Monday, August 22, 2011

Flipped Class Week 1

I fully flipped my 2 English classes this year. When I say, "fully flipped" I mean I am delivering my content 95-100% through videos. I've used it on a smaller scale in the past, but this year I decided to fully flip 2 of my English classes (I'm flipping my reading classes about 25% of the time this year for now). I've made enough videos at this point to get me through the first quarter. My goal is to lecture 5 time or less this entire year. That doesn't include the lectures I had to give on the first two days of class explaining how the class will operate and model taking notes on a video. I also sent an email to the parents explaining the flipped method and provided links to some resources. At Back-to-School Night next week, I intend to use one of my 15 minute sessions on the Flipped Classroom. As of now, I have 5 positive responses from parents and 0 negative responses. That's not saying there aren't some doubters, but, at the moment, they aren't expressing their opinion to me.
I teach Middle School kids. I am concerned with some kids struggling to be motivated to keep up with the videos. I realize I would have that problem with any homework. However, the independence this process allows the students could be difficult for the maturity level of some Middle Schoolers. I anticipate at least one student using "confusion" over deadlines as an excuse to why they did not complete their work. We'll see where that goes.
Following are some of my observations from Week 1:
1) Too Many Choices?
Giving kids too many choices to start seemed to overwhelm some. I thought having many ways to find and watch the videos would eliminate reasons for kids to not watch them. They may get the hang of it soon, but having too many options seemed to confuse some kids. I provided them with the option to watch the videos on YouTube, but since it is blocked at our school, I also uploaded them to our school's Google Video account through Google Apps. In order to find the videos, I created a website in which I embedded a Google Spreadsheet with all the videos listed and their Google Video link. I also shared the Spreadsheet with the students into their Google Docs. Some students picked a method that fit them right away and were watching videos in minutes. Others seemed overwhelmed by the amount of choices (which I really don't think there are that many options yet), and it paralyzed them. They didn't know where to start, so I guided them to the method that seems to work best for them. Once they found the video in at least one method and began watching it, I stepped back and let them go. I also had a small group of kids that didn't write down the instructions or website and then had no idea where to find any of the videos. To be fair, no matter what I do, there is always going to be a small group that doesn't write down or pay attention to instructions. I plan to make the videos available through Apple OS on iPods/iPads/iPhones, but that is down the road when the kids get into the groove of watching videos and begin asking for more mobile ways to view. Most of my kids don't have SmartPhones yet (many don't even have cell phones), so I'm not concerning myself with making sure the videos are optimized for mobile phones. I plan to give them multiple options to watch the video, but I never suspected 2 options would be too many for some kids.
2. Alternate Assessment
On day #3, I already found the benefit of alternate assessment. For this first year, I'm requiring the kids take notes on the video and I review their notes for them to get credit. Truthfully, most students notes are more comprehensive than if they listened to me lecture in class. That was something that impressed me. A student was watching a video in class on Tuesday told me she already had 3 pages of notes and she was only about half way finished with a 7 minute video. The same student would probably only have 1 page of notes for a 20 minute in class lecture. I hope the students maintain this amount of workload. However, I saw a wonderful benefit early in the week. I was circulating the room checking notes for one of the videos. Two students who are normally pretty good about turning in work didn't have their notebooks with them. Both were concerned they were going to be counted late. In the past, I had a 50% off policy for all late work. Both students very genuinely claimed they did the work, but considering it is the first week of school, they left their notebooks in their homeroom (and that teacher doesn't allow students back in the room to get anything they've forgotten). I could have said, "Sorry, you don't have the work, it is late." Instead, I gave them both an on-the-spot oral quiz. Both students were able to answer a few questions easily and also repeated almost word-for-word things I said in the video they found interesting. This easily proved to me that they had watched the video and understood the content. And, truth be told, in the past, I don't think these two students would have been able to repeat as much or answer the same questions the day after I gave a lecture on the same topic. My informal assessment, in this case, showed me they retained more information than they would have in a traditional lecture class. I asked both students to show me their notes the following day to confirm they did them, and I gave them credit for the assignment based on their knowledge. They both came back later in the day to show me their notes as "proof", but seemed very appreciative of the trust I put in them. I'm not sure how I am going to handle students not coming to class "prepared" as this is a skill they need learn. But, as per the content, they did learn that and that is the ultimate goal.
3. I'm on Vacation...
Inevitably, you have a family that decided to take a vacation and pull their kids from school. Well, I had a parent do that on the first week of school. Two days before classes started, I get an email from a parent telling me her son won't be at school the first week because they will be on vacation. "No problem," I replied, "Here is the link to all the videos he needs to watch." Whether he'll come in with the videos viewed, I don't know. However, catching him up won't be much of an issue because he can watch all the content at home, so there is no need for me to have to take my time re-explaining key concepts or topics because they wanted to go on vacation the first week of school.
4. I watched the video, but....
Had a student on Tuesday, when I approached him to check his progress, he couldn't find his notebook. So, I asked him some basic questions from the previous night's video. He was able to sort of answer the questions. What that told me was that he watched it, but didn't pay close enough attention to retain the information. I asked him to watch it again and show me his notes the next day. He was upset because he didn't feel it was "fair" that he had to re-watch the video. He wanted the chance to prove to me that he watched the video, but I explained to him that I had no doubt he watched the video, but he needed to focus closer to the information. This is also a student that likes to work ahead. I'll have to keep an eye on him and a few others that might just go through the motions of watching videos to say they competed the video, but they aren't learning the content.
5. Impromptu lessons, or can I add another video?
Wednesday, while reviewing some students' writing, I noticed a trend on several of the kids work. In the past, I would start the next class with a mini-lesson on the topic for the group. Now, I was conflicted. I wasn't sure I had time to put together a video. And, if I did, how would students react if I assigned another video on top of the ones they already need to complete? Or, do I move one of the videos to a later date and replace it with this video? Or, do I bite the bullet and do the lesson in class, as I previously would, and thus lose one of my 5 lectures in the first week of school? Here's what I decided to do. I took one of the kids writing, removed their name and identifying information. I recorded my comments on her work then modeled how to improve the work. I uploaded the video to Google Video and Youtube but left it private until I spoke with the student and got her permission to share. I then assigned it for the rest of the students to watch it over the weekend. There was a little grumbling over the added work. But, the video was 13 minutes (a little longer than I anticipated). But, I was really only adding about 15 minutes of work for them. The whole process took me about 30 minutes.
Here's a link to the video.
6. The videos don't stop
I have made enough videos to get me through the first quarter. Its tempting to relax and not make videos for awhile. However, if I do that, I could quickly get behind. Therefore, I think I'll spend this coming weekend deciding my videos for 2nd quarter and then developing a schedule to produce them. One thing I heard many times at the Flipped Class Conference in Colorado this summer was that many teachers hit a wall around November because they are so burned out from making video after video. I'm hoping to prevent that. However, as I make my video lists, it continues to grow and it can seem like there is no end.
However, I found out on Thursday that I will have a college student visit me once a week for an hour as part of a work study. I plan to use her to create my slides for upcoming videos and then I can just record the video as I have time. If she is comfortable, I will allow her to make some videos as well. If she can't do that, I will have her go through my current videos and make a guide notes handout to include with each video.

