Four steps to flipping the classroom

Flipping the classroom can have a dramatic impact, with the right steps.

The flipped classroom, in which students watch a video explaining a particular lesson or topic at home and then come to school prepared to complete assignments related to that lesson or discuss the topic in class, is gaining ground. But how, exactly, can educators go about flipping the classroom?

Merely taking a lesson and flipping it won’t ensure success, said Shannon Holden, a middle and high school teacher and administrator in North Dakota, Texas, and Missouri for 20 years. Holden also is an adjunct instructor at Lindenwood University and Missouri State University, as well as an online instructor at the University of North Dakota and the University of the Pacific.

During an edWeb webinar, Holden outlined four basic steps that educators can take to ensure that their flipped classroom experiments are successful and resonate with students.

First, teachers should choose a topic that can be explained in 15 minutes or less. The flipped classroom approach works best with topics that students can understand relatively well on their own. Teachers can use a variety of free resources to create and upload videos of their lessons, or they can turn to free, existing videos that explain their chosen topic.

Holden walked teachers through an example of video creation using aTube Catcher. Sites that offer free resources for educators to use when flipping the classroom include Sophia, Khan Academy, YouTube EDU, TeacherTube, Brightstorm, Discovery Learning, WatchKnowLearn, and TED-Ed.

(Next page: More steps to effectively flipping the classroom)

“There are sites popping up all the time that have great content,” Holden said.

An example of an easy topic to flip is the mathematical order of operations, or PEMDAS—Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally—to help students remember which mathematical processes to compute first.

Teachers should use increased class time to engage students. Flipping the classroom allows for more in-class discussion time, cooperative learning, and project-based learning, Holden said. But teachers shouldn’t use the flipped classroom as a chance to leave students to their own devices, he cautioned.

“Don’t turn your class into a study hall because kids are getting the lessons at home and now they’re able to do their homework at school—that’s how flipping can fail,” he said.

Educators should not expect to flip every lesson, and they should start by flipping, say, one lesson per week as they work to build a library of flipped lessons. Teachers in the same department can take turns flipping the classroom with different lessons, so that each teacher will wind up with a stash of flipped lessons.

Believing that flipping the classroom is a magic bullet to save education inevitably will lead to a failed experiment, Holden said.

“It is a tool in your toolbox—it’s a very effective, powerful tool, but it is not the be-all and end-all,” he said.

Additionally, teachers must have a Plan B for students who do not have internet access at home.

For those students without home internet access, teachers can:

  • Record videos on a DVD.
  • Save videos on a flash drive for students who have computers but no internet access.
  • Help students visit the public library to access the internet there.
  • Let students play videos during the first few minutes of class during attendance and record-keeping.
  • Arrange for classroom or school computers or computer labs to be open before or after school or during lunch.

Educators can check out advice and tips from “flipping gurus” including Aaron Sams, Jonathan Bergmann, and Katie Gimbar. Still in beta, TED-Ed’s “Lessons Worth Sharing” offers valuable resources, too.

See also:

New developments enhance school video use

How TED-Ed is helping to amplify instruction

The truth about flipped learning

How to make videos your students will love


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