After an extremely successful Kognity Conference in Barcelona, where the theme was “Flipping the classroom – from concept to reality”, we sat down to discuss exactly that with Gideon Boulton. As a man with plenty of experience, we thought you’d be interested in hearing his take on the why and the how of successfully flipping your classroom. Gideon is a physics teacher at Copenhagen International School. He is also an IB Physics Examiner and former IBDP Coordinator, and has been using a Flipped Classroom model for the last four years.
When you decided to flip your classroom, what were the initial challenges? Which ones were expected and which ones were more surprising and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was one of finding the time. Even when the content is already prepared on Powerpoint, it takes a great deal of time to edit, record, upload and then find the quickest system to manage the students’ side. They need to be accountable for watching the screen casts so that they are prepared for the class. To start with I made some beginner’s mistakes, such as not using a good microphone and using free editing software with its limitations. Any problems that I had were overcome by reflecting carefully on what I was doing and asking students to give feedback on what worked and didn’t, along with some honest self-reflection.
Please advise a new teacher who is looking to flip his or her classroom. Is there a way of introducing flipping gradually? If so, how?
The first question you must ask yourself is, “Why do it?” The pedagogy must come first. The drive for me to do something like this even before I knew of the so-called “flipped classroom” arose from the desire to employ a much more effective pedagogy than simple content exposition. Peer instruction involved the students preparing before the class, and then having them discuss problems and solutions in class. Pedagogically speaking this is very powerful as a teaching strategy.
So, if you have the pedagogical rationale, my next advice would be “Just do it!” Risk taking is good. Teachers that are new to flipping will make mistakes, but these are heavily outweighed by the fact that you will have time in class to develop activities that are much more engaging and pedagogically effective than before. The classes will be much more interactive and most of the students will enjoy your subject more.
Describe, in very practical terms, how you flip your classroom. If someone is reluctant to start making videos, is there another way of flipping the classroom?
Two weeks before the lesson, I take the content on Powerpoint and practice the flow of animations to help with the explanation.Then, I talk through the Powerpoint as though I were informally explaining it to someone in front of me, stopping sometimes to repeat if I make a mistake or find that the animations don’t flow well.Then I spend time editing it, cutting out mistakes, excessive pauses, coughs, unnecessary repetitions etc. The next step is to upload the video to YouTube. Then, I embed the URL in an online service called Playposit, and from there I am able to embed questions into the video to check if the students are able to follow and understand the content. The purpose of this stage is twofold.
First, it makes the students accountable for watching the screen cast and basically doing their homework. Second, it enables me to see what difficulties that particular group of students has with the content. I can choose class activities that are tailor-made to address the weaknesses and strengths of those particular students.When I introduce the flipped classroom with the students, the first few screen casts are watched individually in class. I insist they take handwritten notes from the video and I look at a sample of the notes afterwards, compare, and give feedback. In a traditional lecture, students are all put in the same box.
To conclude, I have been doing the flipped classroom for 4 years. Ultimately it is not about screen casts or videos, it is more about making time for high impact interactive teaching strategies. From my point of view, I find it much more rewarding and satisfying to teach this way. From the students’ point of view, I have seen a significant improvement in grades, a higher level of engagement and an increase in the number of students that have developed a love for my subject – so much so that many have decided to carry on with it during their studies at university.
Kognity’s approach is to use the right technology to help you flip the classroom. By rethinking what a textbook could be, Kognity moves away from plain text to an interactive learning experience to suit the needs of your students. Kognity provides a two-way flow of information: both students and teachers receive individual feedback and statistics on their progress.
What are your thoughts on Flipping the Classroom? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages are?