Flipped Classroom – What, Why, and How

“Flipping the classroom”, what does this mean? A “flipped classroom” has become a new buzzword in education. I went to an in-service session led by a fellow teacher who was explaining how she used a flipped classroom model to teach. She had come from an innovative academy, which I have found typically try out new educational strategies before they move into mainstream public school classrooms. Flipped classrooms are definitely where education is headed. Whether you’re familiar with the terminology, educators will agree that society’s access to technology and the widespread use of smartphones is changing the way children learn.


The idea of a flipped classroom comes from the notion of reversing, or “flipping”, instruction and homework. Traditionally the lesson structure involves teaching the basics of a new concept with students take notes, while sitting in class. The students then practice the concepts at home by completing a homework assignment. Technology allows this model to be flipped. The students are assigned a video that teaches the lesson that normally would take place at school. The time that is usually spent going over the basics of the lesson is now covered by a video outside of school and the time in class can be used for applying and practicing the concept. This allows more time for students to work collaboratively on applications that require deeper thinking and higher-level learning. In math class particularly, students in a flipped classroom work the practice problems in the classroom, allowing them to discuss problems with their peers and request help from the teacher when they encounter difficulties. By switching the order, the amount of time spent on homework is reduced. The video format also naturally allows for differentiation (students can pause and re-watch the video if it goes too fast or they don’t understand the first time). This idea, at first, seems like a great one, but after a few minutes some major obstacles begin to bubble to the top of a teacher’s mind: 1) Who has time to make or find an appropriate video? 2) How can you ensure that students have watched the assigned video, and 3) What if students don’t have access to technology? There is a free web resource that addresses and solves the first two questions: edpuzzle.com.




Who has time to make or find an appropriate video?

Edpuzzle.com has a library of educational videos available to choose from that come from Youtube, TedEd, National Geographic, Khan academy, etc., in other words they are quality videos. In addition there is an option of uploading your own videos. When searching a topic a list of videos automatically opens, with the most used videos by other teachers at the forefront. Eduzzle.com also allows teachers to select portions of the video to use and the option to cut parts of the video, insert audio of their own comments over the video, and embed questions that pop up while the students are watching. Modifying the videos is optional, however, and they can be used as they are.


How can you ensure that students have watched the assigned video?

Teachers can open a free account and create classes. Students join their class by going to the website and entering the join code for their class. Each time after when they log in they are automatically directed to their class assignment page. Videos can be assigned to classes along with due dates. Students are still able to watch the videos after the due date has passed, but when the teacher reviews the class progress it indicates which students watched the video before or after the due date.  (Note that if students are using their phones to watch the videos it often works better if they download the free edpuzzle app).


A quick check of the class progress can be used to assign daily grades. Another route for ensuring the students have watched the video is to assign a notes outline to be filled out while they watch and turned in when they return to class. Yet another possibility is having a quick check for understanding quiz at the beginning of class after the due date for watching the video has passed. This past weekend I assigned a video to my geometry students and told them they would be given a short quiz when they return, on which they can use any notes that they take while watching the video.


What if students don’t have access to technology at home?

As far as the last question there are options, but first I’d like to offer that I currently teach at a small rural school district where 60% of the student population is classified as low socioeconomic and out of my 130 students, only three students were not able to watch the assigned video due to not having access to a computer or smart phone. Our library has computers available for students to use before or after school and during lunch periods. I allowed one student to come to my class before school started and watch the video on my computer. Another alternative is allowing the students to watch the video while at school during class, and then working on the practice assignment at home (basically reversing the flip). For the most part, in this day and age, access to technology is not a problem.


To summarize, a flipped classroom takes advantage of technology to introduce students to the basic concepts of a topic, and allows the teacher to utilize class time for practice, application, and collaborative work. By switching the typical order, notes taken in class and practice done at home, the amount of time and frustration spent on homework is reduced and frees more class time to address misunderstandings and increase the depth of understanding. Edpuzzle.com is a great tool to streamline the process and make it successful. Happy flipping!


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