The greatest benefit of flipped learning is the restructuring of class time, which is more of a pedagogical solution than a technological solution. However, the in-class benefit is dependent upon the utilization of technology tools. So what technologies are necessary in a flipped classroom?
Content Creation Tools
One of the most difficult challenges for some teachers to overcome is the mastery of a content creation tool. There are so many hardware and software options out there. Where does one begin?
A popular software category for flipped learning is screencasting tools. These allow the teacher to record whatever is on her screen while simultaneously recording her audio, and in come cases, her webcam. Screencasting is an easy entry point for teachers who already utilize slide decks, interactive white boards, or other presentation software. Some teachers simply fire up the screencasting software while teaching live, and by the end of one year, they've created a library of instructional content. Others modify existing slide decks to be better suited for flipped instruction. And there are the really ambitious teachers who start designing a lesson from scratch and create new material with flipped learning in mind. Regardless of the entry point, screencasting software like Camtasia, Screencast-O-Matic, SnagIt, and Office Mix provides a simple solution for teachers to create instructional videos. See this example of our video introducing an important chemistry topic -- stoichiometry:
Many teachers seek a tablet solution. In the past, only simple whiteboarding apps were available for tablets, but a new generation of content creation apps is emerging. Tools like Knowmia and Explain Everything allow the teacher to create content similar to the videos made using screencasting tools. See this example by April Barton, a high school math teacher in Utah:
Document Camera-Based Solutions
Many teachers have document cameras in their rooms. Most of the time, these are connected directly to an LCD projector. But a little-known feature of document cameras is their ability to project the image onto a computer, usually via a simple USB cable. When the image on a document camera is on the teacher's computer, he can use screencasting software mentioned above to record what he does on the document camera along with an audio recording. See an example from Delia Bush, a fifth grade math teacher in Michigan:
Some teachers choose to forego software-based solutions and opt for the video camera. Camera-created videos can be as simple as using the video camera in a smartphone or tablet, or even a consumer-grade handheld camera. Others (check out Flipping Physics) have chosen to utilize their video production skills with higher-end video equipment and sophisticated editing software to produce very high-quality products. Whatever you choose to pursue, great video content is possible using readily available hardware that you might already have in your pocket. See an example from Leif Blomqvist, a woodworking teacher from Sweden:
Regardless of which techniques you utilize, here are some simple guidelines to follow for creating great content:
- Record in a quiet room with a decent microphone.
- If using a camera or device in a picture mode, record in a well-lit area without distracting backgrounds.
- Utilize slide decks that are not distracting and have contrasting backgrounds and fonts.
- Create a balanced mix of text, oral communication, pictures, video, and music. Use enough features to make your content engaging without being distracting.
Once your content is created, you need to get it into the hands of students. The most obvious solution is using a service like YouTube. However, many schools block YouTube for a variety of reasons. In cases where video hosting and streaming services are blocked, teachers can upload content directly to their school's learning management system or website. But regardless of how you distribute content, you must make sure that all students have access to the content.
It's no secret that not every student has internet access outside of school. In fact, concern about student access to digital content is the number one hesitation about the flipped classroom concept. Although access is a legitimate and important concern that can also be used as an easy out by teachers who aren't interested in exploring flipped learning, it's not an insurmountable hurdle. You probably have students with no home internet access. If this is the case for even just one of your students, you must provide access for them.
This could be in the form of physical media like a USB drive or a DVD. You can purchase very inexpensive MP4 players for $10-$30. Some teachers have written grants for a class set of mobile devices that students can check out. Others have gone so far as contacting local business owners to secure food or drink discounts for students who need to utilize a restaurant's WiFi. Most local libraries have computers for public use, and you would probably be surprised at how many students can find a way to access web content outside of class.
These are only a few solutions. Check out the video at the top of this post for more tech tools for your flipped classroom. And if there's anything we haven't mentioned, please tell us about it in the comments section.