Reflections on… flipping my classroom

This post was first published on the Centre for Learning and Teaching, University of Brighton’s website in February 2015.

Horchata & Watermelon
Horchata & Watermelon, Illuma Ring Focus, Mix, No Gradient, Inked: India Ink

Last year, I tried an experiment with flipping the teaching I was doing at the time. Over the years of my teaching I’d been whittling the amount of time dedicated to lecture style delivery from 100% of my teaching slots to about 33% as I shifted to a more active learning approach.

The next logical step was to move to 100% active learning, and move all of the content delivery outside the classroom. My cohort were a small group of masters students, fairly tech savvie, who I thought would probably happily engage with some short videos. I had had experience of using the iPad app Explain Everything, and this seemed the obvious media to use. It’s based on slides, but has lots of features such as being able to highlight areas, move things around the screen and embed video.

I wanted the presentations to be pretty short – I come from a background in designing museum exhibitions where 7 minutes is the absolute maximum for a video display. However, that would be for a very well scripted and edited delivery with effects to help make points, for an audience with a shortish attention span. My feeling was that given that I would not be so focused, 10-12 mins would be more realistic. I also felt that keeping it short would increase the reusability of the material.

I had to do the recordings in good time to send out to students to give them an opportunity to watch them before the sessions, and tried to get them out shortly after the previous week’s session, so about 5 days in advance.

This is how it worked out in practice. Normally when I’m preparing a presentation, I gather the slides together and as I’m going through I work out what I’m going to say for each one, perhaps making some notes on the powerpoint or in the lesson plan. This gives me a sense of timing, and gives me some fluency particularly when I’m talking about something I may not have expressed in my own words before.What I did with the flipped sessions was once I’d done that first mental run through of what I was going to say, filled in the odd gap and got my ‘voice’ together, I did the recording. It probably therefore didn’t reduce the time involved in preparation this time round, but of course, the resource is there to be reused.

So, some positive things
1. The reusability – it’s amazing to think that the resource is there to be used next year, or that you can edit out little interesting bits and reuse them too
2. Shortness – what seems like a good length to make is also about the right length for easy viewing.
3. The tech to do it is getting easier and easier – stuff like video file sizes being automatically huge is no longer the case – everything is geared for easy sharing
4. The students seemed to really like it – they were much more likely to look at it than do a reading for example.

And a few less positive things / thoughts
1. Without the rush of adrenaline from a live presentation, sometimes I thought I was a bit boring though students didn’t mention it!
2. The quality of the audio/video was fine for devices and pcs, however, when blown up on a lecture theatre screen they were less good.
3. This is really an observation – as a result of doing the flipping, there was nothing to record what went on in the session apart from my lesson plan. So when a student who’d missed the session asked for the notes to catch up I didn’t really have anything to give her.

I’ll be definitely be doing more flipping, and I think the next stage is to look at OERs for the flip – then the prep time would really be reduced!

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