Flipped Classroom Exegesis
For students to stay focussed and motivated for longer periods of time it is important for students to know what they are going to learn and how they are going to get there. This will lead students to take more responsibility for their own learning (NCCA, 2015, p. 5). The artefact is designed to explain to my Year 12 Biology class that the advantages provided by a flipped classroom will allow students to increase their learning. I believe that my students will be more motivated and engaged in an active, flipped lesson as my time in class will not be taken up with knowledge acquisition but instead students can work on application of that knowledge. This is especially important to my mixed ability class. There are nineteen students of which six are African refugees with English as their second language. There are another two students with other learning difficulties and differentiation is necessary. The idea of flipping our lessons came from a discussion about their ability to work well in class with my assistance or guidance from peers but their inability to be able to continue at home. It will make our class time more active and provide me with one on one time for students that need it. The artefact does not contain technical details about flipping other than the pillars of flip and concentrates on what the benefits are. I just want them to understand why I want to try the flip. If they see the benefits then they are likely to increase their effort.
According to Tim Brown (2009) design thinking develops through the three stages of inspiration, ideation and implementation. The inspiration phase began as I observed my Stage 6 Biology students taking notes with me sitting watching them. There was no teacher- student interaction and no student-student interaction in that lesson. It was a traditional Science lab with some lecture time, note taking and experiments and activities. There never seemed to be enough time to fit the curriculum content in and still find time for active engagement. Differentiating lessons is also difficult in a traditional classroom. After much discussion with students and colleagues I decided that a classroom flip might be the answer.
During the ideation phase this term I tried to flip the classroom a few times but it wasn’t a complete success as many students had not bothered to watch the video before coming to class. This caused me to change my artefact from being about flipped learning and how it works to focussing on the benefits of it. For students to be motivated they needed to see the value in it. To achieve this I aimed my digital artefact directly at my class and included them in the design. My students provided ideas and photos of our activities to be included.
Researching the benefits of flipping as well as the tools that could be used became the next step in ideation. I had planned on using PowToon as I had tried it last year and found that I could create an enjoyable, short animation to present my ideas. I found that I was having difficulty with attaching both background music and narration so I searched again for a tool. After watching the instructional videos for VideoScribe on YouTube and reading positive reports about the application I decided that it seemed to be a fairly intuitive tool that allows a user to create a presentation that engages the audience.
The implementation stage included creation of the script first as the tutorials recommended and then the images to match but I still kept stuttering during recording. VideoScribe provides an image and soundtrack bank or you can upload your own. The music was chosen to be upbeat and motivational and placed at a volume lower than my voice so they were not in competition. It is extremely easy to add narration but it would be much easier if narration could be added scene by scene.
The implementation stage also includes feedback. After receiving feedback from my students I now realise that a better option would be to create the narration and the soundtrack using another application and uploaded it onto the presentation. They also agreed that the images needed to be more engaging rather than mostly words or letters moving into view. Regarding the information provided to students in the video they agreed that it made a difference to them being told why I wanted to make changes. After evaluating my artefact I decided that Powtoon definitely allows you to do more with the images on the screen and I would probably consider making a new video for next years cohort with similar content but include more interactive images. I persisted with VideoScribe this time as I had invested too much time to start again.
The artefact was uploaded to youtube and my Facebook page and provides the opportunity for viewing by a wide audience. VideoScribe hosts its own videos once you subscribe and also allows you to download your presentation. I did not pay for VideoScribe and only used the free 7 day trial as I am not sure I would use it again. The artefact was placed on our Biology Google Classroom in conjunction with our subject material, as it was designed to be used with a specific class whose photos appear in the presentation. Students watched the video at home and then we discussed the benefits during our next class and briefly investigated some of the learning theories behind the idea. I decided not to include too much detail or theory in my artefact as this would not engage most of my students so I provided them with further areas they could look at on the Google Classroom. Without the class time for group discussion after watching the video it would not have had the impact that I desired.
With the increase of mobile technology it has changed the way we consider learning and education. Knowledge is now shared across networks (Haste, 2009). Students can interact with each other inside the classroom as well as outside the classroom walls. They can make connections across distance and timezones. This advancement allows for authentic learning to take place. Learning can relate to real world scenarios. The physical context has moved from being restrained by four walls and a small number of participants. Digitally students now have an almost unlimited number of tools for data collection, creation and sharing. As teachers, we need to explore the value of digital tools to then promote these tools to assist our students to be active within their knowledge networks. Flipping the classroom frees the time to be able to use various digital tools for creation and sharing.
