by Nanda Krish
If you are looking to turn your classroom into a state-of-the-art learning environment, there are many approaches to consider. You can find countless parents, education groups, and specialists touting their newest life-changing technique or classroom management book. The truth is, you can create an effective learning environment using many different methods as long as you implement the method effectively and have the skill set to deliver it to your students.
The Flipped Classroom model can be used to save time, work directly on student needs at any level, and deliver constructive feedback to students quickly. Here’s how it works: Students are introduced to the material outside of class. This is typically done through videos, reading assignments, or other outside resources. In the traditional classroom, this would be their “homework assignment.” After students have been exposed to the basics of the lesson content at home, they will return to class and “teach” the other students what they learned. You can move right along with small groups sharing their knowledge or individual review with students who still need support in the classroom. You will find that many students need only a short introduction to the content. These students will be able to practice independently or cooperatively in class before advancing to other independent work or enrichment.
As noted earlier, you will need to introduce the content to students outside of class. You can research and provide articles ahead of time, or write a few yourself. You can create your own videos or use ones created by other teachers. Depending on the curriculum, you may even find entire volumes of pre-made videos for each grade level already available. Check out Duane Habecker for some great Common Core math videos. If you prefer to create your own, you can film a lesson using a standard video camera. You can also download a screencasting app and have students follow along with you and the work you do on the screen. Screencasting allows students, parents, and other teachers to follow along in real time as you work through lesson materials on your computer or tablet screen while explaining what you’re doing.
Creating your own videos allows you to add specific content and strategies (rather than hoping the one you found online is good enough) and provides your students with a familiar instructor — you! — but it takes work. You will need access to a computer — preferably a laptop. (A desktop should work too, but being able to transport your work station allows you to be more efficient and flexible.) You should have the capability to upload and edit video in order to make your instructional videos available for your students. You’ll need a video camera if you don’t have one built in to your computer. A smartphone will work, too.
Simply teach your lesson as you would in class and film it.
Keep in mind that you will be publishing your work, so ensure that sound, volume, lighting, and other production elements are all as good as possible. After your content is filmed, upload it and edit it. Once you have the video ready, you will need to post it in a place for your class to view. YouTube or Google Classroom are great choices for this. If you have a grade-level team in place, you can share the duties, creating content together or filming seperate sections.
The most efficient way to create videos is with a screencasting application. This allows your students to follow along with whatever you are doing on your screen, as the software records video and audio in real time. You can find examples of screencast videos on TeacherTube (select the “Videos” tab). The newest iPads have this feature built in, and it is very easy to use. You will need to have access to a touch screen and the digital files you want to present to your students. (You can also use a laptop or desktop computer, but drawing with the mouse tool can be difficult). Nowadays, most curricula come with digital files in the kit or online access to those files. You may need to scan hard copies into digital files before using them. Upload or download the files you wish to present.
Imagine a page with math problems on it that you will solve or a reading passage you wish to annotate.
Once your screencasting software or application is running, it will record every digital pen stroke and all of your audio (you may want to consider investing in a quality USB microphone). Simply teach your lesson the same way you would with an overhead projector, whiteboard, or document camera. Once your lesson is complete, the app will prompt you to save your video. From there, you can upload it to YouTube or Google Classroom for your students to view.
Regardless of the type of content you share, whether you or someone else creates it, you may run into a problem where students can’t access the videos. If students don’t have computer and/or internet access at home, you’ll have to make other arrangements with them. You may want to allow students to come to school early so they can watch that day’s video lesson before school starts. Public libraries with computers offer another option, as well as a variety of grant programs for students and families in need.
Because students have been exposed to the content before arriving at school, they have the opportunity to spend a longer period of time practicing, problem-solving, and discussing their learning in class. In a standard classroom lesson, the time for this is limited, because the teacher may require 30–45 minutes to teach the lesson. When students arrive to school already having the necessary background, you are able to facilitate their learning faster and more efficiently. For example, students can walk through the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy while at home (knowledge, comprehension), and then use their time in class to challenge themselves and work at the higher levels of cognition (applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating), with minimal support from you. Students will develop strong learning communities and collaborative groups as they work together. This allows you to spend more time with the students who might be struggling.
As students show themselves to be proficient within the Flipped Classroom model, you can look at different types of Project-Based Learning (PBL) opportunities. Project-Based Learning allows students to create projects that facilitate standards-based learning. It can be messy and noisy, but students develop a strong sense of ownership of skills and tools when working through PBL. It requires a lot of preparation and classroom management, but the benefits certainly outweigh the costs. As a teacher, you can determine if you would like the whole class to participate in a specific, standards-driven project, or you can give students the freedom to create their own projects. Either way, these projects should incorporate college readiness and 21st-century skills. In this context, “project” means much more than, for example, a book report that describes plot, setting, and characters.
Effective projects are rigorous, creative, and investigative.
All student projects should be driven by an essential question or learning objective. The essential question is what drives the students’ research and focus for the project. Once the essential question has been established (and approved, if students are designing their own projects), students can begin working. As a teacher, it is critical that you provide feedback along the way. Your job is to guide students in their research, provide access to resources, and help students think critically as they work toward completing their tasks. Students will need support as they work toward a finished project, but you should facilitate their learning, not do it for them. Provide students with reasonable deadlines, or checkpoints, for assessing progress toward the project’s final goal. Plan times to meet with students to discuss their project and any challenges they are facing along the way.
Provide clear feedback and expectations for their work.
How you specifically go about doing these things will look different for each student depending on the type of project they have chosen. A grading rubric should be provided ahead of time. This will help guide the creation of projects and let students know what you are expecting.
Once completed, projects can be shared, uploaded, read, or even performed. As long as students can somehow share their work with the class in some way, a project should be acceptable. Some of the projects students may choose to create are “How to Videos,” where they create instructional videos on a range of topics, from solving math problems to making muffins. Some students may choose to build robots, while others may write their own screenplay. The final product itself is almost limitless in its possibilities. Students’ only job is to follow the guidelines and learn something to pass along to the class while answering their essential question.
By incorporating the Flipped Classroom model and integrating Project-Based Learning, you have the opportunity to challenge your students with rigorous, meaningful assignments. This approach will also give your students the opportunity to take ownership of their learning and practice new and creative methods for real-world problem solving.
If you are looking to learn more about how to implement project-based learning in your classroom, try taking this workshop on Edmodo to hone your skills — and earn professional-development credits!
Nanda Krish is Exec Chairman of Wisewire, a learning experience design company that develops smart technology solutions and easy to use standards aligned content for K-12 schools and higher education institutions. Mr. Krish is also a General Partner at Start Smart Labs, a silicon valley big data business incubator for startups that are developing data intensive applications for the US enterprise market.