-ed earlier: Tom Chatfield: Seven Ways Video Games Engage The BrainAn excellent way to get students watching thought-provoking videos, and also to test their retention of the knowledge by setting them simple comprehension questions about the material, as part of the package: No programming skills required. You simply create the multiple choice questions, nominate the answer which is correct, and you're done, as you can see below, if you have excellent eyesight...

More than that, though, it allows differentiated learning with the Dig Deeper Section, where you can set more open questions to engage deeper learning, and the And Finally section which allows you to go wide open and engage those who are willing in some profound thinking. I tend to use the THINK section as part of the flipped homework, and I then use the middle DIG DEEPER activity as the start of lessons.

    As with the software tutorials, I expect all my students to be able to complete the basic understanding questions, given that they can replay the video as often as they like, and there is even a video hint mode allowing them to get to the exact section of the video which has the answer to the question! Am I helping them too much? Not really. The initial questions are just a simple way for me to ensure that all the students engaged with the homework, and to gauge how hard it was for them. I can immediately tell those who need extra support right from the start of the next lesson, and those who've clearly engaged with it on a profound level, and need something even more profound to make further progress. And that's where my planning of the next lesson starts...

    What I love even more about Ted-Ed is the ability to take ANY video from Youtube and flip it. There are loads of interesting videos out there, and much as my students don't appreciate me getting some other teacher's video (they oddly have a preference for my dulcit tones, which somehow reassure them!), there are lots of people making videos out there who are real experts in their fields, and who can really push them forward much more quickly than I could.

    So there you go: A couple of suggestions for how you can flip your classroom. Have a go! Let me know!

    (A rhyme! A rhyme! My final crime!)

    (I'll get my coat...)