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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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5 Tips for Flipping Your PBL Classroom

I am of course a huge project-based learning (PBL) nerd and advocate. I am also an advocate for the flipped classroom, yet at the same time I also have my concerns about flipping a classroom. This model still hinges upon great teachers, and engaging curriculum and instruction. So why not combine PBL and the flipped classroom? It can be an excellent match when you consider some of the following tips. Even Salman Khan believes that the flipped classroom can create the space for PBL.

1. Short Content Videos

The key piece here is short. Kids do not want to be watching hours of content. However, short five- to ten-minute videos could be used to replace lectures in the classroom and free up space for more PBL time. These videos might be introductions to learning the content, or possibly content review. Students who enjoy the flipped classroom often comment that their favorite part is being able to watch videos over and over again as needed. Find or create these videos, and make sure to align them to the significant content you intend to teach and assess in your PBL project.

2. Collaborative Virtual Work

I love it when students assign their own homework. Many times in a PBL project, the team might not quite finish all they want to do in class, and some of this work relies on collaboration. There are many digital tools out there that allow for collaboration, and this could be your chance to "flip the collaboration," whether it's joint research and documentation, or even reflection as a group. This virtual work can also be great documentation for assessing collaboration as one of the 4 C's in the 21st century learning aspect of a PBL project.

3. Virtual Labs and Games

Flipping isn't just videos, because -- let's be honest -- videos can get boring after a while. As you go through the PBL process with students, use other types of virtual activities as both components to learn content and a means of formative assessment. For example, if students need to learn about parts of the body, use an interactive digital lab for them to do a dissection. Or, if students are learning about some math component, have them play a math game outside of the brick-and-mortar setting that still allows you, as the teacher, to check on how they're doing.

4. Product Production

If you are concerned with students taking an excessive amount of time in actually constructing the PBL product, give a technology choice or choices as an element of the final product. These products can be produced and edited in the cloud, where individual students and teams can have access to them 24/7. You can ask students for these links and give them your feedback to help improve their work.

5. Consider Tech Equity

Not all of our students have access the technology. Some of us are lucky enough to have 1:1 classrooms, but not all. Because of that, you need to truly consider equity as a core issue if you intend to flip your PBL classroom. It's difficult for students to collaborate digitally, for example, if some have access to the technology while others do not. In cases like this, consider your flipped components as optional for those students able to use them.

PBL and the flipped classroom model can play well together. In fact, PBL can make it better when students are engaged in authentic work and given voice and choice in how and what they want and need to learn. What are some of the ways you've used both the flipped classroom and PBL? How do you see them complementing each other?

Comments (23)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

"Professor" Paul O. Briones's picture
"Professor" Paul O. Briones
Host and Co-Creator of Virtual Science University

I kind of agree with Jan Felton that students these days are very much involved with technology. I have to disagree with him on point #5 Consider Tech Equity and agree with Andrew Millier. Not all can show the magic of the technology because not all can afford it. Flipping your PBL Classroom is a fun rewarding experience! How do I know? I have put it into practice in my actual Anatomy & Physiology-Biology Classes.

Elizabeth's picture

I use a process I call "flipping then re-flipping" the classroom. Basically, this means I set up engaging online lessons, then have my students do them in class. This works for several reasons, but most importantly, it requires me to streamline my lecture. What might have taken me 30 minutes now takes me 5 or 10. Also, I have found that it minimizes "group effect," meaning that when students are watching my videos, they feel I am speaking directly to them as opposed to a whole class. Here is a blog post I wrote about this. http://elizabethvenegas.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-flipped-then-re-flipped...

Jennifer Gonzalez's picture
Jennifer Gonzalez
Blogger at Cult of Pedagogy
Blogger

Elizabeth -- Funny you should mention this, because since I posted my question a while back, I also started working on a similar arrangement, and Edutopia will be putting up an article and video about it in just a few days. Please jump onto the comments when it comes up and link readers again to your post, since you offer a slightly different perspective on the issue.
p.s. -- I like your blog!

Adam Casbarian's picture
Adam Casbarian
High School Teacher

I will be starting one-to-one next year and had already considered flipping as a means of creating more time in a traditional mathematics classroom. What many people don't consider is what to do with the time you've created (the whole point of flipping a classroom). Problem based learning offers a viable enrichment of curriculum which will help students dig deeper within content and develop those 21st century skills we keep hearing about. I'm glad I stumbled upon this article. Thanks!

Steven Lebert's picture

I am looking at flipping my science class. Is there anyone out there that has flipped a science class? Please let me know

Brian Boydstun's picture
Brian Boydstun
High School Biology teacher

I didn't feel that with my students a flipped class would work. I did like the idea of my students being able to watch screencast of the material I want them to learn and be able to do that at their own pace. I create screencast that the students watch in class and take notes at their own pace. Students can also watch at home because I make them available on youtube and in my iTunes U course,"Boydstun Biology." To gage student learning I use Nearpod to create formative assessments that the students collaborate on in groups of two. By closing out the learning this way I have been able to see what the students are learning from the screencast as well as putting students in a situation where they have to talk through what they have learned with their classmates. I have had a lot of success with this blended model and would love to answer any questions. I hope this helps.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator

Hi Steven! I threw your question to my PLN and one individual recommended http://flippedlearning.org as a great resource. Ashlie B Smith at http://smithsciencegms.wordpress.com also has some good resources and suggested you get in touch with her directly as well (@smithsciencegms ) @technolibrary also had some good information- feel free to reach out there as well.

Missy Bowman's picture

We started one to one this year and it has been great for PBL projects in the classroom.

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