Lessons Lessons Learned

Soon I will be putting the wraps on another school year and my first experimentation with the flipped classroom. For those who are not familiar with the flipped classroom, it is a teaching style where the teacher records lectures for students to view or listen to at home instead of in the class while the students would do their "homework" or other assignments normally given to do outside of the classroom. In other words, the class is flipped. My experimentation is a hybrid of the true flipped classroom style. My lectures and demonstrations were recorded and made available to students but most of the viewing was expected to be done in class as well. My reasoning was for students to attempt to view what they needed to do then attempt to do the task themselves. This would free me to work with students who continued having problems with an assignment. After trying this with four classes over the last year I must say it was somewhat successful but I did learn some things along the way.

Lesson number one is that students need to be taught how to watch a demonstration video. One of the reasons I went to my flipped style class was based on how students performed after watching me do demonstrations in the past. Usually, it was like I did not do a demonstration at all. I would still have to go over the task about 30 times because students only saw the demo once and rarely bothered to take notes. When I told students to watch the video I created, they would watch the video all the way through and not stop to attempt the steps as the video progressed. Then they would look up and say they did not get it. Once I showed them they could stop the video at any point and rewind when necessary did the videos become more effective.

Lesson number two is that it is hard to break years of conditioning. This did not really surprise me because I have done other things in my class that runs counter to what students have done in other classes. Still students would sit at their seats and wait for me to do some kind of lecture even when I told them their assignments and resources are on Edmodo. This usually took a few days for students to get used to.

Lesson number three is the grades will be horrible at the beginning. As I implied in lessons one and two, students need a period of adjustment. They will keep trying to do things they are used to without success and get frustrated. Administrators and parents will want to know what you are doing by suddenly becoming the hardest class to pass in the school. Hold your ground because it is almost like a light switch turning on when students finally figure it out. The grades will shoot up like a rocket. Most parents who meet with me to put my head on a platter usually look at their child and say "I wish I had this when I was in school" after I demonstrate how the videos work.

Lesson 4 is to have your gradebook with you as move around the class. The grades will quickly let you know who needs the extra help and who does not. I carry around an iPad that is connected to my computer via Splashtop. This allows me to see grades at an instant to determine who needs help. Also, it allows me to enter grades immediately when a student shows me a successfully completed assignment which save a lot of time come grade report time.

Lesson 5 is to hold the students accountable. Many times a student will tell me he or she does not understand what to do. The first question I ask is if the student watched the video. The answer is usually no because students who watch the video usually have a more direct question about a certain step. In the past some students did have a legitimate complaint because the videos did not work due to technical problems but I would quickly work to fix the technical problems. If students are not working quickly enough then I make a call to parents to offer my after school services to give extra help. While that cures most problems, there are students who are in legitimate need.

Here is a lesson I learned from another teacher who is doing it with her class: make sure to upload the lecture video as soon after school as you can. I heard one parent complain that a video lesson to be viewed at home was not uploaded in a decent hour. The problem was technical but you should be mindful of parents who want to download the videos so their children can watch it. Also, there are those high-maintenance parents who can never be satisfied.

Now that one year of using a flipped classroom is almost in the books I will be looking and reflecting on what happened. There will be videos that will need updating as tools change. Also, I will look at lessons that need videos if no other reason than to show what a successful product looks like. Over the summer I will be sharing my experiences with teachers from one end of South Carolina to another and help them create their own flipped classroom lessons. Then I will be looking forward to doing it again next year.