Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The flipped classroom... the elementary perspective

Photo Credit:
runfardvs via Compfight cc

Rosanne Fournier, Vice-Principal at École WS Hawrylak School, learned about the 'flipped classroom' model over the past year.  She first experienced this model as a parent, with her son attending Campbell Collegiate and participating in a class that follows this model.  She then became aware of three Hawrylak teachers who were using the "flipped" methodology, each to a different degree and each adapting it to the needs in their classroom.  They would like to share their experiences.

The “flipped classroom” is an alternate method of curriculum delivery for teachers and a different way of learning for students.  In this model, instruction is delivered online outside of class time and the assignment is done in class the following day after students have had the opportunity to watch the teacher’s instructional presentation. 

Some advantages to the flipped classroom include:
- the ability to return to the information provided and watch it as many times as necessary;
- the ability to improve assignments and understanding;
- stronger understanding of the material studied;
- the ability to ask questions as needed while doing the assessment component;
- the ability to work at your own pace (ideal for students who are absent from school);
- the ability to get caught up if a student falls behind.

Rochelle Rugg, a grade 7/8 French Immersion teacher at École W.S Hawrylak School has this to say about the “flipped” methodology:
I always wanted to try the “Flipped Classroom” model. The class I have this year all had access to the Internet and had their own portable, internet ready devices. So, I put my lessons on Power Point along with links to websites for them to view. Their “homework” was to view the PowerPoint presentation and watch the links provided. There were “discussion” questions that they would have to review the following day in class. The next day, students were to discuss the questions that were in the PowerPoint. One person in each group assumed the role of “leader” and monitored that the discussions stayed on task and in French (I teach French Immersion). The student leader was responsible for providing a discussion mark for each person in his/her group including themselves. Every student had the opportunity to be a “leader”.

Once we were complete the discussion, we had a general class discussion to re-iterate important points. The class then used their class time to work on the questions that went with the lesson. I found that most of the time, this is where my students needed me the most. Instead of using class time for the lesson, they were able to read, see and experience the lesson from home or on the bus ride home or at the rink, and then they could complete the “work” in class with me available for any questions they have.
The lessons were put on Dropbox and left there for students to revisit as needed. It was good revision for final tests, projects and other work. I would use the flipped classroom again, but it does require a lot of prep and the students must all have access to the internet and other devices in order to participate in this type of learning.  

Kelly Ziegler, gr 6/7 teacher at Hawrylak school, shares her experience as well:

In the beginning, the thought of a flipped classroom was enough to send me running in the opposite direction. I would watch the Khan Academy videos and be overwhelmed with the videos, thinking that some of the concepts were good but most did not fit my students’ ability or grade level. However, when a more experienced classroom teacher who utilized technology as much as possible introduced the idea to me, I was really excited to try it out. When Jann and I began to put together the videos, it was a very slow process that took a lot of energy. With our first few videos, every time we made a mistake we would restart the video, as it didn’t quite meet our standards. Had we continued to stay on this path, we would have given up a long time ago or spent years completing the videos. We began to get a lot smarter when it came to designing, creating and posting the videos.

We decided to break our curriculum into parts. Then, we broke up units into two parts. After we realized that it was easier to flow if we were doing the whole unit. After this realization, we were flying and it was hard to stop us. We realized that showing students that we are human with our mistakes in the videos was a good thing, as we were able to model how we found/realized our errors and how we corrected them. Instead of giving public access to the videos, we have given the students the video links using our classroom dropbox account that they can access as needed.
The benefits of the flipped classroom have been astronomical in my grade 6/7 split classroom. At the beginning of the year it was tough to teach two lessons, go over their work, correct, help students one on one and then have enough time to demonstrate additional information. My grade 6 students are able to go home or grab a laptop in their spare time to watch future lessons to prepare themselves for the upcoming lessons. This has helped with student understanding prior to the lesson, and if students continue to struggle they have additional resources to help them. If students go on a holiday, are sick or away from school, they do not need to struggle through an assignment as they are able to watch the lesson by signing into our classroom dropbox account. Some students have been working ahead, and I encourage students to do so if they fully understand the content. Overall, it has strengthened my teaching and empowered students to be in charge of their own learning and understanding. I am beyond excited to continue to collaborate with my teaching partners, especially with the wealth of knowledge that they possess.

Jann Porritt, Grade 6 teacher at Hawrylak, uses technology extensively in her classroom.  She shares her thoughts on the flipped class Does it have a place in an elementary classroom?

This year, with all the interest in the concept of the flipped classroom, Kelly Ziegler and myself decided to give it a try in Math. The first few videos we made were very time-consuming and perhaps even a bit embarrassing, as we struggled to find our video voices. Over time the videos came easier and much faster, though I would have to say it was never quick and easy.’ But the effort and time put into the videos was well worth it, as they proved to be a valuable asset to our teaching and our students’ learning.

will admit that I had some doubts as to whether or not truly flipping my Math class was the way to go, so I tested both. Most of the time, I used the videos for those students who needed extra review or for those who missed the lesson. Both proved invaluable. I was amazed at how many students told me they watched the videos over at home more than once, and I was constantly seeing students pull up the video on their iPad or other mobile device during class time when they were working on their assignments. The videos were all fairly short, so there was time to watch and time to work during class if they needed. I am amazed at how many times the videos have been viewed this year.
On a few occasions, I used the videos in the true sense of the flipped classroom having the kids view it at home and then start working immediately on the assignment when they returned. Depending on the concept, this worked well at times, and not so well at other times. Many of my students need clarification and ask questions as I am teaching, and it was those students who seemed to have the most difficulty with this true method of flippingMy students have told me they like the videos even though I sound funny’, and I know my parents appreciate them as well.
Overall, I would have to say that there is a place for the flipped class in an elementary classroom, though for me, using it as a review and a teaching tool for absenteeism was the most positive. My favorite moment was a couple of weeks ago, when a couple of my students reminded me that we didn’t start using the videos until Unit 3 in Math, so could they create videos for some of the lessons from Unit 1 and 2. This idea soon spread, and as the year winds down, I am finding myself giving up many recesses to stay in the classroom as groups of students build their lesson. Will I use them next year? Well, that remains to be seen, but I will learn lots about the level of understanding from the videos they build.

For more information:
The following link explains the “flipped’ methodology.

Blair Gullickson, principal at École W.S. Hawrylak School, has also suggested to both teachers and parents the Kahn Academy website as a resource to support learning at school and at home.  

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