When Aaron Sams and I first started flipping our classes in 2007, we made a lot of mistakes. If you are considering flipping your classroom this fall (or just flipping a few lessons), I want to share with you some of the mistakes we made or have seen others make, so that you don’t have to repeat them.
Keep Your Videos Short:
Short-short-short! We took our standard lecture and made videos. These videos contained multiple objectives and pieces of content and were way too long. Instead make one video per discrete objective. My rule of thumb is one to one and a half minutes per grade level. For a 4th grader, your videos should be no longer than 4-6 min. For a 10th grader that means 10-15 min videos. If you think you can’t have quality videos that short, you will be surprised how little time it takes to clearly communicate a specific objective. Just try it out.
Don’t assume all students have the Internet at home
Or that they have access to the Internet 24-7. We met with each student individually and asked how they were going to access our content outside of class. Many had iPods and we simply connected them to our computers and downloaded the content to their devices. For others we provided DVD’s for kids with no computers at home. Don’t forget to ask about what kind of access your students have to devices at home. Does their dad take an online course and monopolize the computer at night?
Don’t Lecture if Students Don’t Watch Your Videos
Rescuing students who don’t do what you ask is never the answer. If half of your students don’t watch your video content, then don’t rescue them by teaching what is already in your video. All that will accomplish is to tell the students who did do the work that what they did was a waste of time.
Hold Each Student Individually Accountable for Work
Instead, hold them each individually accountable for watching the videos. When we first started we walked around the room and asked students to show us their notes on the video. Those who did received ten points and those who didn’t went to the back of the room to watch the video content on some class computers with headphones. The students who didn’t watch the content quickly realized that the only way we were going to (at least initially) expose them to content was through the videos. And while they were watching videos in the back of the room the other students were getting help on the hard stuff, which they now had to slog through on their own at home. This didn’t solve all the problems of kids not doing their homework, but it worked for most students.
Teach Students HOW to watch your videos
Watching one of our instructional videos is not the same thing as watching Batman on DVD. Students need to interact cognitively with the video. They need to be intentionally taught how to watch our video content. Spend some class time teaching your students how to watch instructional videos. I know it is weird to watch a video of you teaching while you are standing there, but we want students to be able to do this at home when we are not present. One thing we did on the first or second day of school was to watch an introductory video together. I gave the control of the pause button to a specific student. As students were trying to write down notes from the video, the student in charge of the pause button was either going too slow or too fast for other students. After many minutes of frustration, I informed the students that each of them would have control of the pause button for the rest of the year. We also used this class time to teach them how to write down questions from the video which they needed to bring to class.
We made many more mistakes that I will probably write about in the future. What are some of the things you wished you had done differently when you first started flipping your class?