The response overall has been positive, which has kept me encouraged. The kids seem more engaged in class working on writing projects and/or watching videos. My principal sat in my class unprompted on Wednesday. He only does that when there's been a complaint or he is curious about something (good and bad). I didn't ask the reason because I wasn't really concerned. He saw me going around and having a conversation with each kid. Some conversations were "on-task" as we educators would say. Other conversations seemed random, until I worked in a small writing tip or lesson into the conversation. He asked a few kids what they were working on and they all easily told him what they were doing. I could tell he left very please. It reminded me of the video of Aaron Sams floating around his classroom. I think next week I may video tape a class period to show the amount of engagement to the parents at Back to School night.

That's my early cogitations from week 1. I have some thought brewing that I'm interested to see how they play out next week.


  1. I'm very interested in flipping my math classes this year. Reading your reflection has made me want to blog about it as well. How do you find the time?

  2. Tomas, thanks for the comment. I understand finding the time to blog can be hard. What I do is, like anything I write, I put it together in pieces. I've found if I write a post all at once, give a quick revision, and then post it, it isn't very good. Instead, I started spending 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, working on the post. This post was completed over the course of a week when I found small blocks of time to add to it.

  3. Mr Cockrum, my name is Greg Green and I am the principal at Clintondale High School and our entire high school is flipping. You have provided valuable insight. If you need any help flipping your class or would like to use any of our existing video content please feel free to do so at Good luck

  4. Greg, Thanks for the comment. I am very familiar with your school. Several flippers talked about it at the Flipped Class Conference this summer. I anticipate using a few of your videos this year. However, only one of your English teachers, Mr. Jones, has placed a large collection of videos on your website.

  5. I really like what you are trying with your class and will definitely be keeping up to date with your progress! I hope it goes well for you; more educators should be following in your footsteps.

    I just wondered if all the students have their own PC/Laptop for watching these videos? Is your school 1:1? This is something I very much hope to achieve across a wide spectrum of schools. Also do the students have the ability to download videos onto smartphones or iPods etc?

  6. Abby, thanks for the comment. We are not 1:1 totally. We have 3 laptop carts and so I can usually have 1:1 in my classroom. The kids mostly watch the videos at home though, as they have writing projects and different work to do in class. Through Google Video, the students can download the videos and then move them to their ipod or cell phone. Later in the year, I intend to start uploading them to itunes through an RSS Feed. At the moment, I've only had one request for that option.

  7. Fantastic blog post. Thank you for your reflection. We have many teachers trying this model, and I will certainly share this with them.

  8. Thanks for the comment, mstoraasli. I'll always be glad to answer questions or collaborate with anyone trying the flipped method.