0913 Project Flip

0913 Project Flip

Project Flip upends traditional classroom

Project Flip upends traditional classroom

By Jennifer Wohlleb
Staff Writer

“Have you gone on YouTube and watched your homework yet?”

While YouTube currently might be considered a time waster, parents may soon be urging their kids to use it for their school work if a pilot program “flipping” classrooms takes off.

Nearly 30 middle and high school math teachers spent a week this summer training at Murray State and Northern Kentucky universities to flip their classrooms – recording their lectures for students to watch at home as homework while doing the “homework” the next day in class.

PHOTO: Nathan Hicks and  Shelley Ladd, teachers at Hopkinsville High School, share a laugh with colleagues on the other side of the table during a training exercise about using cooperative learning strategies in the classroom. Project Flip training not only focused on learning how to record their lessons for students, but also how to manage their “flipped” classrooms.

“You record the lesson and deliver it as something like a YouTube video where students review it the night before as homework and the next day when they come to class, you use class time to do things that are more integrated – classroom discussions, hands-on activities, answering questions, dividing the class into small groups so you can work with kids who need more help or extensions to their learning,” said Renee Campoy, an assistant dean who is leading the project at Murray State’s College of Education. “So it’s really a way to better engage and meet students’ individual needs.”

The pilot program is funded with a $130,000 grant from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, which asks the teachers to flip at least 10 lessons, preferably from the same unit of study, during this school year.

Why flip?
Campoy said there are endless reasons to flip lessons.

“Kids who kind of get it but maybe need to hear it two or three times, they can keep reviewing the video,” she said. “Kids miss school for all kinds of reasons – they’re sick, athletics, and you can still deliver the content to them; they haven’t lost anything. When the teacher has to be off and there is a substitute, you haven’t lost anything; you have the video ready for them and they can monitor students or follow up with them for questions. Teachers have found this really beneficial. And sometimes they get tired of answering the same question over and over. Everybody does.”

Teachers are encouraged to keep the videos between three and five minutes, but no more than 10 minutes. Creating concise, straightforward lessons was part of the weeklong training, as was finding a technology that each teacher felt comfortable using.

“You don’t have to flip every lesson every day, just like you likely are not assigning homework every day with every lesson,” said Meagan Musselman, an assistant professor in Murray State’s middle school education. “It’s when it’s needed and when it’s most beneficial to student learning. That’s what we’re trying to help these teachers recognize, when is the best time for this.”

She said the teachers seemed to pick up the technology and video creation aspects quickly.

“I think what hit them is, what is my class going to look like, what is the next day after they watch the videos going to look like, what am I going to have them do,” she said. “We can’t just spend 50 minutes doing problems. They’re having to rethink their application of the lesson they’ve been teaching and some of them have been teaching 10-plus years – and I think they are all dynamic teachers who wanted to be here – and sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know and I think it has been real eye opening.”

Student and teacher engagement
The pilot teachers were excited to test out these new methods in the classroom.

“I wanted to try it because it hasn’t been tried a lot before and I think that’s engaging to students,” said Calloway County Middle School teacher Jessi Giles. “It’s new and exciting, it’s something they haven’t been exposed to, it’s not mundane, it’s not an everyday thing.”

Kayla Staley, a teacher at North Marshall Middle School, said flipping will help solve problems teachers often encounter.

“Parents struggle sometimes to help their kids with homework. Well, now all the parent has to do is make sure the student watches the video and the parent isn’t the one having to reteach it to them,” she said. “And rather than five minutes (in the classroom) of, ‘Here’s your homework, good luck. We’ll grade it when you get back,’ I’m there with them when they’re working on it and they’re getting to practice it and get it right, as opposed to them going home and practicing it wrong.”

Ted Hodgson, a professor of math education who is heading the project at NKU, said the flip training has generated the most excitement he has seen in his 22 years of teaching. NKU had to turn away teachers because there weren’t enough slots.

“I had one teacher come up to me in the workshop and say this is the best thing he had ever done and I asked why, and he said, ‘Because what we get to do is take the ideas and tailor them to our classrooms,’” he said. “So it’s a workshop where they are really coming out with something they’re going to use in their classroom.”

Hodgson said the program will have two full-time evaluators to measure how it is working, as well as four high school students from nonparticipating schools who will evaluate the flipped lessons.

“We picked four student evaluators who are strong in math and who have expressed some interest in education and they are providing these teachers with a student perspective on what they think, how it can be improved, how would I receive this as a student,” he said.
The pilot teachers will also be surveyed at the beginning and end of the school year and an NKU honors student will be examining the program for student engagement as part of her honors thesis.

“Students in a flipped classroom are much more engaged,” Hodgson said. “Traditional classrooms are largely a lot of lectures and a little bit of problem solving. What we’re doing is a lot of problem solving and a little bit of lecture.”

Home access no barrier

Flipping a classroom often depends on students being able to access technology outside of school to watch the videos their teachers create. While not every student has Internet access at home, the teachers in the pilot program said that does not have to be a barrier.

“We’ve talked about the kids who don’t have access,” said Dana Heath, a special education teacher at South Marshall Middle School. “That’s why we look at the video time being three-five, no more than 10 minutes, so if a student can’t watch it (at home), they can come in and watch it at the beginning of the class and it’s not an hour of lesson that they’re behind. Also, if a student is absent it’s easy to go back and make up that instruction.”

Jessi Giles, a math teacher at Calloway County Middle School, said there are also times during the school day where students can watch the video lesson.

“I think it will be important for us to communicate that to our other grade level teachers,” she said. “Normally the last 10 minutes of class it’s, ‘Get out your book and read.’ Now those teachers need to understand if those students ask to use their computer to watch Ms. Giles’ video instead, that’s a good alternative.”

Renee Campoy, the Project Flip leader at Murray State University, said technology is a concern, but one easily addressed.

“Every kid has access to this one way or another,” she said. “They can download it on their phone. Really, kids who say they can’t do that, it’s really just an excuse because they don’t want to do their homework. In the case where they really don’t have access, you can put this media on a CD and they can look at it in the corner of the classroom. You can find time within the classroom situation for those kids who truly don’t have access.”

South Marshall Middle math teacher Brad Darnell believes students will quickly see the benefits of doing the flipped lessons.

“I think you have to make it so the classroom is engaging and fun to where they are missing out if they don’t watch their video at night, they’ll miss out on the fun stuff during the day,” he said. “And I think keeping the videos to five-10 minutes, it’s not something where (at home) they miss family time or time their friends.”

As Heath put it, “We’re taking away their hours of homework and giving them 10-minute videos. I think you’re going to have them more likely to do that instead of 30 (math) problems.”

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