Effective and deeper learning occurs when students are connected with the information. Having more time in the classroom can provide the learning context and further opportunities for students to become connected learners. Starkey (2011) discusses the idea that a secondary school education needs to be producing students that will be ready to actively participate in society. Students cannot just be consumers of knowledge. They need to be able to evaluate the validity, reliability and determine its value to be active in a digital world. This allows students to move from collecting knowledge to “critical thinking skills, knowledge creation and learning through connections” (Starkey, 2011, p. 21). A flipped classroom, if done well, facilitates this perfectly. Time at home is used to collect the knowledge that is usually curated by the teacher and provided in the form of videos or other presentations. If this knowledge is provided at the start of a lesson it is unrealistic to believe that students have had enough time to reflect and absorb to be able to move past the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Nayfield (2017) says that to make observations that are more purposeful a student needs to be able to examine ideas “closer, touch them, move them, make sense of their relationship to each other.” This is active learning in the classroom.
The artefact begins by setting the scene with two questions for students. I ask “Do you sometimes get bored when I lecture for too long during class? Would you rather be engaged and collaborating with your peers?” This allows them to already have their answer in their mind as I continue to explain the idea of a flipped classroom. It is important for students to understand what the letters of ‘FLIP’ refer to. Hamdan, McKnight, McKnight and Arfstrom (2013) describe the four pillars of flip:
- Flexible learning environment that allows for a variety of learning styles.
- Learning culture that transforms the classroom from a teacher centred environment to a student centred approach to create a richer learning environment.
- Intentional content is important as the teacher needs to decide what content can be reviewed at home and what must stay inside the classroom.
- Professional educators are important in this model as class time can now be used to observe each student, provide formative assessment and then constructive feedback.
The main idea of the artefact is to convince students of the many benefits of flipping our classroom and how those benefits will have a positive effect on student learning. Teachers that have flipped their classroom have reported higher student achievement (Guy & Marquis, 2016). This is partly due to increased student engagement in the lessons. According to Hattie (2013, p. 31), intrinsic motivation has been a topic in educational research in recent years. Intrinsic motivation is essential for student learning as it is what drives us (Pink, 2009). This motivation occurs when students enjoy an activity and have an opportunity to learn and explore their potential. There has been a move from a traditional classroom reflecting didactic teaching to one of active learning to allow for reflection and collaboration (Doorley & Witthoft, 2012). A flipped classroom accommodates this change. The time in class allows for more experiential learning and students will learn best through peer interaction (Nussbaum-Beach and Hall, 2012).
Differentiated learning can help maintain individual motivation and a flipped classroom lets students learn at their own pace. The lesson does not need to be one size fits all. Students can pause and rewind a video until they are comfortable with the knowledge. Class activities can be prepared to match the pace and ability of the variety of students. According to Couros (2015), not all learners are on the same learning trajectory and this model gives more control over an individual’s learning. But a flipped classroom is not just about moving the content to before a class using a teacher made video. It is much more than that. It is about what can then take place inside the classroom. The teacher then must be more thoughtful about the activities used in the classroom, what learning outcomes they are aiming to achieve and ensuring that this is known by the students from the start.
Mobile technology allows students to learn anywhere and at any time. The time in class is free to apply the knowledge in the higher order thinking skills of analyse, evaluate and create. Students can then go further and share their creations in their knowledge network so they can receive feedback and modify their learning (Downes & Bishop). Students need to know how to learn and become adaptive thinkers as Beetham and Oliver (2010, p. 160) point out that it is going to be “increasingly difficult to specify the skills that learners will require even a few years into the future.”
The amount of information can be overwhelming for some students (Jarche, 2010). The benefit of using videos and presentations produced by the teacher is that we can ensure that students are being exposed to the material that is important and relevant. It also allows for knowledge to be put into context for the student before they come to class to apply that knowledge in connection with fellow students. Students need to develop content curation skills in a packed syllabus but sometimes it is important for the teacher to take the role of curator.
The feedback provided to me by my class included the fact that they prefer to watch a short presentation before class rather than have homework afterwards. Many of the students find homework too challenging without help. If something is too much of a challenge they will often give up. The flipped classroom model allows them to ask for help during class from the teacher and during group collaborative work students benefit from their peers. According to Prensky (2010, p.10) “direct instruction is becoming increasingly ineffective.” A flipped classroom frees up the time for advanced students to help struggling ones, not only with concepts, but also modelling good practice.
The artefact is designed for a class where the students have a diverse range of abilities (both cognitive and language) and interests. The artefact offers students the reasons why flipping our classroom is important and I hope would provide the motivation for them to give the model 100% effort next term. It was made using simple images to match the narration and kept short to maintain interest. Overall, after feedback and evaluation, I have realised that the artefact can be improved before it is utilised again next year. The aim of the artefact has been achieved in that students now see the relevance of our classroom model to their learning and understand the importance of creating time in class for them to interact, begin to create a knowledge network and experience activities that relate to the real world. The flipped classroom model has been developed to move the content related to the lower order thinking skills of Bloom’s taxonomy to the student’s home before class. The video shows students that the saved time enables the teacher to develop strategies to engage students in higher order thinking skills that will benefit them once they leave school.
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