My Flip That Sort Of Flopped

My Flip That Sort Of Flopped

So last year was my first attempt to ‘flip’ my classroom.  I find myself wanting to kind of avoid the word ‘flipped,’ not only because I want to be wary of educational fads / GAMECHANGERS! but also because I don’t really feel I ‘flipped’ my classroom, I just provided resources for them to learn online.

I’ve read so many things about different people’s experiences from:
‘I flipped my classroom and 100% of my students passed or got commended on the end-of-year state assessments
‘I did it, I liked it, I think it may be a fad and I’m not really doing it anymore, but it helped me to work into more inquiry based / project based learning

I think I fall somewhere in the middle…actually probably more towards the ‘the flip didn’t didn’t lead to the results I had hoped for.’
Here’s what my ‘flipped but not really’ classroom looked like last year:

Originally I was planning on actually having the students watch the videos at home and then do the work at school; your traditional flipped model.  With many students not having internet as well as my internal conflict over giving out homework (check out Alfie Kohn for more on that), we moved more towards what I believe they’re calling a ‘blended classroom.’  During our math times, students were doing one of three things:

  • Watching the videos / taking notes
  • Working on the provided practice problems (packets) by themselves or with a peer
  • Working with me in a small group for further guidance

As far as the videos, I made one for each concept we were teaching, trying to limit them to 4-10 minutes.  I also provided several alternative resources like BrainPopStudy Jams, and Khan Academy if my videos didn’t make sense to them.

Some days I had a really great classroom environment.  I remember one day in particular where I was working with a few students at my horseshoe table, and three other students came up to me and were telling me about their argument over weather 1 was a prime number or not (since the song I wrote about prime numbers didn’t really say if 1 was prime or not…yes, this is a shameless plug for my little prime number song).  That was exciting though!

Being that the students had a lot of autonomy during our math time, I had a lot of days where there was such a lack of responsibility when it came completing the work.  I’d find students watching the instructional videos and just pausing and playing and pausing and playing over and over again (and not so they could take notes, they were obviously just bored with the video, which is perhaps more of a learning point for me when it comes to creating engaging videos), while others would be working in groups or pairs not really focused on the work.

I would have students that didn’t watch the videos and then come to me and say they didn’t get it, at which point I had two options: tell them to watch the video and then watch as it takes them 15 minutes just to log in, get the right page up, open up their journal, and then write nothing from the video, or I could just teach them the material in a small group with others who are confused.  I was conflicted b/c I thought ‘well they may just not learn well with videos’ while also thinking ‘but they have the resources available to them and they’re just being lazy!’  What to do…

We had a few technological issues as the website that me and my colleague spent the summer creating ended up getting blocked by our districts new filtering system two months after school started.  We were given a district created page that was clunky and difficult to organize:

Old Math Website

Students had options to do practice online if there was a resource available or to complete the packets provided.  We wanted to give them options but it made it difficult to track who was doing what- there wasn’t a central database to show me where everyone was at.

Me and my colleagues created formative assessments which students had three opportunities to take (we were shooting for mastery, not just ‘take it and move on.’  The three assessments were different but covered the same material).  Ideally, we wanted students to move at their own pace, but being that our state-assessment was at the end of March, we naturally had to have deadlines.  Many times, I had a handful of students who hadn’t met the deadline for various reasons and had to take the summative and continue moving on.

There were a few times I tried some hands-on applications but most of the time, it would be in a station that I was facilitating which made me unavailable to those who were confused by a video or by the practice work, which led to management issues. The times I did a whole class hands-on application, it went smoother.  I found that the packets they had to complete was almost getting in the way ofopportunities to work through some more meaningful applications.
And so the way most people seem to be evaluating the effectiveness of their ‘flip’ is by the performance of their students on the state assessments.  My results weren’t much different than my previous years results where I hadn’t done the ‘flip.’  Hmm.

Reflecting on what did and didn’t work this year as far as our blended program has naturally led me to want to change/add a few things this year:

  • Finding a place to host the videos in a simple and organized way has been challenging.
    • I don’t understand how people just put their videos on Edmodo  unless they just dump all of them into one folder.  I needed a place where all the videos as well as the supplemental resources and online practice could be quickly accessed in less than two clicks.
    • I’m working through creating this LiveBinder and it seems to do the trick well.  If only I could create a way where students could comment on the videos w/out having any sort of account and where I would be able to moderate and reply to the specific comments (YouTube is blocked at our school for students- I spend about 4 hours researching how to possibly put a comment box in there.  If you have an idea, let me know.)
  • Reworking the packets to include the hands-on work I wanted to do but didn’t have time for because the students needed time to finish the packet…yeah.
  • Hopefully be able to set more specific expectations on how to watch the videos and take notes as I didn’t really do that last year.  I just said ‘JUST WRITE WHATEVER I WRITE IN THE VIDEOS!  IT’S THAT EASY!’  I like one teachers idea of having the students Watch the videos, Summarize the material, and come up with Questions (WSQ as she called it).  I think I’ll have them do that on Edmodo so I can track who’s watching what and who’s struggling where.
  • Revise some of the videos if they didn’t make much sense the first time.  I’d like to try and come up with some more engaging material (maybe more songs- they LOVED the one on prime numbers).  Perhaps I can make them with the students.  There’s time for that right?

In the end, I think having these resources and encouraging the students to take more ownership of their learning is WAY better than just going back to lecturing whole group.  I’m still lecturing, which isn’t the best way to learn, but at least it’s more accessible and hopefully easier to digest in this format, and frees me up to work with students who need that small group instruction to learn.

Thanks for reading.  This was a long entry.  Would love to hear about some of your experiences and successes/struggles with incorporating blended learning into your classroom.

**Many credit Sal Khan with creating the Flipped Model but that’s not really even his vision for education.  His book actually only devotes about 5 pages to discussing the flipped classroom, and he even admits that it’s still lectures and people don’t learn best form lectures.  ‘The One World Schoolhouse‘ would be a great end of summer read**

By Thom H Gibson

I help middle school STEM teachers create meaningful & memorable experiences for their students. Teacher, podcaster, YouTuber. Two-time teacher of the year

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  • I’m so glad you are using LiveBinders this year to help you organize your videos for your flipped class. I’m not sure if this will work for you, but I’ve created an example of adding comments to a binder tab via flexicommentbox. I created an example for you here where it is inserted above a YouTube video, but you can just as easily insert it below the video:

    • Hey Barbara!
      I checked out the flexicommentbox and it looks good, but when I click to try and create an administrators account, it just takes me to their home page :/ If I can get that figured out, this may be suitable.

      • Let me know what you find. It was difficult to find one that allowed students to post without having any kind of email or account, allowed me to moderate/delete/reply to direct comments, AND allowed me to put a different comment box on each page and tie it to one account.

        One of the ones I found did all of these except the last one- I posted the embed code on my first tab and made a few test comments and it worked, but then when I embedded it on my second tab as well, the original test comments from the previous one I posted were already written in this new comment box. Argh!

  • Yes, this may have been one of the ones you found:
    It works, no emails required, but you would have to create a new account for each new tab, which is painful. I’ll keep hunting.

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