Whether we acknowledge it or not, there is no denying that we are part of the digital revolution that began more than two decades ago, and continues to snowball. Ever evolving technology and increasing access to online media is shaping the way teachers teach and students learn. The pairing of online media (i.e. youtube and google) with the devices that stream them (i.e. computers, ipads, chromebooks, and tablets) has fueled this transition. Today google and youtube videos have become the teachers, showing ushow to install garage door openers, fix cars, and complete any number of “do it yourself” projects around the home.
In universities, high schools and elementary schools, there has been a steady rise in blended learning, a form of learning in which pre-recorded lectures are presented in videos for students to access outside their traditional classrooms. Blended learning began as early as the 1990’s in American universities, such as Harvard. At Mohawk College and McMaster University in Hamilton, blended education has become the norm. The objective of blended learning is for students to learn content prior to attending their instructor’s class, thus providing more time in class for collaborative learning. The “flipped classroom” is part of the blended learning model. Short tutorial videos allow students to learn at their own pace. Although it does require careful planning on the part of the teacher, the flipped classroom can be an effective tool when used appropriately. This is especially true for a student who struggles academically, and is given the opportunity to “rewind” a video, allowing them to comprehend a concept or master a skill. The flipped classroom saves time and boosts confidence.
I first became aware of the flipped classroom when I attended a summer workshop a few years ago led by colleague Alex VanDonkersgoed, from Halton Hills Christian School in Georgetown. Although I found the idea intriguing, I had not seriously thought of using it. A few weeks later, a set of parents approached me because they were concerned with their child’s frustration preparing for the first recorder test. I met with the child during recess, and I prepared a flip lesson and sent it home on a DVD. Using iMovie software, I made two videorecordings and “blended” them using picture-in-picture editing. The first video showed a close-up of my fingers playing the recorder, and the second video was superimposed showing the timing and music notes being played. The child and his parents were pleased with the result because their child was able to learn the test pieces at his own pace, without any frustration. Needless to say, his ability to play the recorder improved in a relatively short time and he was playing the instrument successfully. I repeated the idea for future recorder tests and have used some of the videos during class time. While the videos play on the big screen, I am able to circulate among the recorder players, pinpointing problems as they come up, and offering tips for improved playing in the moment.
What began with recorder videos has expanded into other areas of the curriculum in my classroom. I have since created flip lessons for a unit on pulleys and gears, and flip lessons demonstrating long division, multiplication, and rounding in math. In our most recent math unit, I posted a test review flip lesson, demonstrating the six skill areas that would be on the test. I was pleased when many students watched the video a few times before the test. Fourteen students posted scores in the nineties, among the highest results I have seen for this test.
Another advantage of the flipped classroom is that it allows students who have missed a day of school to catch up at home. A student who missed several days last spring was able to learn steps for multiplication on the flip lesson video at home. She had capably completed the math assignments upon her return to school. Using video provides the flexibility of giving a close up view of something specific, for example, using a protractor. Projected on the big screen, it is easier for the students to learn how to landmark, and interpret the numbers and corresponding angles. Prior to a lesson on using a protractor, one of my students ran up to me and said “I know how to do this. I watched your video last night.” My flip lessons are posted on youtube, and are accessible on the classroom web page. I look forward to the day when more teachers will create and share their flip lessons in a forum such as the EdCommons, hosted by the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools, where educators can communicate and share with other educators. The flipped classroom benefits both the teacher and the student, it is a win-win for everyone.
~Mr. T. Boer, Grade 4 teacher